Best of our wild blogs: 29 Mar 17



Tall Oldgrowth Coastal Forest of Marsiling
Flying Fish Friends


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Kallang River set to get a facelift

SIAU MING EN Today Online 29 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — The Kallang River, Singapore’s longest natural river that stretches from Lower Peirce Reservoir to the Kallang Basin, is set to undergo a facelift, as the authorities on Wednesday (March 29) revealed some initial ideas to build spiral ramps across the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) and waterfront housing developments.

The 10km river – about three times the length of the Singapore River – passes through several housing estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Toa Payoh, Bendemeer and Kallang Bahru, and houses some 800,000 people living within 2km of the river.

Another 100,000 residential units are expected to be built within the next 20 years and the area will be served by 20 MRT stations when the new lines are up by 2023.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Wednesday (March 29) officiated the launch of an exhibition on the preliminary conceptual plans for the river held at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Centre.

The URA is gathering public feedback for the ideas put up at the exhibition, which it noted are “conceptual and aspirational in nature”. The authority will spend the rest of the year engaging stakeholders and the public before revealing more details next year.

The move to spruce up Singapore’s waterfront is not new and has been ongoing since the 1980s, after the clean-up of both the Singapore River and the Kallang Basin. While such efforts have largely been focused on the Singapore River, Marina Bay and the Kallang Basin, a URA spokesperson said the “time is ripe” to start a discussion to “further rejuvenate” the Kallang River.

One of the key ideas put forward by the URA is to improve the connectivity and allow users to walk, jog or cycle along an uninterrupted route from Bishan to the city.

Currently, the Kallang Park Connector is obstructed by major roads and expressways, such as the Central Expressway (CTE), PIE and Sims Avenue, where users will have to use traffic crossings or overhead bridges to get to the next stretch of the park connector.

Initial ideas include building spiral ramps across the PIE so users can skip the long flight of steps leading to the overhead bridge, while the existing CTE underpass could be widened to become a gathering or event space. Underpasses could also be built along Kallang Bahru Road, Upper Boon Keng Road and Sims Avenue.

There are also ideas to redevelop the residential and industrial estates on both sides of the Kallang River.

For instance, the Kallang Industrial Estate – made up of several smaller industrial estates at the Kallang Basin, Kallang Bahru and Kallang Avenue – could be developed into a mixed-use precinct, which includes new industrial developments for the future economy.

Across the river, the Kallang Distripark, a private industrial estate bordered by the river, Kallang Bahru and Geylang Bahru, could be converted to a greener residential neighborhood with waterfront parks and recreational spaces.

Further south from the Kallang Industrial Estate is the Kampong Bugis site, which will be turned into a car-lite residential precinct, including pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly paths that connect users to nearby amenities and communal spaces.

The 17.4-ha site between the river, Crawford Street and Kallang Road has been earmarked for private residential use.

At the Ministry of National Development’s budget debate earlier this month, Mr Wong said the site will be piloted under a master developer concept to give private developers the freedom to create a masterplan and urban design plan for the district, subject to broad planning parameters set by the URA.

Other ideas are to improve the waterfront areas, including ongoing works for an Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters and drainage upgrading project between Bishan and Braddell Road.

To be completed by the last quarter of next year, this 1.8km stretch will be lined with a meandering stream, planter islands, cascading waters and a rain garden, which collects and cleanses rainwater runoff before discharging it into the river.

On the southern end of the river, the Kallang Basin area around the Sports Hub will be turned into an inclusive sports and recreational venue. For instance, running trails, and facilities such as a new football hub and free-to-play courts will be built around Jalan Benaan Kapal.

Stretches of the river can be naturalised or have wider green setbacks to increase its biodiversity. More parks or greenery could be added along the river banks as well.

Members of the public are also invited to share their memories and history of the Kallang River, where the Kallang Basin area used to be polluted by the surrounding pig and duck farms and cottage industries before the clean-up in the mid-80s.


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Pet shops, farms to face tighter licensing conditions

Today Online 29 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has revised its licensing conditions for pet shops and farms to “tighten existing regulations and raise animal welfare standards in Singapore”.

With effect from next month, changes will be made to improve the housing and management of animals, enhance traceability of animals and accountability of pet businesses, and improve healthcare.

For example, dogs kept together must be compatible and there must be enough space for each dog to move, turn around and stretch. Puppies must be microchipped by nine weeks old and kittens, by twelve weeks old.

All breeding dogs must undergo an annual health check by a licensed veterinarian. They must also be kept separately from retired breeding dogs.

The AVA said on Tuesday (March 28) that the revisions to the licensing conditions were finalised after consultation with various parties.

“We sought feedback from key stakeholders such as pet businesses, animal welfare groups and the Pets Enterprises & Traders Association, Singapore (PETAS), to seek suggestions and understand concerns,” said Ms Jessica Kwok, group director of the AVA’s Animal Management Group.

The AVA said it will continue to work closely with the pet industry to ensure smooth implementation of the revised conditions.

In January, the AVA announced that all dogs intended for sale by pet businesses must be licensed before they are sold. Individual dog owners who sell or give their dogs away will also have to inform the AVA that they are no longer keeping the dogs.

The AVA had said then that the moves are aimed at improving the traceability of pet dogs in Singapore, especially in the event of a disease outbreak such as rabies. They are also meant to discourage pet abandonment and help reunite lost dogs with their owners.

Apart from dogs and cats, other animals that are allowed for sale include rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, chinchillas and red-eared terrapins. A shop needs to obtain an AVA licence before it can display, sell, distribute or export pets.

While the AVA has been taking various steps to raise animal welfare standards in Singapore, it noted on Tuesday that safeguarding animal welfare is a shared responsibility.

“The public can play an important role by being AVA’s eyes and ears, and provide feedback to AVA if they come across any animal welfare issues,” it said.

Members of the public can contact the AVA via its 24-hour hotline, 1800-476-1600.

Tighter licensing conditions for pet shops and farms to take effect in April: AVA
Channel NewsAsia 28 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: All pet shops selling dogs and cats must meet tighter licensing conditions from April as part of efforts to raise animal welfare standards, announced the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Tuesday (Mar 28).

It added that this would also apply to pet farms which breed and house dogs.

Some of the revised regulations include:

- If two or more dogs are kept together, they must be compatible, and each dog must be able to move, turn around without hitting the sides of the kennel, stand upright, lie down and stretch.
- All retired breeding dogs must be kept separately from breeding dogs and segregated according to their gender.
- Puppies must be microchipped by nine weeks old and kittens microchipped by 12 weeks old.
- All breeding dogs must undergo an annual health check by a licensed veterinarian.
The changes, which take effect from Apr 1, were made to improve the housing, healthcare and management of animals, enhance their traceability and improve the accountability of pet businesses, said AVA.

It added that the revisions were finalised after consultation with the pet industry, including animal welfare groups and the Pets Enterprises and Traders Association, Singapore (PETAS).

"AVA will continue to work closely with the pet industry to ensure smooth implementation of the revised conditions," it said.

The authority has been taking steps to tighten existing regulations. In January, it announced that all dogs intended for sale by pet businesses must be licensed before they are sold. In addition, individual dog owners who sell or give their dogs away will have to inform AVA that they are no longer keeping the dogs.

- CNA/gs


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Indonesia: Environmental NGOs write to UNESCO highlighting threat to Leuser Ecosystem from geothermal project

Antara 27 Mar 17;

Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) - An environmental NGO consortium has sent a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage over a plan to build a geothermal power plant that could threaten the Leuser Ecosystem.

The Leuser Ecosystem would suffer serious damage if a geothermal power plant were to be built inside the ecosystem area, Panut Hadisiswoyo, director of the Orangutan Information Center (OIC), stated here, Monday.

Apart from the OIC, other NGOs joining the consortium include the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme and the Aceh Natural Forest and Environment (HAKA) Foundation.

The Leuser Ecosystem, located in Aceh and part of North Sumatra, covers over six million acres, including lowland and mountainous rainforests and over 460 thousand acres of carbon-rich peatlands.

The Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where Sumatran orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos, and sun bears co-exist in the wild. Countless other biological treasures, including clouded leopards, hornbills, and the biggest flowers in the world can be found in the teeming forests of the Leuser Ecosystem.

Several mega projects planned to be built inside the ecosystem would threaten the existence of the forests in the area, Hadisiswoyo noted.

The UNESCO World Heritage should intervene in the matter to prevent the extinction of the Sumatran tropical forests in Leuser, he remarked.

"We urge the World Heritage to take strategic measures to prevent the implementation of those projects inside the Leuser Ecosystem area, the last existing habitat of orangutans, rhinos, and tigers that coexist there. This area must be protected," he stated.

The planned geothermal power plant will be built inside the core zone of the Leuser Ecosystem.

The Indonesian government has been lobbied by a company that will build the power plant to change the core zone.

Farwiza, chairman of the HAKA Foundation, has expressed concerns, as representatives of the company had held frequent closed-door meetings with the related ministry officials to push the construction of the power plant.

"This mega project will destroy the habitats of several protected and endangered animals. The mega project also holds no relevance to the needs and interests of the Aceh people," he explained.

Ian Singleton, program director of the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation, said the Leuser Ecosystem has the largest tropical rainforest in Southeast Aceh, which is home to orangutans, elephants, rhinos, Sumatran tigers, and other rare species.

"It will be very ironic if a priceless and highly valuable ecosystem, such as Leuser, is lost due to the construction of a power plant," he added.

(Reported by M Haris SA/Uu.F001/INE/KR-BSR)


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Indonesia: Military forces secure Tesso Nilo National Park

Antara 28 Mar 17;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Joint army personnel from the 04/Pangkalan Kuras district military command in Pelalawan, Sumatras province of Riau, are conducting joint operations in an effort to secure Tesso Nilo National Park.

"The joint patrols, involving two different teams, will be carried out for eight days," the Chief of the District Military Command, Captain Diding Sukardi, said here on Monday.

He added that the joint patrol would be conducted by two teams who would take part in arbitrary operations in the villages of Lubuk Kembang Bunga and Baserah.

He stated that the operation was done to secure the park against forest encroachment and illegal logging activities.

"We also aim to protect wild animals in the area from illegal hunting," he remarked.

The operation also involves police forces and personnel from Tesso Nilo National Park.

The head of Riaus Natural Resource Conservation Office, Mahfuds, explained that the integrated patrol would be continued throughout the year.

He expressed hope that through the operation, the 80 thousand hectare park would be free from illegal logging activities.

"All possible efforts would be taken to protect the part," he added.

Besides joint patrols, Mahfuds revealed that law enforcement efforts would also be taken against violators.

Supartono, the head of Tesso Nilo National Park office, affirmed that only 25 to 30 thousand hectares of forests were left from the initial 80 thousand hectares.

Tesso Nilo is one of the conservation areas where illegal logging and encroachment activities have been rife. Such activities make the forest area, which is rich in flora and fauna in Riau, prone to fires.(*)


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Indonesia to sue PTTEP eight years after Montara oil spill

Fardah Antara 28 Mar 17;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia has decided to file a civil lawsuit against PTT Exploration and Production Company (PTTEP) Australasia in April 2017 over an oil spill in Timor Sea in East Nusa Tenggara that occurred eight years ago.

The explosion that took place on August 21, 2009, in the Montara oil field, which was operated by Thailand-based PTTEP Australasia in Timor Sea, had resulted in an oil spill that contaminated the Timor Sea.

Following the incident, fishermen in Oesapa in the district of Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, found thousands of dead fish floating in the Timor Sea.

During the August-November 2009 period, the Montara well leaked uncontrollably for more than 70 days, destroying fish stocks in the Indonesian territory.

The explosion in August 2009 spilled 500 thousand liters of crude oil per day into the sea, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

As a consequence, 40 million liters of crude oil were released into the Australian waters and eventually spread to the Indonesian maritime area. An area spanning some 70,341.76 square kilometers of the Timor Sea bordering the East Nusa Tenggara Province was polluted.

In mid-January of 2010, the leak was finally plugged and secured permanently. However, during the first year of the Montara oil spill-triggered pollution, fish catches from the Timor Sea waters dropped by 80 percent.

After eight years, however, there is still no resolution for those affected by the worst oil spill in the history of Australias offshore petroleum fields.

"There is no solution so far, and the victims are fishermen in the area. Australia should help out as well to solve this problem," Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said.

"I dont think we can do it alone," minister added.

Over 13 thousand seaweed farmers have launched a US$200 million class-action suit in the Federal Court in Sydney against PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of Thai state-owned oil company PTTEP.

"We will see what can be done together with the Australian government. Why are we so quiet regarding this huge disaster in our territory when this happened somewhere else? It is annoying," Pandjaitan had remarked.

The government is currently preparing a plan to sue the Thailand-based company, which is not willing to take responsibility for the sea pollution.

"This concerns Indonesias sovereignty and the fate of the people whose livelihood depends on the maritime area. Hence, we must fight through better-planned ways," Basilio Dias Araujo, assistant to the Deputy in Charge of Security, Resilience of Maritime of the Office of the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, noted in a statement recently.

"The government has demanded compensation from PTTEP through the non-litigation way, but the negotiations had reached a deadlock in 2012, thereby resulting in no agreement," he pointed out.

In 2016, some 13 thousand seaweed farmers from East Nusa Tenggara, represented by a lawyer from the Maurice Blackburn legal firm, filed a class-action lawsuit in an Australian federal court.

They claimed that the Montara oil spill had damaged the seaweed and affected their health. The class-action lawsuit was accepted by the court five months later.

PTTEP Australasia harbored no good will of providing compensation to the victims of the oil spill and even denied polluting the Timor Sea.

The government is currently collecting evidence and has called 50 experts to support the efforts.

Since February 2017, several meetings have been organized by the office of the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs by inviting the relevant officials of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry, Attorney Generals Office, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, and National Institute of Aeronautics and Space.

By the end of this March, they plan to conduct a field visit to East Nusa Tenggara.

Earlier this month, Dr Widodo Pranowo, head of the Marine and Fishery Research Center, presented data regarding the extent of damage caused by the pollution in the Indonesian territory to Pandjaitan at a meeting held in Jakarta on the Montana tragedy.

Ferdi Tanoni, chairman of an advocacy team of the victims of the Montana disaster, informed reporters in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, on Mar 28 that the Sea Observation and Research Center has continued to monitor the impact of the Montara explosion since early September 2009.

PTTEP, however, has maintained its position that no oil from Montara had reached the shores of Indonesia or Australia and that no long-term damage was caused to the environment in the Timor Sea.

The Australian government is not under any legal obligation, but it should also be able to encourage PTTEP to act in good faith.

"PTTEP has never shown good faith in settling this matter. We have met them more than 10 times, including on the establishment of an independent panel comprising three people. However, PTTEP refused to attend the meeting aimed at settling the oil spill problem," Tanoni added.
(T.F001/INE/KR-BSR/A014)


Indonesia continues to study impact of Montara oil pollution
Antara 28 Mar 17;

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - Indonesia has continued to study the impact of the explosion of the Montara oil rig spilling oil causing heavy pollution in the Timor sea in 2009.

Earlier this month, Dr Widodo Pranowo, head of the Marine and Fishery Research Center reported data about the extent of damage caused by the pollution in Indonesian territory to the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan at a meeting in Jakarta on the Montana tragedy, Ferdi Tanoni, chairman of a team of advocacy of victims of the Montana disaster, told reporters here on Tuesday.

Tanoni, who was present at the meeting, said the Sea Observation and Research Center has continued to monitor the impact of the Montara explosion since early September, 2009.

He said the results of scientific analysis showed that the dispersion of the oil pollution is wide and had reached area around 68,000 kilometers southeast of the island of Rote by September 10 in 2009.

The sea pollution is feared to expand getting closer to the island of Rote, he said.

The explosion in August 2009 spilled 500,000 liters of crude oil per day to the sea, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Luhut Pandjaitan was quoted as saying earlier that after seven years there was still no resolution for those affected by the worst oil spill in the history of Australias offshore petroleum fields.

Fishermen and seaweed farmers in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT)say fish populations were wiped out and seaweed crops died after oil spilled as a result of an explosion at the Montara rig, operated by oil company PTTEP Australasia.

"There is no solution so far and the victims are fishermen in the area. Australia should help out as well to solve this problem," Luhut said, adding , "I dont think we can do it alone."

More than 13,000 seaweed farmers have launched a US$200 million class action in the Federal Court in Sydney against PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of Thai state-owned oil company PTTEP.

"We will see what we can do together with the Australian government. Why are we so quiet about this big disaster in our territory when this happened somewhere else? It is annoying," Luhut has said.

PTTEP maintains its position that no oil from Montara reached the shores of Indonesia or Australia and that no long-term damage was done to the environment in the Timor Sea.

An Indonesian official said the Australian Government is not under any legal obligation, but they should also be able to encourage PTTEP to act in good faith.

"PTTEP has never shown good faith in settling this matter. We have met more than 10 times with them, including on the establishment of an independent panel of three persons. However, PTTEP refused to attend the meeting that was aimed at settling the oil spill," he said.


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Thailand: New population of rare tigers found in eastern Thailand

BBC News 29 Mar 17;

A new breeding population of the critically endangered Indochinese tiger has been found in a national park in eastern Thailand, conservationists say.

Camera traps discovered a small population with at least six cubs in the jungle
.
Poaching and the loss of habitat has reduced the global population of the sub-species to under 250.

Conservationists said the success was due to the stepping-up of anti-poaching efforts in Thailand.

Counter-trafficking organisation Freeland and Panthera, the wild cat conservation group, conducted the survey with the support of the Thai park authorities.

Until this find, only one other breeding population of Indochinese tigers - also in a Thai national park - was known of.

"The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand's tigers is nothing short of miraculous," said John Goodrich, tiger programme director at Panthera.

The director of Thailand's national parks, Songtam Suksawang, said: "The stepping up of anti-poaching patrols and law enforcement efforts in this area have played a pivotal role in conserving the tiger population by ensuring a safe environment for them to breed.

"However, we must remain vigilant and continue these efforts, because well-armed poachers still pose a major threat."

Numbers of tigers in the wild have dwindled from 100,000 a century ago to 3,900 today, the groups said in a joint statement.

Thailand was the first country in this region to deplete its forests, to such an extent that by the 1980s it had banned logging. It was also among the first to establish national parks, but initially these were also badly stressed by illegal logging and hunting.

At the time, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and even Vietnam had a lot of pristine forests left, with healthy populations of tigers. Tigers declined in Thailand to the point where in the early 2000s it was thought they were close to extinction.

But since then, massive illegal exploitation has badly depleted the forests and tiger populations in the other countries - even Myanmar - to the point where Indochinese tigers are believed extinct in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and nearly so in eastern Myanmar. Western Myanmar still has a population of Bengal tigers.

Meanwhile, protection has allowed the tiny population of Indochinese tigers in Thailand to recover a bit. So, with its moderately well-run national parks, Thailand finds itself unexpectedly the last stronghold of the Indochinese tiger.


Wild Thai tiger cub footage sparks hope for endangered species
AFP Yahoo News 28 Mar 17;

Conservationists on Tuesday hailed the discovery of a new breeding population of tigers in Thailand as a "miraculous" victory for a sub-species nearly wiped out by poaching.

Images of some tigers including six cubs, captured by camera traps in an eastern Thai jungle throughout 2016, confirm the presence of what is only the world's second known breeding population of the endangered Indochinese tiger.

The only other growing population -- the largest in the world with about three dozen tigers -- is based in a western forest corridor in Thailand near the border with Myanmar.

"The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand's tigers is nothing short of miraculous," said John Goodrich, the tiger program director at Panthera, a wild cat preservation group that backed the survey.

The camera trap footage, which shows female tigers and their cubs traipsing through the leafy jungle, was captured with help from the anti-trafficking group Freeland and Thai park authorities.

Indochinese tigers, which are generally smaller than their Bengal and Siberian counterparts, once roamed across much of Asia.

But today only an estimated 221 remain, with the vast majority in Thailand and a handful in neighbouring Myanmar.

Aggressive poaching, weak law enforcement and habitat loss has rendered the animals all but extinct in southern China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, according to scientists.

Tiger farms around the region have also boosted the trafficking trade by propping up demand for tiger parts, which are treasured as talismans and used in traditional medicines popular in China.

Conservationists and park officials attributed Thailand's success story to a rise in counter-poaching efforts over the past few decades.

But they warned that the breeding populations remained vulnerable and would not thrive without a sustained commitment to busting poachers and taking down the lucrative trafficking trade.

The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai forest complex, where the latest young cubs were caught on some of the 156 cameras, still hosts a only modest tiger density of 0.63 tigers per 100 square kilometres.

It is a ratio on par with some of the world's most threatened tiger habitats, according to Freeland, but still means there is a population of at least 23 of the big beasts roaming wild.

"It's crucial to continue the great progress made by the Thai government to bolster protection for tigers at the frontlines," said Kraisak Choonhavan, the group's board chairman.

"As long as the illegal trade in tigers continues, they will need protection."


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A taste of kampung life

Ong Wee Jin, The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Mar 17;

"Those who can hear my voice, please gather around me."

A voice as cheery as the surrounding sunflowers rang out in the cool morning air, bringing people out of the wood workshop, the farm and elsewhere, to gather and introduce themselves to one another.

The volunteers had signed up for Balik Kampung, Ground-Up Initiative's (GUI) flagship community programme that is open to anyone willing to work up a small sweat.

Some even came as a family to take part.

After stretching exercises to warm up, the real work began.

The group was split up to attend to different tasks.

Some flower pots needed to be moved, lunch had to be prepared, plants watered and a path alongside a flowing stream cleared of weeds.

Kampung Kampus, home of GUI, buzzed with such gotong royong, which means communal work usually associated with kampung life, until a communal lunch at noon.

It seems to consist of menial tasks, but it is much more than that.

Balik Kampung, which means "going home" in Malay, aims to renew participants' connection to the land and to one another.

Mr Eugene Goh, 27, a programme coordinator at GUI, said when people are willing to roll up their sleeves and work the ground, they begin to develop a sense of ownership over it.

"The sense of groundedness is absolutely essential because we are a young nation. If our young people cannot believe on a deep level that this land is theirs and derive a sense of ownership, the meaning of home becomes eroded," he said.

Founded in 2008 by Mr Tay Lai Hock, a former regional sales manager for a US software company, GUI aims to nurture grounded leaders and model a society with a sustainable future.

Its 5G philosophy is to create a society that is gracious, green, giving, grounded and grateful.

Mr Tay, 53, the "kampung chief", feels that if more Singaporeans adopt the 5G way of living, "Singapore will be kinder, warmer, greener and much more liveable".

Occupying 26,000 sq m, or the size of about four football fields, the land at the former Bottle Tree Park in Yishun is leased from the Government at a five-figure rental.

The entire place is an experiential, nature- led learning campus.

The education arm, WOW Kampung, organises school and corporate programmes that focus on character development and shaping attitudes.

Held either at Kampung Kampus or their client's premises, the programmes employ hands-on learning and aim to bring participants outside of four-walled classrooms into the green environment to engage their senses for enhanced learning.

Farmily, the farming arm, grows a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs without using pesticides.

Two full-time farmers and volunteers tend to the 1,400 sq m of arable land.

The organic produce is sold to a local retailer and to its own loyal customers.

GUI's craft arm, Touchwood, finds useful ways of recycling and re-using unwanted materials, and conducts wood-working classes for children and adults.

GUI is a volunteer-driven organisation, with slightly more than a dozen full-time staff who lead the different initiatives and programmes.

On a typical Saturday, there can be between 10 and 20 volunteers at Farmily.

Ms Lim Sixian, 27, a manager in a public agency, volunteers about three times a month on Saturdays at Farmily.

"It is hard to find a place like Kampung Kampus in Singapore," she said.

"I like the space and the people here. When I enter the space, it feels open - you don't feel like there are walls and it feels breezy.

"This place gives me an alternative vision of what a community can look like," she said.


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Keeping Singapore's coastline secure amid changing threats

Not only have efforts to enter Singapore illegally by sea have become more organised, the nature of threats has also changed.
Leong Wai Kit and Dawn Karen Tan Channel NewsAsia 28 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: Ninety-four people were arrested for trying to breach Singapore's coastline in 2015 - a five-year high, and an average of one person every four days.

As efforts to enter Singapore illegally by sea become more organised, with perpetrators using faster boats, decoys and camouflage to evade detection, the Police Coast Guard is likewise stepping up surveillance with new technology, including panoramic electro-optics sensors along Singapore’s borders, as well as tethered unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, that will be deployed from coastal patrol craft by 2019.

Singapore’s coastline is also guarded by floating sea barriers, land fences and sea fences. It is estimated that by 2030, 75 per cent of Singapore's coastline will be barricaded in one way or another.

The nature of threats to Singapore has also changed.

“In the past, (we saw threats like) piracy, sea robbery, smuggling,” Comprehensive Maritime Awareness Group commander Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) Nicholas Lim told Channel NewsAsia.

“We always thought that these were the concerns of other countries. But in the last few years, these threats changed. It’s become more transboundary. For example, we are aware of Islamic State (IS). Now they have followers, sympathisers in different parts of the world and they conduct (activities) on behalf of their leaders,” he said. “Terrorists are planning and plotting so we always have to be on the lookout.”

FOILING THE MARINA BAY ROCKET PLOT

The Police Coast Guard is part of the Singapore Maritime Crisis Centre (SMCC), which also comprises security agencies including the navy, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Singapore Customs, as well as the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

Set up in 2011, the SMCC was the nerve centre of the operation that foiled the plot to fire a rocket at Marina Bay from Indonesia's Batam island in August 2016, shortly before Singapore's National Day.

"We had some indication about the plots by the terrorists," SLTC Lim said, explaining how the navy and Police Coast Guard worked together to have different layers of ships patrolling the area.

"In SMCC, we used our systems, including analytics in the social media domain; we were able to pick up linkages between the syndicate of six that were arrested, with another person that was linked to them, and was involved in the maritime domain."

NEED FOR STRONGER COOPERATION INTERNATIONALLY

There is also room for working on an international level in order to deal with threats, SLTC Lim said.

The Singapore Navy hosts an international working group called the Information Fusion Centre (IFC) in Singapore. The multinational information-sharing hub sees people from different countries and various agencies working together to increase awareness of maritime security events in and around the region.

IFC was part of the global search effort for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 when it went missing in 2014.

The group also helped inform the Indonesian Navy that a vessel - Hai Soon 12 - had gone missing in the Java Sea in May 2016.

“When something happens, we want to make sure that the relevant agencies from the different countries are aware and once they are aware, they will be able to respond to those incidents,” said SLTC Lim.

Acting on the information, the Indonesian Navy sent a warship to locate the vessel and discovered that it had been invaded by pirates, who were subsequently arrested.

- CNA/dl


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Cycling lanes on extended Tanah Merah Coast Road to open on Apr 22

Channel NewsAsia 27 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: Cyclists can soon travel on dedicated cycling lanes along the extended Tanah Merah Coast Road, which will open on Apr 22.

In a news release on Monday (Mar 27), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the 10km-long on-road cycling lane will run along both sides of the road, adding that the lane is about 2m wide to cater for two cyclists abreast.

There will be logos to highlight the cycling lanes and red transverse marking at transition zones before and after road junctions, to alert cyclists to look out for turning vehicles and remind motorists to give way to cyclists.

"As the on-road cycling lane is considered part of the road, only cyclists and users of power-assisted bicycles will be allowed on it," said LTA.


Graphic: LTA

The on-road bicycle lanes are a "one-off initiative for sports cyclists" who currently use the existing Changi Coast Road for training, said LTA, which does not have plans to build more on-road cycling lanes. "Given the lack of land in Singapore, LTA will focus on building off-road cycling paths. They are much safer for the majority of cyclists and personal mobility device users," it said.

The extended Tanah Merah Coast Road was built to replace Changi Coast Road, which will be closed on Apr 22 at 7pm, to facilitate work on Changi Airport's third runway as well as the new Terminal 5.

Motorists can use the new road as a connection from the East Coast Parkway to Changi Village. The road also links to Aviation Park Road via a new dual three-lane extension, said LTA.

It added: "Motorists and cyclists are reminded to follow traffic rules and exercise caution, as the area is expected to be heavily used by heavy vehicles for airport expansion works."

- CNA/gs


New extended Tanah Merah Coast Road opening Apr 22 will have on-road cycling lane
Today Online 27 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — The newly extended Tanah Merah Coast Road, set to open on April 22, will have a dedicated 10km long on-road cycling lane stretching from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Changi Ferry Terminal, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced on Monday (March 27).

This is likely to be the only on-road cycling lane in Singapore, as the LTA does not have plans to build any more such lanes, it said in a statement.

“Given the lack of land in Singapore, LTA will focus on building off-road cycling paths. They are much safer for the majority of cyclists and personal mobility device users,” LTA added.

The on-road cycling lane, which will be on both sides of the roads, will be approximately 2m-wide lane to cater for two cyclists side-by-side. There will also be raised chevron markings to demarcate the lane from regular vehicular carriageway and markings to highlight that it is a cycling lane.

There will also be red transverse markings on the road to alert cyclists to look out for turning vehicles at junctions and remind motorists to give way to cyclists.

The cycling lane will also be diverted behind bus stops to minimise interaction between buses and cyclists. Recreational cyclists are advised to use the park connector instead of the on-road cycling lane.

“As the on-road cycling lane is considered part of the road, only cyclists and users of power-assisted bicycles will be allowed on it. Pedestrians and users of personal mobility devices should use the new park connector along the extended Tanah Merah Coast Road,” said the LTA, adding that the highway Code will be updated to reflect the new on-road cycling lane.

The extended Tanah Merah Coast Road will replace Changi Coast Road, which will be closed on the same day, to facilitate development works for Changi Airport Runway 3 and the new Terminal 5.

With the new road’s opening, bus service 35 which currently plies Changi Coast Road will be rerouted along the new road. Two pairs of new bus stops serving Changi Lodge 2 and Changi Naval Base will be opened.

Additionally a new park connector will be added along the extended Tanah Merah Coast Road, linking the existing park connector coming from East Coast Park to the existing park connector at Aviation Park Road, to replace the existing park connector along Changi Coast Road.


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Indonesia: Floods send thousands of people to flee home in Bima

Antara 27 Mar 17;

Mataram, W Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - At least 2,500 people in five sub-districts in Bima, East Nusa Tenggara, have fled homes to escape flash flood, following heavy rain on Sunday.

"The evacuees were accommodated in 15 refugee centers," a spokesman of the Bima city administration Syahrial Nuryadin said here on Monday.

The people are accommodated in a number of mosques and the office of the city mayor and other public places, Syahrial said.

"The city authorities are busy helping the evacuation while organizing distribution of food for the displaced people," he said.

The hardest hit by the flood are five sub-district areas including Kumbe, Dodu, Nungga, Kodo and Raba.

Heavy downpour upstream brought the disaster to those areas with rivers of Padolo and Salo overflowing their banks inundating villages and rice fields.

Flood waters also stormed into the city of Bima putting five sub-district in the city under water including.

Some of the evacuees returned home on Monday after the flood waters began to recede, Syahrial said.

Reports and landslides have also come from a number of other regions under the erratic weather hitting the country lately.(*)

Flash flood hits North Sumatra regency, killing 3
Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 27 Mar 17;

A flash flood hit Padang Sidempuan regency in North Sumatra on Sunday, killing three people. Another victim is still missing.

The people killed in the flood were a family of three consisting of Sahriana Situmorang, 45, Rafiah Sarumpaet, 8, and Sakinah Sarumpaet, 10. The family lived in Lubuk Raya subdistrict.

The flood also destroyed dozens of houses in several districts such as Padang Sidempuan Batunadua, North Padang Sidempuan and South Padang Sidempuan. A number of cars were swept away during the flood.

The deluge also gravely damaged a bridge. The bridge is now closed for repairs.

(Read also: Flash floods displace 100,000 people in Bima)

Syamsir, 32, a resident of Lubuk Raya, said the flood was caused by the overflowing of the Batang Ayumi River.

Padang Sidempuan Disaster Management Agency head Khairul Harahap said heavy rainfall fell over large parts of the area on Sunday, but the flood had receded by Monday.

“We are still searching for the missing person,” said Khairul.

His agency has not yet calculated the monetary losses from the damage. “We are still focusing on relocating residents to safer places,” he said. (wit)


One found dead in S. Tapanuli flood
Antara 27 Mar 17;

South Tapanuli (ANTARA News) - A flood claimed the life of a person in South Tapanuli District, North Sumatra, on Sunday evening.

The victims body was found in the Batang Kumal River, East Angkola Sub-district, on Monday, Pargarutan Dolok Village Head Henri Harahap stated here, Monday.

The victim was identified as Kaya Banua Siagian, a resident of Sijungkang, East Angkola.

In the neighboring Padang Sidimpuan Town, floods claimed four lives and rendered one missing in Padang Sidimpuan, North Sumatra, on Sunday evening.

Five residents were earlier swept away by the flooding, of which four were found dead, while another was still missing, Khairul Harahap, head of the Padang Sidimpuan disaster mitigation office, had stated.

Several homes were flooded in the sub-districts of Padang Sidimpuan Angkola Julu, Padang Sidimpuan Batunadua, South Padang Sidimpuan, and North Padang Sidimpuan.


Four dead, one missing after floods hit Padang Sidimpuan
Antara 27 Mar 17;

Medan, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Floods claimed four lives and rendered one missing in Padang Sidimpuan, North Sumatra, on Sunday evening.

Five residents were swept away by the flooding, of which four were found dead, while another is still missing, Khairul Harahap, head of the Padang Sidimpuan disaster mitigation office, stated here on Monday.

Several homes were flooded in the sub-districts of Padang Sidimpuan Angkola Julu, Padang Sidimpuan Batunadua, South Padang Sidimpuan, and North Padang Sidimpuan.(*)


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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Mar 17



Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats! on 9 Apr 2017
Love our MacRitchie Forest

We Celebrate 14 Years of Bringing You Closer to Singapore Reefs
Hantu Blog

Olive Backed Sunbirds in Singapore
Sengkang Babies

Sunbeam Snake (Xenopeltis unicolor) @ Kent Ridge Park
Monday Morgue


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