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.


Singapore unveils first coral nursery to conserve underwater habitat

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia
30 July 2007 1754 hrs

SINGAPORE : Singapore now has a coral nursery.

It is located on the shores off Semakau Island on Singapore's southern coast.

Its aim is to conserve and grow the country's natural corals.

It's estimated that three-fifths of Singapore's reefs off its southern coast have been lost over the past 200 years because of rapid economic growth.

So a two-year conservation effort is trying to reverse that effect.

It's focusing on using fragments of naturally-broken hard coral to protect existing reefs.

The location was chosen because of the amount of light and oxygen available to the corals, so that they can grow and spawn.

The corals are placed about three metres under the seawater at mid-tide on the seabed.

Scientists hope that after a year, the corals can be transplanted to reefs around Singapore's southern coast.

They believe the coral will grow to form part of a new coral reef.

To maximise the chances of success, the coral is grown on the rubble and is then secured onto plastic platforms.

This will make sure they are protected.

"That will immediately remove the impact of sediments, which otherwise would accumulate around them. And we'll also secure the fragments so that they don't roll about. This helps to stabilise them and improve their chances of survival," says Professor Chou Loke Ming, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS).

And helping other species survive also has other benefits.

According to the project partners, chemical compounds are found in corals as well as in the organisms living on them.

These compounds can also be used to test for contaminants in developing drugs and vaccines.

So project organisers, NParks, NUS and Keppel Corporation hope more corals can lead to more opportunities to grow Singapore's bio-chemical industry. - CNA /ls

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S'pore unveils first coral nursery to conserve underwater habitat

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia
30 July 2007

SINGAPORE : Singapore now has a coral nursery.

It is located on the shores off Semakau Island on Singapore's southern coast.

Its aim is to conserve and grow the country's natural corals.

It is estimated that three-fifths of Singapore's reefs off its southern coast have been lost over the past 200 years because of rapid economic growth.

So a two-year conservation effort is trying to reverse that effect.

It is focusing on using fragments of naturally-broken hard coral to protect existing reefs.

The location has been chosen because of the amount of light and oxygen available to the corals, so that they can grow and spawn.

The corals are placed about three metres under the seawater at mid-tide on the seabed.

Scientists hope that after a year, the corals can be transplanted to reefs around Singapore's southern coast.

They believe the coral will grow to form part of a new coral reef.

To maximise the chances of success, the coral is grown on the rubble and is then secured onto plastic platforms. This will make sure they are protected.

"That will immediately remove the impact of sediments, which otherwise would accumulate around them. And we'll also secure the fragments so that they don't roll about. This helps to stabilise them and improve their chances of survival," said Professor Chou Loke Ming, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS).

Helping other species survive also has other benefits. According to the project partners, chemical compounds are found in corals as well as in the organisms living on them.

These compounds can also be used to test for contaminants in developing drugs and vaccines.

So project organisers, NParks, NUS and Keppel Corporation, hope more corals can lead to more opportunities to grow Singapore's bio-chemical industry. - CNA /ls

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National Parks Board plans new measures to prevent mishaps

By Leong Wee Keat, TODAY
27 July 2007

SINGAPORE: New preventive measures are being taken by the National Parks Board (NParks) following the deaths of two people who were killed by a falling tree and a falling branch in May, a coroner's inquiry was told yesterday.

State Coroner Ronald Gwee, who recorded misadventure verdicts in the deaths of Madam Ho Siew Lan and Mr Nguyen Ngoc Quang, expressed confidence that the new measures would help prevent future accidents. Their deaths, the court held, were attributable to "forces of nature".

At Bukit Batok Nature Park, where Mdm Ho, 42, was killed by a falling tree on May 15, NParks will install weather alert signs so that park users can call the Meteorological Services for the latest weather reports.

Tree Top Walk, at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, where Mr Nguyen, 25, was hit by a falling branch, will be closed to visitors in the event of lightning and thunderstorms.

NParks will also build rain shelters with lightning protection along the trail. These shelters are expected to be ready by the end of this financial year.

The court heard that Mdm Ho had decided not to continue with her walk after the wind began blowing strongly, and a drizzle started, on the day of the incident. She died from multiple injuries after a 30-m-tall tree fell on her. Investigations revealed that the fallen tree's roots and trunks were healthy but that the ground was wet due to heavy rain earlier.

Two weeks later, Mr Nguyen, a Singapore permanent resident from Vietnam, died from head injuries after a falling tree branch hit him as he was trekking with friends. - TODAY/fa

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Bus interchanges the most littered places in Singapore: survey

By Lynda Hong, Channel NewsAsia
27 July 2007 1844 hrs

SINGAPORE: About 53.7 percent of Singaporeans who were surveyed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) said littering was not a serious problem here.

The study also found that 39.2 percent of the respondents were not concerned about littering and 20.3 percent did not take pride in keeping Singapore litter-free.

In addition to that, 13.6 percent of the respondents thought littering was a socially acceptable behaviour while 8.6 percent said littering would not lead to hygiene problems.

Of those surveyed, 7.5 percent did not think litter was harmful to the environment.

Results of the NEA Littering Behaviour Study, conducted over a period of six months, were released on Friday at the launch of the Litter-Free Bus Services Programme at the Ang Mo Kio Bus Interchange.

The programme, which was launched by Minister of State for Transport and Finance Lim Hwee Hua, aims to encourage Singaporeans not to litter.

The NEA study showed that bus interchanges were considered the most littered public places in Singapore.

Besides displaying posters and banners on this programme in 21 bus interchanges and more than 3,650 buses, this litter-free initiative also involves the concerted efforts of stakeholders such as bus operators, commuters, cleaners, bus captains and shop tenants.

Mrs Lim hopes the new programme will remind Singaporeans to take ownership for the cleanliness of their environment.

She said: "From time to time, we need to raise awareness; we need to remind people again that it takes everyone's efforts to make this work and to sustain this on an ongoing basis, because litter will not just disappear by itself. Litter will have to be carefully and properly disposed (of)."

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Vanishing Bees May Get By with a Little Help from the Army

By Matt Sullivan
Popular Mechanics
September 2007 issue

Since last fall, the strange phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has killed off a quarter of America's honeybee population, and threatened 25 percent of our food supply. (A wide variety of crops rely on pollination.) This past spring, a nationwide effort by top DNA scientists determined that CCD is probably caused by a number of factors, including multiple bee-killing viruses. But identifying specific viruses with DNA sequencing is a slow, painstaking process.

That's where Charles Wick (then the leader of the chemical and biological detection team at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland) came in, volunteering a microwave-size invention to help the cause. Originally used to screen drinking water for pathogens, Wick's 50-pound Integrated Virus Detection System (IVDS) hits a sample with an electric charge, then counts and sizes the particles making up the sample to identify viruses. By measuring to the nanometer, the IVDS can pin down a disease in 10 minutes.

As a trial run, CCD surveyors sent Wick samples from suffering beehives, which he liquefied in a blender, filtered using a cheesecloth, and ran through the IVDS. "They'd been working on this for six or seven months," Wick says, "so we brought in a new technology and immediately detected the pathogens they were looking for."

The surveyors were astonished: Within minutes, the IVDS had found multiple suspicious viruses, kick-starting the chase for the cause of the collapsed colonies. Wick's invention is now part of the ongoing CCD effort, and a commercial version of the device has just been released.

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Saving Gaia Forum aims to raise environmental issues

By Dominique Loh, Channel NewsAsia
26 July 2007

SINGAPORE: The planet's environmental troubles have taken the spotlight in the media in recent weeks and MediaCorp's Channel NewsAsia is putting the issues in perspective with a new series called "Saving Gaia".

Besides airing the educational series, MediaCorp has also gone one step further by organising the Saving Gaia Breakfast Forum at the Shangri-la Hotel on Thursday to engage the business community in a meaningful dialogue on the benefits of going green.

In sharing the purpose of this eco-initiative, Woon Tai Ho, Managing Director of MediaCorp News, said: "This breakfast meeting is to focus on Gaia's biggest dilemma and that's business. We want to ask what it means to save Gaia for your company – from big decisions to personal ones... how do they hit the bottom-line? How do you turn every dollar green?

"The ideas that came out through the media were very good. We're going to use a lot of the ideas that were discussed and try to incorporate them into our programmes."

Due to rapid growth and consumerism, Singaporeans have, at one point, thrown away some 14,000 tonnes of garbage daily.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said only half of the waste gets recycled and serious environmental problems such as carbon dioxide emissions remain.

Chang Yeng Cheong, Deputy General Manager, VivoCity, said: "VivoCity, being the largest retail and lifestyle destination, has more than 3 million visitors a month, so the challenge has always been to give everyone a cool shopping environment. But we only switch on the air conditioning 45 minutes before the official opening hours."

NEA said it has made some progress with companies that are willing to try its energy audit scheme.

Lee Yuen Hee, CEO, National Environment Agency, said: "When we introduced the scheme, there were a lot of hesitation by companies on the costs they would have to incur by implementing these energy efficiency measures. But once they have completed the study, they realised that the energy savings they can achieve are very significant. Companies under the scheme have achieved annual savings of about S$15 million."

Through the forum, it is hoped that the message of convincing companies to be earth-friendly would come across loud and clear.

Howard Shaw, Executive Director, Singapore Environment Council, said: "Going green does not have to be a big investment, it does not have to be a great inconvenience to management. If the right steps are adopted from the start, the company will see returns eventually."

Experts say a company's green efforts may have to come from the top management, but in the long run, educating the young may be the key in changing old habits from an older generation.

- CNA/so

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Chicken price war between supermarts hurting smaller stallholders

By Lynda Hong, Channel NewsAsia
26 July 2007

SINGAPORE: Major supermarkets have been slashing prices for chicken since February, with the price war heating up in the past one to two months.

Consumers are naturally not complaining, but the huge reduction in prices has hurt stallholders at wet markets.

Supermarkets are selling whole chickens for S$2.50 – a price that was previously unheard of, said the Poultry Merchants Association of Singapore.

With such rock-bottom prices, consumers are ignoring the stalls at the wet markets, where a whole chicken, weighing 1 to 1.3 kg, is going for about S$4.

Chen Kim Soon, a chicken seller at a wet market, said: "Currently, our business has decreased by about 10 to 20 percent. If the business gets worse and we suffer losses, I may consider giving up my stall."

Supermarkets in Singapore have a 40 percent market share when it comes to chickens.

And these big players were said to have pressured slaughter houses to sell a whole chicken, weighing 1 to 1.3 kg, at S$2.30 – way below the cost price of S$3.60.

This has reportedly caused slaughter houses to lose up to S$65,000 a day.

If they continue to bleed, owners of slaughter houses said they would either switch to selling cooked chickens or merge in order to have a stronger voice within the poultry industry.

- CNA/so

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The library@orchard to close

25 July 2007 (CNA)

The National Library's first downtown hub for bookworms, library@orchard is closing.

Library users will however find the next chapter for library@orchard, even better with the library re-opening in 2010 at *scape the youth community space and possibly another redeveloped site along Orchard Road.

The Ngee Ann City location for the Library will shut its doors by November 2007 because the lease on the premises is not being renewed. However, books can still be returned at the bookdrop located at library@orchard until 15 December 2007.

Commenting on the plans to move, Dr N Varaprasad, Chief Executive of National Library Board said, "We are very excited about our move to the two new possible locations, which will help us to meet the evolving and diverse needs of the youths and instil a stronger sense of learning culture amongst them."

As the Orchard road location caters mainly to young people, the National Library Board is consulting its young users on the development of the new space at *scape.

"Ultimately, we want these two new spaces to not only build on the success of the original library@orchard but to scale new heights in reaching out to the young Singaporeans in the Orchard community," said Dr Varaprasad.

To commemorate the relocation of library@orchard, the NLB will hold a series of public events and programmes - such as exhibitions, film screenings, talks and even ‘live’ performances by local bands and musicians - over the next few months.

To say "goodbye", the NLB will have a ‘Moving On’ party on November 30th.

The library@orchard first opened in 1999.

It was a milestone in NLB's history as it was the first niche lifestyle library, designed to attract young Singaporeans with its unique location at the heart of the Orchard Road shopping belt.

Together with an appealing ambience, thanks to the presence of music booths and a café, library@orchard managed to double its outreach, with an average of more than 1.4 million visitors per year. - CNA/sf



Launch of "I'm Not a Plastic Bag" at Ngee Ann City cancelled

By May Wong, Channel NewsAsia
24 July 2007

SINGAPORE: The Singapore distributors of "I'm Not a Plastic Bag" have cancelled the launch of the designer bag.

The eco-friendly bag was to have made its debut here at the "On Pedder" store in Ngee Ann City on 18 August.

But the store said it had decided not to go ahead with the launch, following the trouble the bag caused at its launches in Hong Kong and Taiwan earlier this month.

In Taiwan, shoppers pushed and shoved to get their hands on the Anya Hindmarch bag. It caused a stampede and landed some in hospital.

There were similar scenes in Hong Kong, where shoppers lined up for hours to buy the bag, which was produced to encourage shoppers not to use plastic bags.

To avoid such a situation, retailers, not only in Singapore but also in Beijing, Shanghai and Jakarta, have cancelled the bag launch.

In Singapore, the "On Pedder" store said it has been receiving up to 50 calls a day for at least one month.

Most shoppers want to be placed on the waiting list.

The bag, which has been sold out in the US, was to retail here at S$25. - CNA/yy

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23 July 2007 (xin.sg)
Video Clip of News Reel








Bukit Timah Heritage Trail launched

By Lynda Hong, Channel NewsAsia
23 July 2007

SINGAPORE: Students from the National Junior College (NJC), with the help of the National Heritage Board, have come up with a heritage trail to help visitors understand better the history of Bukit Timah.

Launched on Monday by the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Bukit Timah Community Trail provides an insight into the area's rich cultural and social heritage.

Visitors can find out interesting facts such as how Bukit Timah got its name and the stories that lie behind the many landmarks there.

World War 2 sites such as the Old Ford Factory, and entertainment and eating places like Beauty World and Bukit Timah Food centre are just some of the sites on the trail.

Some NJC students have volunteered to help, out of sheer interest.

"I really enjoy it because you learn about the history, what used to be here and how much this area has changed. So you actually really learn a lot about your own roots, and how culturally diverse we are, and how different things have changed in Singapore," says Steffi Yuree Tedjo, 2nd year student, National Junior College.



Editorial: Small farms, big business

21 July 2007 (New Straits Times)

A FAIR price for farmers’ produce and a guaranteed supply of it for retail to consumers, with quality standards upheld "from farm to fork": this is the promise of contract farming, an idea whose time has surely come.
In these early stages of the genesis of the Northern Corridor Economic Region, the differences of mindset with the Southern Corridor’s Iskandar Development Region are already apparent.

Where the IDR is about massive investment, multinational participation and top-down economic growth, the NCER is being grown, literally, from the ground up.

Here the onus is on the small farmer and his individual efforts. The potential of contract farming had to wait for certain downstream developments in this country, but now the hypermarkets, supermarkets and retail franchises are up, running and spreading, offering the economies of scale and retail capacity to deal directly with farmers and cut out the middlemen that have for so long been the bogeymen of the agricultural business.

Today, for foodstuff ranging from prawns, chicken and vegetables to sweet corn and vanilla beans, the huge new urban retailers are dealing directly with growers and breeders, offering capital, technology, incentives and guidance to ensure they acquire the produce they need at the quality they desire and prices appreciated by farmers and consumers alike.
This marks an advance for everyone in the food supply chain. Farmers are freed from the vagaries of price fluctuations, and retailers from the whims of wholesalers and middlemen, with their predilection for restricting supplies when prices rise and dumping produce when they fall, in effect holding the rest of the supply chain to ransom for their own interests.

The Giant supermarket chain works directly with Cameron Highlands fruit and vegetable growers; Tesco deals with lowland farmers and animal rearers in Perak and Perlis, and now sources up to a quarter of such produce through contract farming.

These players form the vanguard in this pragmatic new approach to raising the status of the agricultural sector into an engine of growth for the national economy; one of the principal planks of the present administration on taking office three years ago.

This understated revolution, taking place on rural acres far away from the glitz and grandiosity of urban development, promises to be far-reaching in its emancipation of Malaysian agriculture from a green rut of poverty into a thriving cornerstone of national prosperity.



Petrol stations may dispense compressed natural gas

By Tan Hui Leng, TODAY
19 July 2007

The first one, on Jurong Island, cost $2.6 million to build.

The second station, coming up next year on the mainland, is likely to cost much more.

But the refuelling infrastructure for compressed natural gas (CNG) might not have to be built from scratch — and cost so much — if the government can eventually strike a deal with petroleum companies here.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has been exploring with petrol stations the possibility of dispensing CNG at service stations, Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim told Parliament.

These include Singapore Petroleum Company, Caltex and Shell.

"The oil companies are still considering the idea of installing CNG dispensers in their service stations," said the NEA, which has been in talks with the companies since 2002.

These efforts are in addition to the government's co-funding support for private sector initiatives to build new CNG refuelling stations.

The NEA's Innovation for Environmental Sustainability Fund has helped to co-fund the start-up costs of the Jurong Island outlet, the only CNG station in Singapore so far.

Two more stations are to be operational next year, also with the help of government funding. Smart Automobile is setting up a station at Mandai by January and another at Serangoon North by the end of 2008. Earlier cost estimates of the Mandai Link station range from $8 million to $12 million, which includes the cost of the land.

If CNG refuelling facilities can be incorporated into existing petrol stations, the cost to car owners of going green could be further lowered.

Currently, the green vehicle rebate, introduced in 2001 to lower the cost differential between green vehicles and conventional vehicles, gives motorists a 40-per-cent discount on the additional registration fee up till 2009.

As of end May this year, there are 339 CNG vehicles on the road.

"I hope that moving forward, more Singaporeans will opt for CNG or other green vehicles," said Dr Yaacob, who was responding to a parliamentary question.

"As more CNG vehicles come onto the road, the demand for refuelling stations will grow and this in turn will encourage the private sector to provide such infrastructure."

CNG vehicles are environmentally friendly as they produce 76 per cent less carbon monoxide and about 99 per cent less of the cancer-causing chemical benzene than diesel-powered vehicles. - TODAY/ra

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Singapore's biodiversity may provide potential cures for diseases

By Foo Siew Shyan, Channel NewsAsia
19 July 2007

SINGAPORE: You may think that Singapore lacks biodiversity, but the latest collaboration between National Parks Board and an international pharmaceutical company may just prove you wrong.

Drug discovery company MerLion Pharmaceuticals and National Parks Board have inked an agreement to tap into Singapore's diverse plants, animals and micro-organisms.

The company will collect samples from here to support drug discovery that's based on natural products.

Singapore is one of many stops the company collects samples from.

The move will boost MerLion's library, which now contains more than 100,000 micro-organisms.

Royalties from any successfully produced drug will also come back to Singapore. – CNA/ac


Shell fined S$25,000 for safety lapses which led to death of worker

19 July 2007 (CNA)

SINGAPORE: Petroleum company Shell has been handed a S$25,000 fine for safety lapses that led to the death of its worker.

It pleaded guilty in court on Thursday for failing to put in place work safety procedures at its offshore refinery.

35-year-old Goh Kean Lam died in an accident two years ago while carrying out chemicals replacement processes.

He succumbed to the injuries after suffering chemical burns to 17 per cent of his body.

Shell said it has looked into its processes more critically to make sure safety is not compromised.

The company could have been fined up to S$50,000 under the Factories Act. - CNA/yy

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Heritage awareness rising among Singaporeans: study

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia
18 July 2007

SINGAPORE : Singaporeans are becoming more aware of their heritage.

Many also feel that heritage plays a positive role in their lives and are supporting efforts to preserve it, according to the latest survey by the National Heritage Board.

The level of heritage awareness among Singaporeans has increased by 20% compared to five years ago when the first survey was carried out.

Since then, there has been a significant rise in the frequency of visits to heritage districts like Chinatown and Little India, as well as a rise in people agreeing it is important government continually invest in places like the National Museum to preserve Singapore heritage.

95 percent of respondents also support the preservation of all aspects of Singapore's heritage now and in the future.

And this is something that the government too believes in.

"The heritage of people, of a society was not cast in stone or cast in iron, and unchangeable. Heritage involves with time. That is why each and every one of us can contribute to our national heritage," said the Information, Communications and the Arts Minister, Dr Lee Boon Yang.

Almost 9 out of 10 respondents say a better understanding of the country's history and heritage increases their sense of rootedness.

The findings were released at the launch of this year's HeritageFest at Suntec City.

The Festival Hub features belongings like childhood memories contributed by Singaporeans.

Each of the items, like Loh Lik Peng's memories of the barber shop, tells a different story.

They are not just reflections of their own lives, but make up pieces of the puzzle of Singapore's history too.

The festival, which covers a range of activities, runs until the end of the month. - CNA /ls



MediaCorp Ch 5 to show highlights of Live Earth concerts

13 July 2007 (CNA)

Missed the message first time round?

Fret not.

If you weren't one of the one million Singaporeans who caught Channel 5's exclusive 24-hour broadcast of Live Earth's global concert last weekend, you can do so, albeit in an edited show.

On July 22, Channel 5 will be airing a three-hour highlight show, featuring a select line-up of some of the biggest stars who performed.

The programme starts at 4 pm.

More than 100 artists took part in concerts in nine different locations around the world, in an effort to raise aware- ness about the global warming crisis.

Organised by former United States Vice-President Al Gore, Live Earth staged concerts in London, Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Hamburg, Rio de Janeiro, New York and Washington DC.

Some of the stars that will be featured in the highlight show include Linkin Park and Rihanna rocking from Tokyo; Shakira shaking her hips in Hamburg; classic bands The Police and Bon Jovi bringing down the house in New York; and popular acts Black Eyed Peas, Madonna, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the Pussycat Dolls wowing the crowd in London.

Fans can also look forward to catching performances by Jack Johnson, Pharell Williams, Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz, Kanye West and a host of other musical acts — all in a bid to trigger a movement towards solving the environmental crisis.

The Live Earth concerts drew an estimated 19 million viewers in the US and 4.5 million viewers in the UK, along with eight million users who streamed the concert live on MSN.

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Good governance, but where's the voice?

By Loh Chee Kong, TODAY
12 July 2007

First, the good news: Singapore continues to rank among the best in five out of six areas in the World Bank's latest worldwide governance indicator report.

In particular, it received almost perfect scores in corruption control and government effectiveness.

But the bad news is that in the category of "voice and accountability", which measures political, civil and human rights, the Republic's score hit its lowest since 1996 and it was placed in the bottom half of the 212 countries and territories surveyed.

While Singapore led Southeast Asia in all the governance indicators, it ranked behind Asian countries such as Hong Kong and India when it came to voice and accountability.

According to the World Bank, the latest report — which covers the decade from 1996 — revised the bank's earlier scores after five new data sources, such as the Gallup World Poll and the Open Budget Index, were added. These revisions in "virtually all cases result in minor changes in our earlier estimates", the report stated.

However, the revisions saw Singapore move up dramatically in voice and accountability for 2005.

Last year's edition of the report had placed Singapore in the 38th percentile for that year. After the revision, the Republic was placed near the 56th percentile.

In the latest report, Singapore was placed below 114 other countries, at the 46.6 percentile, in 2006. After the latest revisions, the only time the Republic fared worse was in 1996 (when it was placed at the 46.4 percentile) when the World Bank started the report.

Nevertheless, Singapore registered year-on-year improvements in the other indicators, where it was ranked among the best-managed 16 or so countries.

Singapore's rankings in the survey showed the country to be "one of the best-managed business environments in the world", said the World Bank.

Its representative in Singapore, Mr Peter Stephens, noted that the Republic had emerged relatively unscathed in an eventful decade and it was "easy to see why business has such confidence in Singapore as a place to invest and a location for major operations".

Said Mr Stephens: "Singapore has weathered the collapse of the technology boom, the emergence and competitive pressure of China, Sars and the advent of terrorism. Its systems of governance allow it to make decisions and implement them in ways that not only produce high-quality results, but which businesses can trust."

On the global front, the report showed emerging economies catching up with the rich nations. More than a dozen countries, most of them from the former Eastern Europe communist bloc, scored higher on key measures of governance than countries such as Greece and Italy.

China has improved its anti-corruption stand and the rule of law, but civil freedoms and political stability declined, the World Bank found.

In the region, Thailand — which is undergoing political transition following a military coup last year — experienced significant dips in the areas of political stability, and voice and accountability. In the former category, it was placed near the 16th percentile, ranking it just above 35 or so of the countries in the report. In the voice and accountability area, it was rated 32.2, down from 51.4 in 2005.

Malaysia was placed in the upper half of the rankings in all of the indicators except voice and accountability, where it was ranked in the 38th percentile.

It also registered a 4.3-percentile-point drop — to 58.7 — in political stability.

- TODAY/so

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Singapore's first public CNG station to be ready by Jan 2008

By Daryl Loo, Channel NewsAsia
12 July 2007

SINGAPORE: Singapore's first-ever publicly-accessible refuelling station for compressed natural gas (CNG) is expected to start running by next January.

CNG is seen as a cleaner and cheaper alternative to petrol as it produces very little pollutants and costs about 50% less.

The station will be built and operated by Smart Automobile, which also runs Singapore's first and largest fleet of CNG taxis.

Smart Automobile expects to charge about 75 cents per litre for CNG, much cheaper than petrol, which costs from $1.60 per litre.

The new CNG refuelling station will sit on a 55,000-square-foot site on Mandai Road, just off the Woodlands Road junction.

Smart Automobile has obtained a 30-year lease to build the station, which will serve all CNG-fuelled vehicles here.

The company hopes to have four more stations by 2011, including one in Serangoon North - to be up and running by next September.

Smart Automobile says it is still awaiting regulatory approval for the second station.

All its CNG stations will operate under the name Smart Energy.

Johnny Harjantho, Managing Director of Smart Automobile, said: "We project that by the time the five CNG stations are up, there will be about 3,000 to 4,000 CNG taxis of our own, and from the public side - commercial and private cars - we estimate that there are going to be about 10,000 cars available on the road.

"If you ask me: is that number exaggerated? I think it is not. It's a chicken and egg situation. If you build more stations, then we believe more people will convert their cars, or buy the OEM CNG cars in Singapore."

There are 400 CNG vehicles on the road here, and these currently need special permission to refuel at Singapore's sole CNG station on Jurong Island.

Once the Mandai station is ready, however, refuelling on Jurong Island will no longer be allowed.

Smart Automobile estimates that the first station will cost $8 million to build, and subsequent stations about $7 million each.

To take advantage of the lower cost of refuelling, Smart Automobile intends to replace its remaining fleet of 550 diesel-run taxis with CNG cabs over the next four years.

Mr Harjantho said: "Currently, we have about 110 CNG taxis, which is about 10-15% of our entire fleet. But going forward, we are going to change all of our taxis to run on CNG.

"Green environment is the 'in' thing. Everyone's talking about being environmentally-friendly. So why not run a CNG fleet. The cost is cheaper, and also it does not pollute so much. The whole world is going in that direction."

Other countries with CNG stations include Australia, China and South Korea. - CNA/ir

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MediaCorp organises green party to fight climate change

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia
11 July 2007

SINGAPORE: Buy a drink, save a tree. This is what guests at MediaCorp's "The Gaia Party" on Wednesday evening were encouraged to do, to help save the environment.

The event was organised to raise funds for a conservation project in Singapore.

For one month, party-venue provider Hacienda is donating the money used to buy Martinis, to plant trees to help mitigate climate change.

Three Martinis, at $10 each, buys one sapling tree.

Despite critics who argue that energy is wasted whenever events such as this party are held, organisers believe the investment is worth it.

Howard Shaw, Executive Director, Singapore Environment Council (SEC), said: "They would be at home maybe with the air-conditioning on, maybe somewhere else at some other venue. It's good to see vendors like Hacienda adding value to what they do and carrying a message, in addition to providing this great environment."

Trees are estimated to be able to absorb about 20 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide each, per year.

The SEC wants to plant a species of raintree, similar to the Samanea Saman found at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The number of trees planted will depend on the number of Martinis sold.

The Council hopes to plant about 500 trees around Dempsey Road and other areas.

The Gaia Party is one of the events under the MediaCorp Saving Gaia - or Earth – initiative, held in conjunction with a six-part documentary airing on Channel NewsAsia this month. - CNA/yy

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Nature lovers, sign up to be the ‘official eyes and ears of the forest’

By Daphne Chuah, TODAY
10 July 2007

SINGAPORE - Fancy yourself a champion of wildlife and nature? Now, you can help stop poachers and other despoilers of our local parks and reservoirs.

Local non-profit group Nature Trekker Singapore is launching the Park Policing Programme (PPP) in collaboration with the National Parks Board (NParks).

It aims to get Singaporeans to report illegal activities they come across, such as the releasing of wildlife into the reservoirs and parks, poaching, bird-trapping, plucking of flowers and fishing in unauthorised areas — including netting tiny fish in rivers and canals.

“Those who sign up will be the official eyes and ears of the forest,” said Mr Ben Lee, the founder and head of Nature Trekker, adding that volunteers will also be urged to participate in organised policing trips to parks and nature reserves, so they can learn how the system works.

“The objective of PPP is to create a peaceful environment where nature can strive, survive and live in harmony. We want to reach out to as many people as possible, from working adults to students,” he said.

NParks, which last month urged Singaporeans not to release their pets and other caged animals into the nature reserves, will dispatch its rangers upon receiving volunteers’ reports and take appropriate action.

“NParks takes a serious view of such illegal activities. The nature reserves and parks are common places meant for the public to enjoy,” said Ms Sharon Chan, the assistant director of NPark’s Central Nature Reserve. “Removing flora and fauna from their natural habitat will deprive others of a chance to see our biodiversity.”

More than 300 people have been fined for fishing and capturing animals in Singapore’s nature reserves and parks since 2000. Under the Parks and Trees Act, anyone found guilty of poaching can be fined up to $50,000 and/or jailed up to six months.

Nature Trekker is looking to recruit some 300 volunteers for its first phase. Registration closes at the end of this month, and a briefing for volunteers will be held next month. Those interested can call 6300 6000 for details. - TODAY/fa

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China keen to learn from Singapore's experience in water technologies

By May Wong, Channel NewsAsia
10 July 2007

China's Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said China is keen to learn more from Singapore on how to tackle the problem of water shortage.

He was speaking to reporters on Tuesday after touring the NEWater Visitor Centre in Tanah Merah.

The Chinese minister was given a detailed briefing on the original source of NEWater and what it means to Singapore.

Mr Bo, who was accompanied by Minister of State for National Development, Grace Fu, was taken through the various processes of producing NEWater.

And what better way to understand NEWater than to get a taste of it.

Mr Bo said: "It's good, I think. I think the taste of NEWater is very normal."

He described Singapore as an innovative country and said he knows how critical drinking water is to many cities in China.

Mr Bo said: "We are willing to learn from Singapore's experience in advanced water technologies. Singapore has been very successful in this area. Now, many people are discussing about the problem of oil shortage. But 10 years later, people will be discussing about the shortage of water.

"So clean water is important to many countries, especially China, which has a huge population. We are in need of clean water. So we're very willing to discuss and tap on your experience."

During his one-hour visit, the Chinese minister asked questions about the process, including the cost and how much NEWater is used for drinking here.

Mr Bo said he was deeply impressed with how Singapore has managed to tackle its water shortage problem.

He added that Singapore's experience and knowledge in water technology can be shared with many mayors in China. - CNA/ch

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Toa Payoh Town Park revamped with greener feel

By Dustin Chin, Channel NewsAsia
09 July 2007

SINGAPORE: An old park amidst a cluster of highrise developments in central Singapore has taken on an even greener feel.

Toa Payoh Town Park has been revamped into the ultimate attraction for park lovers and green enthusiasts alike, with new environmentally friendly features.

Many visitors, such as retiree Eileen Martinus, describe the new space as almost magical.

"Now I feel that it is a very good place, a very good idea actually because Toa Payoh is very busy, with a lot of traffic and a lot of people, and this is... sort of a haven," said Martinus.

Improvement works started about a year ago.

Now in its second phase of redevelopment, the park boasts some new features which make it stand out.

"There is a new walkway, about 30 to 40 metres long, which is made of recycled jarrah timber, and also we have added a variety of water plants along the edge of the pond," said Ang Chiean Hong, Section Head (Parks), National Parks Board (NParks).

"Visitors can look out for new trellises and new rest areas at the edge of the pond."

The materials used for the redevlopment of the park have been selected for ecological reasons.

"By using recycled jarrah timber, it is in line with NParks' policy of environmental sustainability. Recycled jarrah timber is an eco-friendly alternative to new timber," said Ang.

It is hoped the improvements will help draw more visitors to the area and promote environmental awareness.

Since it is just a stone's throw from the estate's transport hub, park planners know it won't be too long before this happens.

Said nurse and park visitor Ohnmar Aung, "It has to be environmentally friendly because Singapore is known for it. If we cut all the wood down there, then we are cutting down our natural resources every day. We won't live properly and we are killing our own world.

"We'd better use the recycled trees for our own future... so yes I think it's a very good choice." - CNA/yy

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A message from the melting slopes of Everest

The sons of Hillary and Tenzing speak out about climate change: "Believe us, it's a reality"

By Cahal Milmo and Sam Relph
Independent Online Edition
06 July 2007

Fifty-four years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first men to scale Everest, their sons have said the mountain is now so ravaged by climate change that they would no longer recognise it.

On the eve of the Live Earth concerts this weekend, Peter Hillary and Jamling Tenzing yesterday issued a timely warning that global warming is rapidly changing the face of the world's highest mountain and threatening the survival of billions of people who rely on its glaciers for drinking water.

The base camp where Sir Edmund and Norgay began their ascent is 40 metres lower than it was in 1953. The glacier on which it stands, and those around it, are melting at such a rate that scientists believe the mountain, whose Nepalese name, Qomolangma, means Mother of the World, could be barren rock by 2050.

Up to 40,000 Sherpas who live at the base of the Himalayas face devastation if vast new lakes formed by the melted ice burst and send a torrent of millions of tons of water down the slopes.

Mr Hillary, who has himself twice reached Everest's summit, said: "Climate change is happening. This is a fact. Base camp used to sit at 5,320 metres. This year it was at 5,280 metres because the ice is melting from the top and side. Base camp is sinking each year. For Sherpas living on Mount Everest this is something they can see every day but they can't do anything about it on their own."

The warning came as a survey revealed that most Britons remain unconvinced about the extent of climate change and that terrorism, crime, graffiti and even dog mess are more pressing issues for the UK. The Ipsos-Mori poll found that 56 per cent of people believe scientists are still debating whether human activity is contributing to climate change. In reality, there is virtual consensus that it is.

Just over half of people, 51 per cent, believe climate change will have little or no effect and more than one-third admitted they were taking no action to reduce their carbon emissions.

Speaking before the seven Live Earth concerts, which organisers hope will be a catalyst for action on global warming, Jamling Tenzing, who has also climbed Everest, said the mountain was serving as an early warning of the extent to which it is already changing the planet.

The glacier where Sir Edmund and Norgay pitched their base camp before eventually reaching the summit at 29,000ft on 29 May 1953 has retreated three miles in the past 20 years. Scientists believe that all glaciers in the Himalayas, which are between half a mile and more than three miles in length, will be reduced to small patches of ice within 50 years if trends continue.

Mr Tenzing said: "The glaciers have receded a great deal since my father's time. There are many things he wouldn't recognise today. The glacier on which base camp sits has melted to such a degree that it is now at a lower altitude. I think the whole face of the mountains is changing."

The glacial retreat presents a double peril for those who live in the Himalayas and the populations of India and China, where the water flowing from the mountains accounts for 40 per cent of the world's fresh water.

The rapid increase in the rate of glaciers melting - from 42 metres a year in the 40 years to 2001 to 74 metres a year in 2006 - has resulted in the formation of huge lakes in the space of a few years.

A United Nations study of the 9,000 glacial lakes in the Himalayas found that more than 200 are at risk of "outburst floods", unleashing thousands of cubic metres of water per second into an area where 40,000 people live. In 1985, Lake Dig Tsho in the Everest region released 10 million cubic metres of water in three hours. It caused a 10-metre-high wall of water which swept away a power station, bridges, farmland, houses, livestock and people up to 55 miles downstream. Scientists estimate that the most dangerous lakes today are up to 20 times bigger. One of those, Imja Tsho, did not exist 50 years ago and lies directly above the homes of 10,000 people.

The worst-case scenario according to Nepalese scientists is a cascade effect whereby one overflowing lake empties into another, starting a chain reaction which would kill thousands and wipe out agriculture for generations.

Peter Hillary said: "I've seen the result of glacial lakes bursting their banks and it's just catastrophic. It's like an atomic bomb has gone off. Everywhere is rubble. The floods of the past are unfortunately nothing compared with the size of what we are currently threatened with."

In the longer term, scientists believe the depletion of the glaciers will drastically reduce the flow of water into the nine major rivers fed by the Himalayan glaciers.

Defra recruits critic of Bush

An outspoken critic of President George Bush's approach to combating global warming has been appointed to advise the British Government on climate change.

Bob Watson was voted out of his job chairing the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) five years ago after incurring the wrath of the Bush administration. He will take over as chief scientific adviser at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in September. The appointment was approved by Gordon Brown.

His recruitment, a week after Mr Brown took over as Prime Minister, will be seen as further evidence the Government is trying to distance itself from Mr Bush. Last week, he caused consternation at the White House when he appointed Sir Mark Malloch Brown, a strong critic of US foreign policy, as minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations.

Dr Watson, a British-born expert on atmospheric pollution, advised former US President Bill Clinton on the environment and worked at the World Bank before becoming the IPCC's chairman. The US began manoeuvring to remove him shortly after President Bush's inauguration in 2001. A year later, he was replaced by Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian scientist.

Environmental groups uncovered a memo from the US oil corporation ExxonMobil, a major contributor to Mr Bush's election campaign, asking the White House to unseat Dr Watson because he had an "aggressive agenda". At the time, Dr Watson acknowledged the US government's intervention was an "important factor" in the campaign to oust him.

A Defra spokeswoman said: "He was the unanimous choice out of all the candidates."



Singapore may be spared from haze this year: NEA

By Foo Siew Shyan, Channel NewsAsia
06 July 2007

SINGAPORE: Singapore may be spared from the peak of the haze that is currently shrouding Sumatra and northern Malaysia because favourable weather conditions are expected for the rest of the year, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

NEA is forecasting a slightly wetter-than-usual weather from now till September.

The El Nino situation, which brought with it drier days last year, is not expected to kick in this time round.

Joseph Hui, Director General, Environmental Protection, NEA, said: "This year, the forecast is that we are likely to get neutral or weak La Nina. La Nina is slightly wetter than usual, so with this forecast, the likelihood is that we will get slightly more rainfall than last year."

Singapore has been spared from the smog so far as the prevailing south to southeasterly winds have kept the smoke away.

The same wind direction is also expected over the next few days.

But in the long term, other forces may come into play.

Wong Chin Ling, Chief Meteorological Officer, NEA, said: "It's difficult to know when and where the fires will occur. Fires are essentially started through human activities."

Singapore has come up with a masterplan to help Indonesia's Jambi province to tackle the haze and reduce slash-and-burn activities, and work is underway to formalise the agreement with Indonesia.

Mr Hui said: "We are actively involved in working out this letter of intent. We are waiting for them to come back to us and hopefully finalise it soon."

A meeting of environment officials from both countries may be held as early as next week.

- CNA/so

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MediaCorp aims to do its part to protect environment

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia
06 July 2007

SINGAPORE: MediaCorp is using its various media platforms to spread the message on the importance of protecting the environment, as the organisation feels climate change and its potential for disaster calls for a more concerted effort from the society.

This is the first time that the broadcaster is launching a month-long Green Campaign across its television, news, radio and print platforms.

From 23 July, Channel NewsAsia will screen a six-part documentary called "Saving Gaia" ('Gaia' in Greek means 'Earth'), which looks at how countries in Asia are addressing environmental issues.

Woon Tai Ho, Managing Director, MediaCorp News, said: "It is, if you like, our inconvenient truth – the earth is not in such a good shape. The topics discussed in the documentary range from what happens when rivers dry up to what happens when cities start to sink.

"The matter is actually more urgent than we give it credit for. In fact, the consequences of the climate change can actually happen within our life-time. When we asked movie star Joan Chen to narrate it, she said 'yes' because she knows it's for a good cause."

Members of the public can also chip in to help ease climate change.

MediaCorp will launch a "Saving Gaia begins with me" online campaign from 7 July where the public can pledge to protect the planet.

The first 5,000 to do so will receive a reusable shopping bag from sponsor Singapore Petroleum Company.

MediaCorp is also encouraging its staff to bring their mugs to the cafeteria so as to cut down on the usage of styrofoam cups, which are not biodegradable.

Channel NewsAsia plans to invite business partners to a "Saving Gaia Breakfast Forum", which will touch on the practice and value of going green.

MediaCorp Channel 5 will be screening the round-the-world Live Earth! concerts, which will last for 24 hours, from 7pm on Saturday, 7 July, to promote the fight against global warming.

MediaCorp Channel U will also be broadcasting the full version of the Live Earth! Shanghai concert from 9.30pm on Saturday.

- CNA/so

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Sentosa corals to get new home as work on integrated resort begins

By Teresa Tang, Channel NewsAsia
06 July 2007

SINGAPORE: Corals from Sentosa's Northern coastline are being permanently moved to a new home, to make way for the construction of the integrated resort on the island.

To ensure a successful migration, marine biologists are assisting Resorts World at Sentosa in a major conservation project.

Galaxia and Turbinaria are two hard corals having to leave Sentosa which has been their home for some five years.

The corals will first be chiselled off rocks, placed in an underwater holding site and then transported to the Southern Islands.

But not all corals will make the move.

Sonja Pans, Head, Environmental Management Services, DHI Water & Environment, said: "Our divers must be able to carry them around, which limits the size of the corals, maybe to 30 cm, maximum 50 cm in diameter.

"We chose them as well in terms of the suitability of survival rate, meaning how likely it is that the coral will survive... if they are really healthy, you want to take them."

Organisers say preserving corals like these means preserving a part of Sentosa.

Said Patrick Too, Deputy Director, Projects, Resorts World at Sentosa, "This is another one of our efforts for Resorts World to conserve whatever we can. We try to protect whatever's available right now, because this marine life is part of the heritage in Sentosa."

The coral conservation project complements the resort's tree conservation programme, to ensure the island's natural habitat is protected.

The coral project is expected to be completed by early August. - CNA/yy

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Environmental issues hit S'pore screens as MediaCorp goes green

By Margaret Perry, Channel NewsAsia
04 July 2007

SINGAPORE : MediaCorp is going green this month in an effort to make Singaporeans more aware of environmental issues.

The green programming starts on Saturday with a 24-hour worldwide concert.

"Live Earth" will hit Channel 5 at 7pm on July 7 and last for 24 hours.

Channel U will also telecast Live Earth from 9:30pm on July 7.

Countries from seven continents, including Japan, Brazil and the US, will be hosting concerts featuring over 100 stars and bands committed to saving the environment.

They include Madonna, the Black Eyed Peas and the Police.

Two billion people are expected to watch the event worldwide.

Hollywood's finest are also lending their support, offering green facts and tips.

In Singapore, the MediaCorp television logos will go green for the day.

The broadcaster is also calling on the public to show their support too.

"We hope that by encouraging Singaporeans to wear green on July 7 and 8, it will bring a new level of awareness in Singapore, and for people to show their support for the environment in a highly visual manner," said Joy Olby-Tan, VP of Programming, MediaCorp TV.

As part of Arts Central's month-long celebration of Earth, the channel will air "Life in the Undergrowth" - a documentary that exposes the private lives of creepy crawlies such as spiders, worms and insects. It also includes the mating rituals of the leopard slug.

From July 23, Channel NewsAsia will start screening "Saving Gaia" - a six-part documentary series examining how countries in the region are tackling climate change.

Gaia in Greek means "Earth" and is synonymous with "Mother Earth".

This is the first time MediaCorp is launching a month-long Green campaign across its television, news, radio and print platforms.

The decision follows its signing of the UN Global Compact, with the pledge to support four key principles - human rights, labour standards, anti-corruption and the environment. - CNA /ls

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Singaporeans going green following Bring Your Own Bag drive

By Foo Xiao Xuan, Channel NewsAsia
03 July 2007

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said the Bring Your Own Bag Day (BYOBD) campaign, which started in April, has sparked many initiatives to distribute reusable bags from various organisations.

These include the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), North West CDC, South West CDC and Keppel Corporation.

HSBC, for example, launched its "HSBC Green Sale" on 28 June, where for one month, every financial product sold will see the bank donating S$2.80 to its Garden City fund to help conserve the rainforest.

NEA Chief Executive Officer Lee Yuen Hee hopes these initiatives will inspire more people to take ownership of the environment and to do their part against global warming.

The agency will also work with schools to promote the Bring Your Own Bag Day campaign, where students from secondary schools will be at supermarkets to explain the rationale behind the campaign as well as conduct a shopper's survey on it.

Meanwhile, the fourth BYOB Day will be on 4 July and shoppers are encouraged to use reusable bags to bag their purchases on this day.

Alternatively, shoppers can purchase a reusable bag from supermarkets or make a 10 cents donation for each plastic bag that they need.

The donated amount goes to the Singapore Environment Council to fund environmental activities.

- CNA/so

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Singapore to host inaugural International Water Week

02 July 2007 (CNA)

SINGAPORE: Singapore will host an inaugural international event to showcase new water technologies and solutions.

6,000 delegates will convene at Suntec Singapore from 23-27 June 2008, for the five-day Singapore International Water Week.

A Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, with a kitty of S$1.5 million over five years, will also be awarded at the event.

The Singapore meeting is set to complement the well-known World Water Week, held in Stockholm annually.

The lack of drinking water is fast becoming a huge problem for many countries.

Singapore has prepared for this by producing NEWater, used mainly for industrial purposes currently.

This initiative of recycling used water has gained Singapore international recognition, and organisers say the country is well-poised to host the international meeting, which is set to break new grounds.

The meeting is expected to cost between S$2 million and S$4 million.

Said Khoo Teng Chye, Executive Director, Environment & Water Industry Development Council, "We want to create an event for the water industry that really would be a global event that would attract water leaders and water experts... every year.

"... this will be differentiated and complementary to other international water events, in that we will focus on technologies... application... successful solutions, and... the Asia Pacific area in which we operate."

One of the highlights of the event is the award of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize - worth S$300,000, a gold medallion and a certificate.

The international water award recognises individuals and organisations for their outstanding contribution to solving the world's water problems, through implementation of policies or application of innovative technologies.

Khoo said: "More than half of the world's population will be urbanised or live in cities by the year 2008. Water is a key resource that has to be very well-managed in urban areas.

"We think that in Singapore, the way that we have solved our water problems as a city state, is something that we could share.

"That's why we've decided, for the inaugural Singapore Water Week, on the theme of 'Sustainable Water Solutions for Cities'."

A water festival at the Marina Barrage will also likely be held in conjunction with the International Water Week. - CNA/yy