Saturday, December 30, 2006

Aye Ay' Capn!

Replica of Swedish ship Gotheborg docks in Singapore
By Satish Cheney, Channel NewsAsia
30 December 2006

"A replica of an 18th century Swedish ship has arrived in Singapore, bringing with it the message of friendship.

Boom! boom!

Believe it or not, it is not the rum talking but in the old days, ships entering a new city fired their cannons as a sign of friendship!And bringing its message of friendship is a replica of The Gotheborg. It has been at sea for almost 500 days, retracing its original voyage from Sweden to the Far East 250 years ago. When the original ship sank in 1745, everything was forgotten until a diver discovered the remains and began a marine excavation. It has taken 10 years to recreate the vessel to make sure it is as realistic as possible.

N. Sivasoth, a research officer at National University of Singapore's Biodiversity Research, said: "A phone call came. My friend in the Asian Civilisation Museum said, 'an 18th century replica of a Swedish East Indiaman was sailing from Hong Kong to Singapore, tell me within 24 hours, can you go for three weeks?' It was supposed to be really tough, you could not bathe and it was physically demanding. It sounded like a wonderful holiday and a chance to understand the historical voyages of the past. So I said, 'I'm definitely coming'."
Tomorrow, a few of the monkey menagerie will be visiting the otter on the boatship! Looking forward to it as I have already met the very friendly, hardy and adventurous crew on Tuesday when the Otter, Monkey and a few other jungle fowls brought the swedish vikings to Pulau Ubin to rough it out in the wilderness of Singapore in this December monsoon!

Stay tuned for more reports!

To read more about Otterman's adventure with the vikings, visit "Aboard the Swedish Ship, Gotheborg".

Read full article here

Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter Solstice

Today is Dong Zhi or winter solstice. It is a day of ancestral celebrations, or ancestral worship if you wanna look at it that way. It marks the beginning of winter, the preparation for winter and asking the ancestors for blessings. But ultimately, every seasonal beginning, every equinox and solstice, the Chinese will celebrate that day of seasonal change. This is probably true for most agrarian societies that depend on the seasons for their livelihood.

This is the day where we make Tang Yuan or glutinous rice dumplings. Some of you might be familiar with the Ahballing version with stuffings inside. But traditionally, just the "kosong" one will do. We make it from scratch and then boil it before soaking in brown sugar syrup.

According to my dad, the dumplings also serves as food offerings for ancestors and for the hungry lonely souls who do not have any family. Apparently they used to stick the dumpling on their doors for the passing ghouls.

See my flickr set for step by step pictorial instructions on the making of the dumpling! The only part I missed out is how to turn the flour to dough. Ack! The most important part actually. Hopefully there's still time to learn it in the next winter solstice.

Related Reads:
"For Winter Solstice, try some dumplings"
by Monica Eng, Chicago Tribune, 14 Dec 2006

Read full article here

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let the flooding begin!

To be honest, in case you didn't know this, Singapore has undergone intensive flood management and modifications over the years. All these concrete canals that people complain about actually are the key to flood management in Singapore. From regular floodings from heavy December monsoons and flash floods, to a relatively uneventful "hazard-free" island country. I grow up learning simplistically that Singapore is a great country for FDI because we are safe from any natural hazards. Over the years, we became complacent. I even started to really believe that we are sheltered from all hazards.

Then we started to hear rumours about Singapore being potentially vulnerable to tsunamis, earthquake aftershocks felt in parts of Singapore and then landslides and now we have cars being half submerged due to heavy rains!

Most of these occurrences happen during this December-January period when Singapore is in the path of the northeast monsoon. The landslide in NUS Business School for example happened in January 2006 and earlier this year on 8 January 2006, I blogged about the extreme rain, landslides and comparative dry weather we had in 2005 that led to forest fires. So what is worse - floods or fires?

On 14 April 2006, I blogged about flash floods in Singapore and even then I noted how it is not from a lack of trying that we still continue to suffer from floods. Do not be mistaken. The Singapore government and various agencies have been working miracles over the years but it is time Singaporeans are more aware of the low-lying nature of our island. We are susceptible to flood. My mom recounted the days when my aunt lived downtown near the rochor, chinatown area where they were constantly plagued by annual floods. Back then, their beds were on stilts and things were never left on the floor. Floods were something people lived with.

At least we no longer flood like Bangkok but we used to!

But now? We are unused to floods and therefore suffer from being caught off guard.

Hey, even the best gets caught unaware. Look at New Orleans. That is the place of regular flooding but even the city was wiped out due to unknown highs. In all my natural hazards textbooks, it is always written about how people try to predict what the highest flood level would be and then still getting caught off guard. What is a 100 year flood? The rain measurement we had on Tuesday was apparently the 3rd highest in almost 75 years. Still people get caught off guard because it's been such a long time since the last high which was in 1978.

If we all start to build levees and protective walls along our water channels, think of how high we have to keep building and how ugly it would be when somewhere in the lull period, somebody looks at it and complain to the gahmen as to why we need such a wall when there is no flood. So they tear it down and the next year we get hit by a flood. No no no, protective walls and levees are not the answer.

That is not just a massive longkang. It used to be a river but how much longer can it hold the water in?

So what is the answer? Perhaps the marina barrage?

It is written on the Marina Barrage website that one of the purpose of the barrage is for flood control.

"The Marina Barrage is also part of a comprehensive flood control scheme to alleviate flooding in the low-lying areas in the city, such as Boat Quay, Shenton Way, Geylang, Chinatown and Jalan Besar.

With the Barrage and other drainage projects concurrently being implemented, flood-prone areas will be reduced from the current 150 ha to 85 ha. A significant achievement considering that back in the 1970s, the flood-prone areas were about 3,200 ha."

How It Works

The barrage will separate the seawater from the freshwater and act as a tidal barrier to keep out the high tides.

Under normal conditions, the crest gates will remain in an upright position to separate the reservoir from the sea.

If it rains heavily during high tide, the crest gates remain upright and excess storm water is pumped out into the sea.

As such, with the Barrage in place, the pockets of low-lying areas in the city will no longer be prone to flooding.

Notice the low lying areas that were stated on the marine barrage website. These are the very same areas that the meteorological service sent a warning to yesterday:
i) Chinatown/ City area
Mosque Street, Pagoda Street, Temple Street, Trengganu Street, Upper Pickering Street between South Bridge Road and New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road, Upper Hokkien Street between South Bridge Road and New Bridge Road, Chulia Street beside UOB Plaza, Circular Road and McCallum Street/Boon Tat Link;

ii) Tanjong Katong area
Dakota Crescent, Meyer Place, Meyer Road, Dunman Road, Fort Road, Rose Lane and Stadium Road;

iii) Geylang area
Guillemard Road between Lor 26 to 32 Geylang, Lor 4 to Lor 22, Geylang, Lor 101 to 106, Changi Road and Langsat Road;

iv) Area off Jalan Besar between Weld Road and Kitchener Road;

v) Lorong Buangkok.
Police said that the flood at the junction of Admiralty Rd West and Woodlands Ave 10 has subsided.
Those areas that are mostly affected are usually the river delta, estuary areas, near a reservoir or large body of water or near the river. Of course, we think nothing of these waterways in our urban environment as over the years we have been writing them off as "drains" and "longkangs" instead of rivers with active hydrological processes. We begin to underestimate the powers of nature, rain, monsoon and most of all, the tide. But notice that there are also many other areas that are not covered under the Marina Barrage's coverage. In fact, in the April report on flash floods, "police said they received many calls about flooding in low-lying areas in Chai Chee, Bedok Reservoir and the PIE towards Changi". Even our airport will not be spared, surely being reclaimed, lowlying and near the coast. Previous flash floods have also inundated east coast and buried it under a large pile of sand from monsoon deposition. Of course immediate actions were taken to elevate these lowlying coastal areas. What more, all our storm drains and canals are connected to our reservoirs and as this current flood event showed us, the ones with pipes junctures leading to the reservoirs flood more easily! It's like being at the center of the traffic jam.

Friends, romans and countrymen, ultimately, the take home message is that:


Indeed, and very regularly as well! So what do we do about it? Well the government is already doing their best but it helps that we are on our toes and are aware of our environment. First of all, know when the monsoon season is. Second of all, if you see your pond being submerged, salvage the fish before it gets washed away. Make flood precautions. Do not walk near gushing drains in the rain if you know that you might get swept away. Don't get swept away then blame it on the government for not building railings. (Yes, seriously this happened near my house a few years ago) Most of all, opt for green cover instead of paving all our ground cover in your schools and estates! Trees, plants and grasses does an amazing ecological service for us in terms of moderating flood events. It's natural engineering.

Of course, perhaps the most logical for Singapore's case is to, STOP LITTERING. It was reported on the news that the Thompson road flooding was partly due to the cluttering of the drains with litter and even a fridge! This reminded me of a presentation by the waterways watch representative where they expressed the pains of seeing singaporeans litter our waterways! c'mon people, stop it. A fridge?!

CNA reported that "According to the Public Utilities Board, about 1,500kg of debris — including plants and cardboard boxes — have been cleared from drains in Olive Road, the area worst hit by the rains."

And again, even though the affected nursery at Thompson Road mentioned that flooding is a regular event in the area, this came unexpectedly. There have been so much research done in the past and even in the present about why people continue to live in flood plains but in Singapore, it's more a matter of our insensitivity towards our natural environment and its processes. Let's stop overestimating the engineering works, underestimating the powers of nature and our over reliance and complacency!

In this age of climate change and sea level rise, there is more need for consideration of such things as flooding. Imagine if the sea level is already risen and add to that a major rain event and flash floods. More areas will be affected! The landslide that occurred in NUS also happened during the monsoon season in January. What more, there is already landslides happening during yesterday's rain event. Add to that the concretization of all our ground cover, that makes the water runoff even more intensive and our slopes become more vulnerable to landslides. Our drain capacity is limited because it is afterall a fixed concrete container, unlike the natural abundance and flexibility of our soil. But even that is limited, much less our drains. When our drains overflow and our canals spill over, are you ready for it?

27 Dec 2006 - "Slope failure forces two Singaporean families to evacuate homes" [link]

Read full article here

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Labrador in Pictures


In June 2006, Habitatnews reports that the Government Gazette, Electronic Edition published the following:

"There are currently 26 berths at Pasir Panjang Terminal (PPT). To cater for the future growth of our port, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) plans to carry out land reclamation to build more berths at PPT. Existing submarine services at the land reclamation site will need to be diverted before actual reclamation and construction works can begin."

On 5 Dec 2006, monkey and the assorted menagerie of marine cow and terrestrial duck went to see the changes occuring on one of our last mainland rocky shores since the development started.

Marine works in progress

The far end of the beach has totally been cordoned off and signs of the reclamation surrounds us. Barges carrying machineries greeted us when we first arrive and then further evidence of the reclamation becomes more obvious near the intertidal rocky shore.

Works notice

From certain sources, apparently sediment traps were also laid out in the field of seagrass to assess the impact from the reclamation. The good news is that despite all the development work in the area, and possibly increased sedimentation, there are still plentiful signs of life at the shores.

seagrapes Hairy Crab Seagrass galore makeover after

For more photos, see my labrador flickr set.

Let's treasure the last of our mainland rocky shores or there would be no more.

Other Related Reads:
  • Labrador Revisited, Labrador Blog, 8 Dec 2006
  • Animals at Labrador, The Annotated Budak, 7 Dec 2006
  • Urban Explorations, Fire and Light, 7 Dec 2006

    Read full article here

  • Haikou, Hainan, China

    I will be at Haikou, Hainan Island at the Southern seas of China from 10 Dec to 16 Dec for the PEMSEA East Asian Seas Youth Forum that coincides with the congress that happens simultaneously.

    Read more about my trip at the traveling menagerie.

    Hopefully, I will be making frequent updates there during my trip.

    Read full article here

    The Traveling Menagerie

    In a blatant attempt to enter into the NUSSU travelblog competition, monkey started a new blog to archive her journeys.

    Welcome to
    The Traveling Menagerie

    Looking out a window in Pulau Nias, Indonesia

    Currently filled with a compilation of old posts but will be adding new ones soon, complete with photos and updates. I realized I haven't blogged about my travels despite full intentions of doing so at the time. Guess the memories dull as I get swept away with a new project the minute I return.


    PS: Notice that I have moved to Blogger beta and it is causing me quite a bit of technical difficulties. For example, all my chinese posts have been messed up to high heavens. Pardon the transition since blogger beta is currently not supporting other languages. *sigh*

    Read full article here

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    Last look at Clementi

    On Sunday 6 Dec 2006, Acroamatic and I took a trip down memory lane. Two trigger happy photographers getting into every nook and cranny in Clementi Central drew many stares and also captured many windows to the past.

    Neutered Old Barber 70s design Stone seats

    No time to blog about it right now but I leave you with a teaser at my flickr set.

    Shoot outFor more pictorial pleasures, see Acroamatic's
    "Clementi Revisited".

    Read full article here

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Labrador Park - What Lies Beneath

    What can be expected to be seen on that day over there?

    - gardening workshops/talks/exhibition
    - night tunnel and nature tours
    - plants sale
    - wine tasting and food
    - book sale on Singapore Walking Trails, focussing on Labrador and Kent Ridge
    - stalls on handicraft made from natural products, hand/tatoo painting, etc
    - performances such as skit, children's interactive workshop
    - booth on upcoming activities for Labrador and other events.

    Date: 9 December 2006, Saturday

    Time of event : 5pm - 9pm
    (a historical tour of the Labrador tunnels and outpost guided by API every hour)

    Costs : $2 / person
    (all proceeds go to Club Rainbow, a local charity for children)

    Update @ 5.12.2006:
    The above information appears to be an unofficial one and the event has now been renamed:

    Xmas Fiesta @ Labrador Nature Reserve
    Date: 9 Dec 2006, Saturday
    Time: 5pm - 9pm
    Venue: Seafront Promenade (Near Carpark B)

    For more information, visit the API website or NParks' website.

    Read full article here