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.


Man dies after being hit by fallen branch near Tree Top Walk

By Gamar Abdul Aziz/Suzanne Ho, Channel NewsAsia
31 May 2007

SINGAPORE: Another death by a broken tree branch – a Vietnamese man in his 20s was killed when he was struck by a fallen branch on Thursday afternoon.

The incident happened at the exit of the Tree Top Walk trail (Petaling Trail) near MacRitchie Reservoir at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to NParks, the man was with his brother and three other friends at the time of the accident but the rest were not injured.

It was also raining heavily and the wind was strong at the time of the incident.

The branch is from a big forest tree, estimated to be 30m tall and is known as Litsea.

The police are investigating the case.

NParks says its standard practice is to close the gate to the Tree Top Walk during bad weather.

And in this case, the gate was closed when it started to drizzle, but unfortunately the group involved in the incident had already passed through.

NParks says it is very saddened by this incident and conveys its condolences to the family of the deceased.

NParks reminds the public to exercise caution when walking in forested areas during bad weather.

NParks will be conducting further checks on the safety of that area and the Tree Top Walk will be closed to the public until Saturday, 9 June.

It adds that it will continue to maintain vigilance in its checks on trees to ensure that they are safe.

Just over two weeks ago a woman was killed and two of her friends injured, when an Albizia tree in the Bukit Batok Nature Reserve collapsed on them.

On the same day, a Singaporean man died in Mount Ophir in Johor, when a tree fell on him.

And five days later, another man died in the same way, also on Mount Ophir. - CNA/yy

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Museums see record number of visitors; new museum tours in June

By Satish Cheney, Channel NewsAsia
18 May 2007 2035 hrs

SINGAPORE: All 45 museums in Singapore are seeing record visitor numbers.

4.26 million people visited museums last year - more than twice the record high numbers in 2005 where there were only around two million museum visitors.

This was revealed at the official launch of International Museum Day on Friday.

And to sustain the high numbers, new programmes are being introduced, including one that takes visitors back in time...on wheels!

All aboard the Rhino Bus, where old Singapore meets the new… in comfort and style.

Besides the footage of Singapore's yesteryears, there is also a tour guide.

This is just one of four new museum tours that will be available from June.

The tours are jointly-organised by the National Heritage Board and private tour operators.

"We felt it was timely now to launch these packages of tours because we believe there is more interest in heritage products and our various exhibits, because we're now bringing better quality shows.

"So although the infrastructure and hardware has been around, we feel it's timely now to launch these tours because we feel the software is in place and we're able to attract a larger [number] of visitors with these tours," says Michael Koh, CEO, National Heritage Board.

And as Guest of Honour on Friday's tour, Dr Lee Boon Yang, Information, Communications & the Arts Minister noted, there is still room for improvement.

"We need to do more research. I've already asked NHB, National Archives to help the tour operators come up with scripts that are more compelling. You just recite basic historical facts, not so interesting. You must bring it to life," says Dr Lee.

So if you are not sure why Sir Stamford Raffles is striking a pose on Raffles Landing, for example, these museum tours will have the answer and a lot more.

Besides learning on wheels, you can now look up scores of historical artefacts from the comfort of your home, thanks to the website www.sgcool.sg.

So far, there is already information on 6,000 artefacts and many more will be included soon. - CNA/yy

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Malaysia happy to connect to S'pore via MRT: Syed Hamid

By Melissa Goh, Channel NewsAsia's Malaysia Correspondent
18 May 2007 2233 hrs

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is keen on fresh negotiations with Singapore on a new bridge linking the island with the southern Malaysian state of Johor.

The Malaysian Foreign Minister says there is no better time than now to pursue the issue, with bilateral relations on the upswing.

Mr Syed Hamid Albar also says Malaysia will be happy to be connected to Singapore via the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system.

He says the informal meeting between the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore on Langkawi has established a mechanism for future negotiations on outstanding issues.

"There's no better time than now when relationship is so superb, so good, to take advantage of the environment, the environment is conducive for some concrete achievements while looking at the old tracks, tracks to be resolved," he says.

Mr Syed Hamid, who is a Member of Parliament from Johor, says a new bridge between the state and Singapore will accommodate the robust development of Malaysia's southern region.

"The bridge is important, because I think we want give a different face to the southern gate to Malaysia…We are very happy to be integrated together on the MRT, and it will serve well both sides, Singapore as well as the internal Iskandar Development Region.

"At the same time, we also have hopefully our railway to Johor and from Johor connected to the other system," he says.

Mr Syed Hamid says both prime ministers will continue driving the process of negotiations on outstanding issues, "We need to go on at the highest level, Prime Minister to Prime Minister. We need to find a different mechanism and for that purpose, we will get the guidelines from our Prime Minister and Singapore's."

The two-day bilateral meeting of the two leaders was their first in three years.

Analysts hailed their decision to set up a joint ministerial committee to oversee Johor's Iskandar Development Region as a breakthrough, but some Malaysian legislators were more cautious.

While the Langkawi meeting has succeeded in breaking the ice between both the countries, lawmakers in Malaysia have voiced their concerns over the setup of a joint ministerial committee to oversee the development of the Iskandar Development Region.

Some worry that Malaysia's sovereignty may be compromised, while others raise concerns over the issue of implementation.

MP Wee Ka Siong says, "We see the political will among national leaders but when it comes to implementation this is a big challenge whether those government agencies can really follow the instructions from the top."

Mr Syed Hamid allayed such concerns, emphasising that there is commitment at the top level of both governments.

He also expressed confidence that such cooperative efforts can yield a balance of benefits for both countries. - CNA/yy

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Channel 5 to broadcast LIVE EARTH concerts July 7

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia
18 May 2007 1847 hrs

SINGAPORE: Using the global reach of music to engage people and care for the environment – that is what the LIVE EARTH concerts aim to achieve.

MediaCorp TV's Channel 5 will telecast the show on July 7, starting at 7pm.

Channel 5 is the only free-to-air broadcaster in the world to air the full 24-hour event, which is billed as the "concerts for a climate in crisis".

LIVE EARTH is set to feature over 100 headlining music acts, across all seven continents.

Artists such as Madonna, Alicia Keys, The Smashing Pumpkins, Black Eyed Peas, Bon Jovi, Kylie Minogue, Snow Patrol and Jennifer Lopez are among the big names who will grace the show.

The concerts are expected to be watched by over two billion people around the world.

Channel 5 viewers will also get environmental awareness messages and programmes in the week surrounding the LIVE EARTH telecast. - CNA/yy

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Raw material costs, not GST hike, behind higher prices of groceries

By Derrick A Paulo, TODAY
18 May 2007 1051 hrs

SINGAPORE: If you feel like you have been paying more for groceries in recent weeks, you are spot on — though perhaps not for the reason you might think.

From milk to Milo, cooking oil to coffee, canned foods, processed foods, wheat products and more, prices have been rising recently at supermarkets and hypermarts here.

Retail operators told TODAY that, since late last month, more food items have been affected. And it has set some shoppers wondering if profiteering is happening even before the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike, from 5 to 7 per cent, kicks in in July.

Irked reader Joyce Ong told TODAY: “The GST hike has not yet been implemented, but the price of Nestle Carnation evaporated milk and Milkmaid condensed milk has already been increased from $1.10 to $1.60 ... Besides starting too early, isn’t the increase too drastic?”

Online, price increases are being compared on Internet chat forums, with many netizens attributing the inflation to the impending GST hike.

But various food suppliers told TODAY the higher tax has nothing to do with it. They blame the “tremendous cost increases” in raw materials for their moves to increase prices.

Cost pressures for dairy products, especially milk, are increasing worldwide, and especially in Asia and Africa as the supplies come from elsewhere. Demand in Asia is also rapidly increasing.

Bloomberg reported this week that China would increase demand by as much as 15 per cent annually for the next three years. This has “aggravated the situation”, Nestle Singapore communications and corporate affairs manager James Wong told TODAY.

Various factors have come together to create, virtually, a perfect storm, said analysts.

Australia has reduced milk exports because of its worst drought in a century. Reduced subsidies, meanwhile, have eliminated milk surpluses in Europe and slowed growth in its production in the United States.

Fuel and feed costs are affecting farmers, who may choose not to expand their herds.

All the food suppliers TODAY spoke to stressed that they are not passing on the full increase to consumers in Singapore. Mr Kenneth Low, assistant general supplies Magnolia products, said the recommended retail price of its fresh and pasteurised milk products were adjusted from May 4.

“F&N has absorbed a significant portion of the increased cost (of milk),” he said.

The prices of key ingredients in Milo have all increased, said Nestle’s Mr Wong. The price of skimmed milk powder went up 112 per cent year-on-year last month, cocoa prices rose 12 per cent “due to world supply”, and palm oil shortages jacked up prices by almost 40 per cent.

“We have increased our coffee prices by an average of 6 to 9 per cent, and Milo products by an average of 5.2 per cent,” he said. “Increasing world demand has pushed up Nescafe prices by almost 17 per cent. In fact, through increased efficiency in production, we have managed to lessen the burden of price increases as well as delay the price increase to consumers.”

Currency changes have also caused food prices here to go up. Del Monte Asia, which supplies processed foods here, buys and sells its products in US dollars. But the latter has depreciated and production costs are still in local currencies, said Del Monte Asia marketing director Catherine Chang.

“Our peaches, for example, come from South Africa where the rand has appreciated. So, prices have increased 6 to 8 per cent,” she said.

Supermarkets like Sheng Siong say they are doing their part to help consumers. Purchaser Alan Chan said the retailer is holding out against pressure from suppliers to increase the price of instant noodles.

NTUC FairPrice, which has promised to absorb the GST hike for a range of essential items, is mindful of its social role in the current scenario, said its director of integrated purchasing, Mrs Teo Poh Yim.

“When suppliers come to us with recommendations to raise prices, we always seek justification from them. We ourselves have to be convinced,” she said.

“Where possible, we want to be the last to adjust prices. For example, the cost price and recommended retail price for a particular brand of kaya increased, but we decided to sell it 10 cents below this price.

“Another supplier had increased the price for a brand of canned mushrooms in mid-March, from $1.20 to $1.30. We continued to sell it at $1.20 until April 27.” - TODAY/fa

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More animals at Singapore Zoo being treated with TCM

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia
17 May 2007 1906 hrs

SINGAPORE: More animals are being treated with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) at the Singapore Zoo.

The practice has been going on for years but now research at the Zoo is getting a new injection of funding.

Veterinarians at the Singapore Zoo have been using TCM to treat animals such as snakes, orang utans and even a miniature horse.

TCM herbs are crushed and fed with food for these animals.

One horse, named Bollin, was given TCM treatment for about four weeks for respiratory problems.

The prescription included herbs such as Black Cohosh and Lilly Bulb.

The medication was given to the miniature horse because of an infection near his throat, affecting his breathing.

The medicine was given every morning and evening to maintain the amount in the blood and its effectiveness."

The Zoo's veterinarians say TCM treatment is customised for different animals depending on their condition.

The prescriptions combine several herbs to maximise effectiveness.

The treatment is targeted to build up the immune system so it can fight the infection, as opposed to conventional medicine which tackles the infection itself.

Veterinarians had to treat a couple of animals first, to figure out the exact amount needed.

"For humans one dosage we can divide into five portions. It can be used to treat animals and the results are the same as for humans," says Dr Oh Soon Hock, Senior Veterinarian, Singapore Zoo.

And to further help research into TCM for animals, S$30,000 has been donated by traditional medicine company, Eu Yan Sang, to the Zoo. - CNA/yy

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Water in Sungei Serangoon canal not toxic: NEA

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia
17 May 2007 1845 hrs

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) has carried out tests on water samples from Sungei Serangoon canal where thousands of dead fish were found on Wednesday.

The results show the water did not contain any toxic contaminants.

In a joint statement with the PUB, the NEA says it is still carrying out tests to find out why the fish died.

It sent its officers to collect water samples from the canal on Wednesday, and is now working with PUB on the investigations.

The PUB says it cleared the dead fish from the canal on Wednesday.

As a precautionary measure, the public has been advised not to fish in the area or consume any fish caught.

The NEA says it will continue to monitor the water quality and inform the public when the situation is back to normal. - CNA/yy

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New initiatives to lure talented foreign professionals

By Julia Ng, Channel NewsAsia
18 May 2007 1921 hrs

SINGAPORE: The Manpower Ministry (MOM) has announced two new initiatives to attract more talented foreign professionals to work in Singapore.

From 1 June, it is raising the S-Pass quota for mid-skilled manpower from the current 10% to 15%.

And from December, it is introducing a new Work Holiday Programme (WHP) to give bright university students from overseas an experience of living and working in Singapore for up to six months.

"A positive experience of living and working in Singapore under the Programme would encourage some of them to work here when they graduate, or at a later stage in their careers. Many countries already have the Work Holiday Programme. So this is not a new idea but we're starting it now. And it will help enhance Singapore's reputation as a talent destination, valued for its working and living experiences. And we will work with relevant agencies to operationalise and promote this scheme worldwide," said Manpower Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen.

Among the professionals Singapore wants to attract are the healthcare workers.

According to a UN study, the number of residents in Singapore aged 65 years or older will multiply three times to about 900,000 in 2030.

This makes up about one in five residents.

And in about 50 years, Singapore will be the fourth oldest country in the world in terms of the median age of the population.

A rapidly ageing population calls for more healthcare workers.

The Government is also promoting Singapore as a regional medical hub and this will attract more medical travellers.

To meet the demand for medical manpower, the Government is ramping up efforts to produce more local doctors and attracting qualified ones from 140 foreign medical institutions.

But the Manpower Ministry wants to do more than that. So it is introducing the WHP to reach out to young students and graduates from overseas.

The WHP will start with 2,000 places for students and graduates from universities in Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, the UK and US.

It is open to those aged between 17 and 30. The WHP pass is valid for six months and those who wish to work during this period are not restricted to any type of job. They will also not be subject to any minimum salary requirement.

The Manpower Ministry however stresses that participants must be able to support themselves during their stay in Singapore, and show proof of exit after six months.

More information on the programme is available on the Ministry's website at http://www.mom.gov.sg, or they could ring the Call Centre at 6438 5122.

Dr Ng was speaking at the Singapore Medical Council Physician's Pledge Affirmation ceremony.

Speaking to reporters later, the Minister said the recommendations by a tripartite committee studying the issue of employing older workers are very practical.

The committee had announced that Singapore is legislating a law within five years to keep workers hired beyond the age of 62.

Dr Ng said this will allow enough time for both employers and workers to adjust.

But Dr Ng is against the idea of imposing penalties for employers who flout the law.

The Minister said this would not stop some from trying to circumvent the law.

He said the key to re-employment is to have flexibility for both workers and employers.

Dr Ng said: "This re-employment legislation is one way of raising the re-employment age. But it also allows flexibility. Just raising the retirement age means that workers usually must be kept in the same job, practically. But the re-employment legislation says, flexibility on both sides. For the employee, he may not want to be in the same job. It may be too strenuous and he may want to change the job within that company. So, that allows flexibility for both the employer and employee. So, it's a very practical way. Let's see how it works out on the ground. I don't think we want to fix our mindset. Let's see what's the most effective way of doing this." - CNA/ir

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Singapore architectural exhibition opens at National Museum

15 May 2007 (CNA)

SINGAPORE: You can now see the best architectural projects in Singapore, by going to just one place - the top projects are now part of an exhibition at the National Museum.

Entitled "Singapore Built and Unbuilt", the exhibition includes projects like the Integrated Resort at Marina Bay, the city centre and one-north.

This is the same exhibition that was featured in the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition last year.

That exhibition included short-films on Singapore culture and interviews with architects.

At Tuesday’s event, Minister for Information Communication and the Arts Dr Lee Boon Yang said now that five teams have been shortlisted to conceptualise the new National Art Gallery, the next stage is to develop the concepts into designs.

"The propositions submitted to these competitions sparked off a dialogue for both Singapore and international architects, planners and decision makers on Singapore's cityscape. The importance of this dialogue cannot be underestimated.

Through this dialogue, we can seek new standards for quality living environments and sustainable urban development as well as ensure that our architects keep abreast of global developments in architecture," said Dr Lee.

The five teams, which include two Singapore firms, were chosen from more than 100 entries. - CNA/yy

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WildRice Theatre raises $300,000 at 60s-themed gala

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia
18 May 2007 1714 hrs

SINGAPORE: Wildrice Theatre went back in time to raise funds at its annual charity gala called "Singapore A-Go-Go" on Thursday evening.

And regression never looked so fine as the 60s-themed song and dance extravaganza raked in some S$300,000 in donations.

It was one show-stopping performance after another, as thespians belted hits from yesteryear, complete with dazzling costumes.

The gala event was co-hosted by Larry Lai, one of Singapore's favourite TV personalities during the 80s.

It attracted a mix of corporate bigwigs, bankers and dignitaries.

The money raised from the show will go towards supporting the artistic and educational programmes at Wild Rice.

True to the theatre company's signature productions, the event was loud, colourful and clearly, a lot of fun. - CNA/yy

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National Museum aims to be lifestyle destination after dark

By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia
18 May 2007 1730 hrs

SINGAPORE: Think museums and one usually thinks of sedate, stuffy places…but the Singapore National Museum has been re-inventing itself.

Come dusk, it transforms itself with a different look and crowd that is distinctly hip.

It recently launched a restaurant called Novus, which is Latin for new, where old and new sit comfortably in the refurbished museum.

"Traditionally, our museums would close at sunset and there will be no activity. But included in this re-development plan that we had given the National Museum, we wanted the museum to be alive too during the night.

"So the best thing is to have people come, doing what they want to do best after work, which is a lot of F&B - a little bit of drinking, a little bit of dining," says Lee Chor Lin, Director, National Museum of Singapore.

And it was a happy crowd indeed.

"I think it's about time - if you guys are going to make it into a stuffy place and keep people away who only come here because it's a school excursion and don't appreciate it, what for? I mean you are bringing people here - keeping it alive - that's good," says one visitor.

"It's a great crossroads between gastronomy and design which is a bit of a textbook answer but it does fit in with what it's trying to achieve," says another.

Others say: "This is very original…good ambience and something unique in Singapore," and, "I just think the museum venue is a destination spot right? It's not a walk by, kind of drop in kind of thing - so it's a more pre-planned kind of thing that I am going to go here tonight."

Competition on the night scene is tough. So, what will give the Museum its edge?

"We also still do have what we do best, which is galleries…presenting history. These galleries stay [open until] 9 o'clock so if you want a break from your main course you can still go to the galleries and have a look," says Lee.

That is what hooked Novus Restaurant's young sibling co-owners, 22-year-old Ying and 27-year-old Yung: "We jumped at the chance because it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing for us. If it wasn't for the National Museum being available, we would not have done this."

About 10 per cent of the museum's space is given out to food and beverage outlets as well as spaces, which can be rented out for private parties.

Also recently opened is the appropriately-named Muse bar, which on the evening Channel NewsAsia visited, was hosting the Lamborghini Club, where a new car model was being launched.

Once again ..meshing tradition with modernity. - AFP/yy

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Tattoos and a tiara

By Agatha Koh Brazil, TODAY
18 May 2007 1117 hrs

SINGAPORE: The man who runs Singapore’s museums has an anecdote he relishes telling.

One day, Michael Koh got into a cab outside the Ministry of Finance building at High Street. The friendly cab driver asked if Koh worked for the ministry. So, the CEO of the National Heritage Board (NHB) told him what he did.

“Then, the cabby told me how much he appreciated the many exhibitions we brought into Singapore,” said Koh. “He said he did not have to travel; that we made it easy for him and his family to see them.

“I asked if he found the charges expensive. He said if we wanted to bring the world’s best to Singapore — for us to learn — he understands he has to pay for it.”

The taxi-driver (Koh never got his name) does not fit the profile of a museum visitor but he struck a chord with his passenger that day.

Said Koh, 46: “The national collections are for the people of Singapore … We want to curate shows to help Singaporeans and visitors understand the richness of the collections, and through this, to understand the history and ancestral heritage.”

This is the far-reaching message NHB wants to bring to a broader audience profile; beyond school groups and better-educated adults that make up the majority of its visitors. In its sights are young working adults and the nation’s heartlanders.

As a legendary baseball player said to Kevin Costner’s character in Field Of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” But where our museums are concerned, not without adding some “local flavour”, it seems.

In the case of the National Museum, NHB has integrated a trendy restaurant (Novus) and a hip bar (Muse Bar) into its premises. It has extended the opening hours of some galleries to accommodate diners.

But more than that, NHB’s museums have curated exhibitions that include items from popular culture to make them more accessible to the man in the street.

Take the on-going Beauty In Asia; 200 BCE to Today exhibition at The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM). A show with a Pan-Asia focus, it features more than 300 artefacts including a 11th century Indian bronze and incorporates — for the first time in an exhibition — contemporary artworks.

There is a painting of Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai, a lithograph by local lensman Russel Wong, a life-sized nude statue by Chinese sculptor Cai Zhisong, and local women’s magazine covers and a tiara from the Miss Singapore World pageant.

The exhibition concludes with an educational display with a computer interactive which invites the visitor to put together different facial features to form the most beautiful face.

Popular touches to boost attendance numbers? The museum makes no apologies. On the contrary, it is all deliberately done to “build bridges”, said Dr Kenson Kwok, ACM’s director.

Building Bridges

“Being a young society, not everybody is interested in history. What we are trying to do is build bridges to the public, so that people will find it easier to understand the things we do.”

ACM has always sought to “contextualise” what it puts on show, said Kwok, 57, citing the example of its 2005 exhibition, Journey of Faith: Art and History from The Vatican Collections as another example.

“It illustrated the story of Christianity, not only the story of Jesus, but what happened after,” he said. “We put in a section that was quite novel —Christianity In Asia. This included materials from churches in Singapore which ‘localised’ the whole show.”

The museum also displayed a Peranakan altar which had been used for Taoist ancestral worship. But after its owners converted to Christianity, they continued using it, only this time as a Christian altar.

“That way, visitors were able to connect to the exhibition. Journey of Faith was an imported show, but we gave it a twist that enabled people in Singapore to contextualise that story.”

ACM hopes to attract 100,000 visitors, both locals and tourists, to this five-month long exhibition.

“We don’t apologise for trying to reach out to new audiences,” Prof Tommy Koh, NHB’s chairman, told TODAY. But he added that (popular) exhibitions and visitorship figures are just one part of what makes a museum good.

“There is no replacement for solid scholarship,” he said. KPIs — key performance indexes — must also include recognisation in the form of reviews, invitations for curators to conferences, and requests for the museum to display its artefacts in international exhibitions overseas.

He added: “The next big ambition then is to export shows.”

Recognition & Reputation

When favourable reviews appear, they are all the sweeter because, as CEO Koh put it: “Museums need time to establish themselves. To start up, get curation going. Also to build up a collection. These are critical parallel aspects.”

ACM is particularly chuffed by a review by Jack Lohman, director of the Museum of London Group and chairman of the UK unit of the International Council Of Museums during President George W Bush’s visit to Singapore in November last year. “It’s not a museum of the past, it’s a museum of the future,” he wrote of ACM.

“I think it is tremendous recognition for what we are trying to do,” said Kwok. Such kudos are valuable because they can be used to bring the message home to the people in Singapore. “Sometimes you don’t realise what you have at home. We think overseas is always better.”

Good press also means recognition for a museum’s curators. Following the success of Journey of Faith, Kwok was asked to speak at a prestigious international conference last year.

Overseas accolades also help a museum establish its reputation so that overseas partnerships and alliances can be forged more easily.

“Many of the bigger museums (overseas) have units of staff who just work on exporting shows,” said Kwok. “Maybe we will work towards this some day.”

Ties That Last

ACM is not doing too badly on this front. In February, it exported a full show, The Peranakan Legacy, to the Ayala Museum in Manila.

“While we have loaned several of our pieces for display in museum exhibitions overseas, this is the first time that we are exporting a full show from our collection,” said Kwok.

A showcase of the rich material culture of the Peranakans, the show features 170 objects from the ACM’s Peranakan Collection. At the Ayala, it is part of a larger exhibition, Chinese Diaspora: Art Streams from the Mainland, which showcases the diversity and uniqueness of overseas Chinese cultures in South east Asia.

“The Peranakan Legacy has a multicultural message that may be relevant to countries exploring this peaceful assimilation of culture,” said Koh.

Building bridges again — this time from Singapore to the world. Bridge-building, emphasised Koh, is a key aspect of NHB’s “soft power”.

“These people-to-people ties form the first layer of culture,” he said. “These are the ties that last.”

Our museums, he reiterated, bring the world to Singapore and Singapore out to the world.

“We bring in a show and we hope our people can learn and appreciate being global citizens. It is important because not every one in Singapore can travel.”

And this is where his anecdote about the appreciative taxi driver fits neatly in. - TODAY/fa

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Bidding for NDP 2007 tickets starts on Saturday

By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia
17 May 2007 2243 hrs

This year's National Day Parade will be different from all others - for the first time the event will be held on a floating platform entirely over water.

Bidding for tickets start this Saturday and organisers are expecting an overwhelming response.

The stage is set for NDP 2007 - and the entire show will be over water.

The theme is "City of Possibilities" with a spanking new logo to fit the new parade format.

Blue has taken over the traditional red to symbolise the water around the Marina Bay area.

This is the first time Singapore will be celebrating her birthday on water and audiences can expect special effects making use of that element and pyrotechnics to light up the city skyline around the Marina Bay.

There are the usual ways to bid for tickets.

The public can call, go online, SMS or visit the AXS or SAM machine and tickets will be balloted electronically.

Major Tan Chin Tuck, Chairman, Seating Committee, NDP 2007, said: "Traditionally, NDP tickets have been high in demand. Especially for years when we have it at Padang, which is of similar capacity to where we are right now at the sitting gallery for this year. We do not discriminate previous year's ticket winners from getting tickets this year. This is a brand new location, a brand new venue and we'd like to let everyone have the same chance of winning the tickets."

The lucky ticket winners will be notified from June 10-19.

Winners can then collect their tickets at Marina Square Shopping Centre.

For those who cannot get a seat inside the stadium, organisers say there's standing room for some 150,000 people along the waterfront.

Colonel Teo Jing Siong, Chairman, Executive Committee, NDP 2007, said: "With such a large influx of people into the Marina Bay area, there will not only be traffic congestions but human congestions as well. Parking will be a challenge, that's why we encourage even from the onset many people coming here to take public transport instead of driving here. These are areas we ought to be working at to try our best to minimise...inconveniences as well as all these congestions."

NDP 2007 will also be driving people to get the best views from nearby hotels and buildings.

Those who are interested can apply online at www.ndp.org.sg.

To apply via the telephone, the number to call is 1900 112 4242 to apply for tickets to NDP Preview 2007 and 1900 112 4243 for tickets to NDP on Aug 9, 2007.

To apply via SMS, send a text message beginning with "NDP" for the actual parade or "PREVIEW" for the preview show and NRIC number to 42422 for two tickets, 42424 for four tickets, and 42426 for six tickets.

Tickets are not given on a first come, first served basis.

Bidding begins on May 19 and ends May 28. - CNA/ch

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Fallen raintree in Bukit Batok kills one and injures two

By Chua Su Sien / Julia Ng, Channel NewsAsia
15 May 2007 2130 hrs

SINGAPORE: One woman was killed and two of her friends injured, when a raintree in the Bukit Batok Nature Reserve collapsed on them Tuesday morning.

17-year-old Polytechnic student Quek Choon Kiat knew this route well – it was one that his mother, 43-year-old Ho Siew Lan, used to take for her morning walk.

But Madam Ho's Tuesday jog turned out to be her last.

A tree fell on her, killing her on the spot.

Her family only found out something was amiss some three hours later, when they got a call from the dental clinic where Madam Ho worked as an assistant.

"The dentist called us at home to ask why she was so late and didn't turn up to open the clinic. So I quickly asked my son to come down and look for her," said Choon Kiat’s father.

Choon Kiat never imagined he would stumble onto the grim task of identifying his mother's body.

"I saw the police and reporters there. I went to approach the police and they showed me my mum. And I recognised my mum," said Choon Kiat.

The area's MP, Halimah Yacob, is out of the country but her fellow MP came to offer help to the family, who were still in shock.

"Now the most important thing is to help the deceased's family to overcome the crisis. My grassroots members have also donated $2,000 to help the family tide this difficult time," said Ang Mong Seng, MP, Hong Kah GRC.

"My mum put in a lot of time and love to care for the family and for us. She worked hard all her life for us. She didn't get to enjoy life at all and now she's gone," said Choon Kiat.

Choon Kiat has an elder brother who is in national service.

The family celebrated Mother's Day on Sunday with a simple meal and a stroll around their neighbourhood. - CNA/yy

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Heavy rain, strong winds caused tree to fall in nature reserve

By Pearl Forss & Chua Su Sien, Channel NewsAsia
16 May 2007 2136 hrs

SINGAPORE: The tree, which fell on three women at the Bukit Batok Nature Reserve on Tuesday, was a healthy tree, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

But it was a combination of factors such as strong winds, continuous rain over several days and softened soil which caused the tree to be uprooted.

The 10-storey high tree collapsed on Tuesday morning, killing one and injuring two others.

When Channel NewsAsia visited the site on Wednesday, an even larger area was cordoned by the authorities to conduct checks on the trees.

NParks said Tuesday's heavy rain softened the soil, and with exceptionally strong winds of up to 70 kilometres per hour, the Albizia tree, which has weak roots, was uprooted.

The tree grows in the wild and is not usually found in parks.

Bukit Batok Nature Reserve, where the incident occurred, is a secondary forest.

Ben Lee, Head, Nature Trekker, said: "I would advise those who are going to nature reserves or parks to be careful and to look out for sounds and cracks within the vicinity of your walking space."

Other secondary forests in Singapore are mostly found in the central catchment area as well as on Pulau Ubin.

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Dead fish found floating in Serangoon River and canal

By Pearl Forss, Channel NewsAsia
16 May 2007 2231 hrs

SINGAPORE: Thousands of dead fish were found floating in the Serangoon River and Punggol Park Canal on Wednesday.

The National Environment Agency was contacted and it is now investigating the case.

It has also referred the matter to the Public Utilities Board.

To notify Channel NewsAsia on interesting occurrences, members of the public could call 68 2222 68 or send pictures and videos to yournews@channelnewsasia.com.

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S'pore can boost biomedical, petrochem sectors through research

By Daryl Loo, Channel NewsAsia
14 May 2007 1748 hrs

SINGAPORE: Scientists and companies in Singapore have been urged by Professor Ryoji Noyori – one of Japan's top chemistry scientists – to focus on developing chemicals that are friendly to the environment.

The Nobel laureate and head of Japan's main public research institute RIKEN was speaking at a forum in Singapore.

He said: "Everybody recognises the importance of man-made chemicals. However, many places are polluted by these man-made chemical compounds. So how do we manage and handle such a situation?

"Chemists have to synthesise and provide important compounds that are cost effective and also environmentally benign in manner. And that is green chemistry."

The A*STAR-Noyori Forum Symposium on Organic Chemistry is the largest industry and academia symposium to be held at Singapore's Biopolis thus far, with participants from seven research institutions and 17 major chemical firms such as Mitsui and Sumitomo.

Opening the event, A*STAR Chairman Lim Chuan Poh said Singapore would be able to boost its crucial biomedical science and petrochemical industries by investing in chemistry research to produce new and better chemicals to make both medicines and industrial products.


5 companies short-listed to design National Art Gallery

By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia
14 May 2007 1736 hrs

SINGAPORE: Five companies have been short-listed to design Singapore's National Art Gallery.

They include two from Singapore and one each from Taiwan, Australia and France.

The two local companies are Chan Sau Yen Associates in collaboration with Lekker Design and DP Architects.

The others are Ho + Hou Studio Architects from Taiwan, Smart Design Studio from Australia and Studio Milou Architecture from France.

They have been chosen from over 100 entries from 29 countries that were submitted earlier to an international jury panel, led by Ambassador-At-Large Professor Tommy Koh.

The teams will have till August to develop their initial concepts into full-fledged designs.

A public exhibition will also be held later to display their final design concept.

The National Art Gallery is Singapore's latest visual arts institution to promote the display and study of Southeast Asian art.

It will occupy the former Supreme Court Building at City Hall and is expected to be open in 2012.


New ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions needed

By Dominique Loh, Channel NewsAsia
14 May 2007 1657 hrs

SINGAPORE: With environmental issues hitting the media spotlight lately, the oil company Shell says there are ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by using alternate fuels and having better carbon emission management.

The International Energy Agency estimates that over the next 25 years, the world's energy demand will grow by more than 50 percent and double by 2050.

Research into stretching current diesel technology is gaining ground, especially in the conversion of gas resources into gas-to-liquid fuel (GTL fuel).

Shell says particulate emissions of such GTL fuel is about 40 percent less and carbon dioxide emissions, about 60 percent less.

Eric Holthusen, Asia Pacific Fuels Technology, Shell Global Solutions, says: "The advantages are obvious because if you want to use gas in vehicles, you need special vehicles and separate infrastructure. If you can turn gas into a liquid fuel, you can use your present infrastructure – retail stations, tankers and cars."

By the end of this decade, Shell will ramp up its production facilities in Qatar which can pump out nearly 150,000 barrels of GTL fuel a day.

Another alternative is bio fuels, derived from crops like corn.

But experts believe to supply the world demand may be a huge challenge.

For one, such crops are sensitive to market prices and it will take huge supplies just to obtain a small quantity of fuel.

While the search for that "magic fuel" that emits zero carbon emission continues, experts say the world's dependency on fossil fuel remains for the foreseeable future.

The challenge now is to find ways to reduce carbon emissions.

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Indonesia releases five of 12 barges carrying granite: Mah

By Julia Ng, Channel NewsAsia
10 May 2007 2122 hrs

SINGAPORE: Indonesian authorities have released five of the 12 barges carrying granite which had been detained.

This was revealed by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan on Thursday evening.

Speaking at a Building and Construction Authority (BCA) dinner, Mr Mah also said prices of concrete are dropping as alternative sources of sand and granite kick in.

But to encourage the construction sector to keep looking for new alternative sources, the BCA is formulating a scheme to co-share some of the risks involved.

Mr Mah says the recent disruption in the supply of sand and granite from Indonesia is a wake-up call to the industry.

It made Singapore look at how to diversify its supply sources and switch to sustainable construction, as much as possible.

And to encourage the industry to import from other sources, the BCA will soon be releasing details of a scheme to help co-share some of the risks involved.

Mr Mah also listed three key elements needed for Singapore to develop a world-class built environment.

And these are environmental sustainability, construction sustainability and barrier-free accessibility.

The minister added that his ministry wants to push harder for green building technologies and sustainable construction.

And this means, using materials that are recyclable and readily available from many sources.

According to Mr Mah, "We must aim to be less dependent on concrete. We can do so in several ways. First, switch to non-concrete alternatives such as structural steel, glass, dry wall systems and metal claddings.

"BCA is working with several agencies to review the existing regulatory requirements to facilitate greater use of structural steel. Second, explore use of suitable substitutes for sand and granite in the production of concrete.

"Just as in the case [of] Newater, can we find an alternative for sand and granite which is economically viable and readily available, a "NewConcrete" perhaps?

"One innovative solution uses copper slag and recycled coarse aggregates as substitutes for sand and granite to make concrete-like products.

"The challenge is to continue to find ways to bring down the cost to make such products commercially viable while enhancing its structural strength." - CNA/yy


Build dykes to protect against rising sea levels: experts

By Hasnita A Majid
Channel NewsAsia
09 May 2007

SINGAPORE: Experts say Singapore can build a system to protect itself from rising sea levels due to global warming - they recommend dykes, or a sea defence system.

As an island Singapore can be affected by rising sea levels as a result of melting ice caps because of global warming.

So the country is looking into the possibility of building dykes to tackle this problem, as disclosed by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at a recent dialogue.

Singapore is tapping the experience of the Dutch, who have been using dykes for many years.

Dykes are used to protect cities in the Netherlands, half of which were built below sea level.

Dykes have also been used in countries such as the US and Japan.

But there are different conditions for different countries.

"It depends, a little bit on the elevation of the land in Singapore. I think it makes sense to do a good study on this, to verify where land is prone to future inundation. Of course in Singapore you have a little handicap of finding fill materials.

"Locally, conditions can be also difficult to integrate into the coastal developments, so you have little space and of course, locally the water depth is quite significant. So you have to take that into account," says Tjitte A Nauta, Project Manager, Marine & Coastal Management, Delft Hydraulics.

"Altogether, I think it makes sense to study… the impact of inundation on the area and then come up with a plan on how to protect it… and then you go into these designs, whether you consider dykes or consider sea walls or whatever…

"Basically you can do it anywhere where land can be inundated. And that depends on where you are worldwide, and in some cases it's basically affected by tides.

"And some areas are affected by tides that come in, but it is to protect the land behind it.

"Then you make a decision once you know what the local conditions are and when you should go for the dyke; when you should go for the sea wall; and when you should go for breakwaters to take care of the water exposure … or you go for a combinations of all these," continues Nauta.

There are also varying safety standards. In the Netherlands for example, it has a very strict standard which allows a potential of only one accident per 10,000 years, while in other countries like the US, it is more lax, allowing the potential of one accident in a 100 years.

Delft Hydraulics says that in the Netherlands, dykes are also used to create land from marshland and other water bodies, by constructing the structures to block off the areas and pumping them dry - hence creating what is called a polder.

This model, it is believed, can also be applied to Singapore to create more land.

Nauta explains how it works, "The polder system is basically an alternative to traditional land reclamation. With land reclamation I mean filling up the area until it’s above the running water level. But a polder works in a slightly different way.

"Basically, it starts by building a dyke in the water system and then pumping it dry - the land within the dyke is pumped dry so that a land is created on the existing bed of the sea or the lake or whatever.

"In your case it would be the sea environment so the polder [has] to be built in a different way than the polders that have been built in the Netherlands… but in the Netherlands we have created a substantial increase of our land… by just building large polder schemes…

"…and they are in a sense a cheaper alternative to land reclamation because you don't need all the fill materials."

But having to pump the water out also means more energy required, which may result in higher costs.

Still, the long term gain would be significant because dykes not only serve as a water defence system but can double up as an area to maintain biodiversity.

And this is exactly the objective of the Singapore Delft Water Alliance which is based at the National University of Singapore, NUS.

"We are involved in a number of research programmes - building with nature, understanding how we can enhance traditional engineering…

"…by enhancing the performance of a system, by increasing biodiversity in order to arrive at a better system, to develop better protection.

"The modern eco-hydraulics is that we can enhance the performance of sea defence and enhance the biodiversity at the same time.

"In the Netherlands for example, there's a programme called "Rich Dykes". So they are not simple structures made of concrete but structures that involve working with nature," says Associate professor Vladan Babovic, Director, Singapore Delft Water Alliance.

The NUS is also drawing up plans for a system that performs multiple functions.

It is setting up Aquatic Science Centres in canals and coastal areas to study the viability of an ecosystem where the water can be kept clean at the same time. - CNA/yy

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