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July 5-11, 2013

Airports take off


July 5-11, 2013

Contents Primed to fly high

Economy

Airports take off

Pushing for one community, one economy


July 5-11, 2013

Contents TIME

Interview

Can the world eradicate extreme poverty by 2015?

Society

Out of the shadows

City

From Beijing to Paris

Science

Bangladesh glows in the world aquarium


July 5-11, 2013

Contents

Environment

Trendy rooftop gardens

Big tree debate

A blend of culture and ecology

Travel

Keeping Mt. Fuji sacred

>>DATEBOOK

Happenings around Asia

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ECONOMY

| July 5-11, 2013 AFP

Airports take off

Development of aviation infrastructure should be top priority if Asean is to keep pace with demand

A plane prepares to land at Beijing Capital Airport.


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ECONOMY

Karl Wilson China Daily Asia Weekly Sydney

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outheast Asian skies are filling up with an ever increasing number of aircraft carrying people travelling for business or pleasure, leading to a boom in infrastructure development. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), along with China, has already become the world’s largest aviation market but analysts say poor infrastructure in parts of the region needs to be fixed. Airports and air navigation services in Southeast Asia need to keep pace with the projected growth in passenger demand, as traffic is projected to double every 12 years, says Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines. “Failure to do so would inevitably lead to congestion and

degraded service levels, damaging not just the industry but the wider economy which relies on efficient air transport links.” Global consultant Frost & Sullivan says passenger numbers from Asean airports are expected to reach 233 million by 2014, up from 211.3 million in 2011. Asean members will be spending US$295 billion on upgrading airports or building new ones from 2010 to 2017. Meanwhile, by the end of 2015 China will have added 82 new airports, taking the number of passenger and cargo airports in the country to 264. Just outside Beijing, a third international airport is coming up. Daxing Airport, to the south of the capital, will cover more than 90 sq km, have nine runways by 2030 and an annual capacity of 130 million passengers—23 million more than London’s Heathrow and New York’s JFK airports combined.

Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia have all announced major airport upgrades. Analysts expect traffic in the Asia-Pacific region to grow at around 6.4 per cent annually. Albert Tjoeng, assistant director for corporate communications for IATA says the situation in Southeast Asia with airports is “mixed”. “There are some airports that are investing in infrastructure to handle the expected traffic,” he tells China Daily Asia Weekly. “Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong are investing in additional runways and terminals,” he says. “And on the other end of the spectrum, there are airports, such as Jakarta and Manila that lack the infrastructure capacity currently to accommodate the traffic growth, and do not have a definite plan on what they will be doing about it.”


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ECONOMY

Cities such as Bangkok have resorted to operating two airports to cope with demand. “But that is an inefficient solution both for passengers and air traffic control,” adds Tjoeng. If infrastructure development lags behind demand, airlines and their passengers will face delays. Tjoeng says an adverse impact on tourism will throttle the “economic benefits that aviation and tourism can bring to the local economy”. More than two-thirds of the world’s airports under construction are in China, which is expected to spend more than US$250 billion, according to Research and Markets’ China Aviation Industry Analysis. “Around the region, governments and private enterprises are investing heavily in airport development and infrastructure,” says Patti Chau, Asia-Pacific regional

AFP

Coping with demand

SINGAPORE’S changi AIRPORT

director for the Airports Council International. “In this region, we have the busiest cargo airport in the world, Hong Kong International Airport, and the second busiest

passenger airport, Beijing Capital International Airport,” she says. “As air traffic continues to beat records and competition becomes fiercer, our airports simply cannot afford to stand still.”


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ECONOMY

AFP

Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, designed to handle a capacity of 22 million passengers annually, is taking in more than double this number now. The government is constructing a third terminal to boost capacity to 62 million passengers a year. Malaysia is adding a new terminal capable of handling 45 million passengers a year at Kuala Lumpur International Airport with Singapore planning a fourth terminal to boost capacity at Changi Airport to 82 million passengers annually by 2017. An expansion costing US$166 million for Phuket International Airport in Thailand is scheduled for completion in 2015. It will then be able to handle 12.5 million passengers a year, up from the existing annual capacity of 6.5 million tourists visiting one of the world’s most popular resort destinations. Hong Kong and Singapore

INSIDE THE CONTROL TOWER OF THE honG kong INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

have both announced major expansion plans as they vie for dominance as vital regional hubs. Singapore is expected to spend over US$1 billion on a new terminal, taking the number to four, while the cost for Hong Kong is projected at around US$11 billion adding a third runway and terminal. In April of this year, Singapore’s Changi Airport was crowned world’s best airport for the fourth time by research

incheon INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

group Skytrax at the World Airport Awards in Geneva. Hong Kong, which had previously won the title eight times, came in fourth, behind South Korea’s Incheon International Airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol. This year’s awards, voted for by global travellers, had 12.1 million responses from across 395 airports. “Changi Airport continues to be a leader and innovator


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ECONOMY

AFP

within the industry and ... a key reason why it has remained ranked amongst the top-three airports for the last 14 years of the awards,” Skytrax chairman Edward Plaisted said at the time. Singapore’s Changi also won the award for best airport in Asia and with more than 330 retail outlets and 120 food and beverage options, the award for best airport for leisure amenities. Changi served more than 50 million passengers during 2012. “We have always been able to stay ahead of the curve by constantly staying ahead of capacity needs,” a spokesperson from Changi Airport Group tells China Daily Asia Weekly. The group, which owns and manages the airport, has plans for both the near and longer term to ensure it is ready to meet the challenges of growing passenger and aircraft traffic. “Some of the plans in the near term include our new

BANGKOK’S suvarnabhumi AIRPORT

Terminal Four, and ancillary works to increase the number of aircraft parking stands, expected to be completed by 2017,” the spokesperson says. “Longer term plans include (the transformation of ) a third runway, which is currently

a military runway. It will be converted to a civilian runway— Changi Airport’s third—by the end of the decade.” “Throughout its history, Changi Airport has always stayed ahead of its capacity needs,” the Changi Airport


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ECONOMY

Group spokesperson says. “This approach has underpinned the airport’s success as an air hub.” In Hong Kong, plans were approved earlier this year for a third runway at Chek Lap Kok, pending an environmental impact study. The expansion is part of a three-phase development plan for Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) which last year saw passenger growth up 4.7 per cent to 56.5 million and cargo volume up 2.2 per cent to four million tonnes. Since it began operating in 1998, HKIA has contributed to Hong Kong’s economy and has experienced high growth rates of passengers, cargo and aircraft movements. The master plan for the airport in 1992

estimated that by 2040 it would handle 87 million passengers, nine million tonnes of cargo and 380,000 aircraft movements. Over the past decade, demand has increased dramatically and the mix of aircraft has changed. Passenger numbers are projected to reach 97 million by 2030 while cargo is forecast to grow to 8.9 million tonnes, with flight movements up to 602,000 a year. HKIA’s expansion hinges on the outcome of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) that should come in by the end of 2013 or early 2014, says a spokesperson for the Airport Authority of Hong Kong. “Once the EIA is approved, the Hong Kong administration will spend another year ... working out the financial arrangements,”

the spokesperson says. “The actual reclamation and building will take around eight years.” The entire project is expected to cost around US$11 billion. In the financial year ended March 31, 2012, HKIA set new records for both revenue and profit. Profit attributable to the equity shareholder went up 32.2 per cent to HK$5.34 billion (US$689 million) in the fiscal year 2011/2012, while revenue rose 14.8 per cent to HK$12.15 billion (US$1.57 billion), according to data from the Airport Authority. “HKIA is committed to be the ‘greenest’ airport in the world—the first commitment of its kind worldwide,” the spokesperson adds.


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ECONOMY

Primed to fly high

Karl Wilson China Daily Asia Weekly Sydney

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ore than two-thirds of the worldwide airports currently under construction are in China. This huge expansion in the industry in China means that the country is set to become the dominant player in the global aviation sector. Over the next decade, China is expected to spend more than US$250 billion on its aerospace sector, according to Research and Markets’ China Aviation Industry Analysis.

AFP

Passengers at the Beijing Capital International airport wait after flights were cancelled or delayed in March 2012 due to widespread fog.


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ECONOMY

Between 2008 and 2012 passenger traffic has grown 15 per cent, cargo 16 per cent and mail 13 per cent year-onyear; whereas the average global growth in all three segments has averaged at just 5 per cent. Analysts have forecast that China’s airlines will grow 6.2 per cent annually over the next 20 years, outpacing all other regions. For aircraft giants Boeing and Airbus, China has now become their biggest market. Boeing analysts estimate that China’s commercial fleet will grow to 5,980 aircraft by the end of 2031, compared with 1,910 at the end of 2011. Around the country, dozens of airports are being built to meet the growing demand for air travel. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has forecast that by 2016, China will have 415 million domestic passengers annually,

second only to the US. Last year, Beijing Capital International Airport missed a widely-held projection that it would overtake HartsfieldJackson Atlanta International Airport in the US for the title of world’s largest passenger airport. Beijing has remained in the second spot after a breathtaking growth that saw it enter the world’s 10 largest airports only in 2006. Beijing Capital International Airport ended 2012 with 81.9 million passengers, making it the largest city for air traffic in China. Shanghai, with its domestic airport in Hongqiao and international airport in Pudong, ended 2012 with a combined figure of 78.7 million passengers, just behind Beijing. Under the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), some 82 new airports are scheduled to be built, 16 relocated and 91 expanded, increasing China’s

airport network by 50 per cent. The aim is to form a national airport network that will cover 80 per cent of the country’s total population by 2020. By the end of 2015, there will be 264 passenger and cargo airports in China. “The majority of these airports will fly shuttles for passengers located in remote cities of China to hubs that connect to other major destinations,” says Wang Tao, a resident scholar with the energy and climate programme at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy. “But as Chinese airlines are forced to cut prices to compete with the rapidly growing high-speed railway network, the answer is not more airports, but better-developed transportation networks,” Wang says in a commentary on the Australian National University’s East Asia Forum website. “With more than threequarters of China’s existing


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ECONOMY

AFP

airports already running a deficit, the focus on airport construction is misguided. The high-speed railway construction boom since 2002 has intensified pressure on existing airports,” he says. Wang explains how some existing airports struggle to compete with coastal cities, and request for government officials to fly rather than travel by train for business trips in order to boost local airport use. Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), admitted last month that 134 of its 182 airports run at a loss, but added that despite the losses they “still contribute to the growth of China’s economy”. “We should not merely see airport profits but take into account that an airport can largely boost the economy of the whole region,” he said. Li made the remarks at the annual China Civil Aviation Development Forum in Beijing.

beijing CAPITAL AIRPORT

He said airport losses last year amounted to around 2.89 trillion yuan ($471.40 million), but added that the airports contributed around 3 trillion yuan to the country’s gross national product.

Airport losses were mainly due to their method of operation, Li said, adding that “if the airports were public infrastructure facilities, they would make a profit”.


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ECONOMY

Li called for a limitation in local government involvement in the operation of airports, saying that governments should only be responsible for their construction. At present, local governments establish companies to construct and run airports in China. Even so, it would appear— at least in the major cities— that passenger traffic is fast outstripping airport capacity. Four years after Beijing Capital International Airport was expanded with the addition of Terminal 3, which can process 40 million passengers a year, the sprawling hub has already run out of capacity. To cope, Beijing last year began construction on its third airport, which is located in Daxing district, on the southern outskirts of the capital. Beijing Capital International Airport is to the north of the city. Daxing Airport will cover more

than 90 sq km, have nine runways by 2030 and an annual capacity of 130 million passengers. This is 23 million more than London’s Heathrow and New York’s JFK airports combined. An integrated groundtransportation hub will feed passengers onto a high-speed rail link to Beijing within 30 minutes, or to the city’s metro network. In the northwestern region of Qinghai, two existing airports have been expanded and six “feeder airports” are said to be in the pipeline. In Xinjiang, also in northwest China, four new airports are under construction. Chongqing is building two new feeder airports. And at least 10 airports in smaller cities have announced they will add second terminals. “For a local government, an airport is not merely a vanity project but also an economic engine,” Li Xiaojin, director of the institute of air-transport services

at the Civil Aviation University of China told Time magazine. Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport built an extensive new terminal in just 32 months at a cost of $9 billion. The terminal is connected with the city’s buses and subway, and also has a new high-speed railway network. “They know how to build things and how to do it efficiently,” Jeffrey Thomas, chief executive of American planning firm Landrum & Brown, who helped design the new Shanghai terminal, told the New York Times in April. “That area went from plans on a piece of paper to a complex that has 14 million square feet in less than four years. That’s hard to do.” Shanghai’s Pudong—which operates 40km east of Hongqiao as the city’s international gateway—has already reached capacity and is planning to add


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ECONOMY

a fourth and fifth runway. But in some regions, doubts have been raised whether the splurge in airport building is worth it. Hengyang Nanyue Airport will soon become the sixth civilian airport in Hunan Province. Chen Guaoqiang, a director at Hunan Airport Management Group, said recently that by the end of the current Five-Year Plan, Hunan would have built seven new airports with a total investment of 30 billion yuan. “Hunan will become the

province with the most airports in the south-central region,” he told local media recently. In 2001 the city of Yongzhou, 150km southwest of Hengyang, built Lingling Airport—the only civilian airport in Southeast Hunan. “On a recent day this month, the airport was very quiet,” local Chinese media reported. “With no flights during the day, the facility is accustomed to low levels of activity during the day.” According to CAAC data released in March, Lingling

Airport handled 12,056 passengers in 2012, making it the 174th busiest among the 182 airports across China. “Flights to Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Haikou all left from the airport in the past, but they have all ceased due to low passenger numbers. “Each year, the airport needs about 10 million yuan in subsidies from the government. But in spite of this, it has plans to expand,” local media reported.


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ECONOMY

Pushing for one community, one economy Will Asean be able to merge as a single market by 2015?

Brunei Information Department/AFP

Tassia Sipahutar The Jakarta Post Jakarta

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he idea for an Asean single market, initiated in 2007, is unlikely to come into effect on schedule due to unsettled problems among member states. The high-profile Asean Economic Community (AEC), also called the Asean single market, may not be fully implemented in 2015 as it appears there is a mismatch between political ambition and political will among several member states, a report says. The implementation of the AEC, under which 10-member states of Asean are set to see

This handout photo taken by the Brunei Information Department on April 25, 2013, shows (L to R) Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Myanmar President Thein Sein, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and Malaysia’s Senate President Abu Zahar Ujang joining hands as they pose for a group photo at the summit in Bandar Seri Begawan.


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ECONOMY

Soe Than Win/AFP Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia after decades of economic mismanagement and isolation under army rule, but could become Asia’s next economic engine if it enacts vast reforms, the IMF reported.

economic integration, is behind schedule on its stated objectives and timelines, according to a report published by the CIMB Asean Research Institute.

The report, titled “The Asean Economic Community: The Status of Implementation, Challenges and Bottlenecks”, also says that progress toward the

AEC does not fully correspond with the reality and is influenced by political motives. Since the Asean Secretariat relies on the member states— Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—to fill the Asean scorecard, the results do not mirror real achievements. “The scorecard is the main indicator of progress, but there is political spin because no country wants to be seen as being behind the others,” Joern Dosch, the report’s principal author, said during the report’s launch in Kuala Lumpur. While officials lauded Asean intra-trade as growing rapidly, he said the development was stagnant. The report shows that in 2011, the trade within Asean only accounted for 25 per cent of total Asean trade, down from


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ECONOMY

25.4 per cent a year earlier and from 25.5 per cent in 2009. Member states still put more emphasis on trade relations between the association and other countries, such as Japan and China, the report says.

Gap within Asean

The AEC Blueprint was signed by Asean leaders on Nov 20, 2007. Under the AEC, member states will see a better free flow of goods and services, and tariffs among members will be reduced around 0 per cent to 5 per cent. The report also highlights the economic and development gap of member states that serves as an obstacle to AEC realisation. In 2010, Singapore, the wealthiest Asean member, had a gross domestic product (GDP) of

US$43,929 per capita. Myanmar’s GDP, on the other hand, stood at $715 per capita in 2010, a tiny 1.6 per cent of Singapore’s. Meanwhile, in the financial sector, integration will cover the capital market development, the liberalisation of financial services, capital account liberalisation and Asean currency cooperation. “The integration will even be more complicated to achieve the far-reaching AEC vision,” said Dosch. Another problem involves the low utilisation of free trade provisions among businesspeople. The report quoted a 2012 survey from the Asean Business Advisory Council on Asean competitiveness, which stated only 25 per cent of the

respondents said they used preferential trade provisions in Asean when doing business and 29 per cent of them planned to use the provisions. The other 46 per cent said they did not use the provisions, with many of them not even realising the provisions existed. Contacted separately, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) chairman Suryo Bambang Sulisto said as the AEC implementation was inevitable, Kadin and its members would focus on increasing their preparedness by partnering with the government. This article was first published by The Jakarta Post on June 21, 2013.


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Interview

Tackling a global challenge The Jakarta Post Jakarta

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s the global commitment to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches its deadline in 2015, and as the UN environmental forums are formulating “sustainable development goals”, the European Commission is proposing a common approach to end poverty and ensure sustainability. The Jakarta Post’s Desy Nurhayati talked to the European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, on this issue.

John Thys/AFP

Will the world meet its target to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015?

Question: What have the MDGs achieved so far? The MDGs have been a powerful tool in mobilising the world in the fight against poverty, but tackling poverty remains a top priority as well as other global challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity, environmental degradation and social inequalities. It’s a huge achievement because it concentrates on particular critical issues […] but to make [the MDGs] more successful we need to continue until 2015 to achieve the goals as much as possible, so that we encourage and replicate the idea of having

EU Development commissioner Andris Piebalgs


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Interview

Munir Uz Zaman/AFP

global goals that we can measure. Eradicating poverty and ensuring that prosperity and well-being are sustainable are two pressing challenges. What will be the EU’s contribution to the post2015 agenda? Taking the EU and member states collectively, the EU is the world’s largest provider of official development assistance, amounting to 53 billion euros (US$68.9 billion) in 2011, or half of the global total. The EU [European Union] is also the most significant trading partner for developing countries, as well as a key source of technology, innovation, investment and entrepreneurship. Together, these elements have meant that the EU has been able to make a significant contribution to the achievement of the MDGs. For post 2015, we will

Bangladeshi girls do their homework at a makeshift hut at Zigatola in Dhaka. The country is one of the poorest nations on the planet with 40 per cent of its 144 million people living on less than US$1 a day.

overall have the same amount that we had in the previous period, with a slight increase. At the Rio+20 Conference on the environment in 2012, the

international community agreed to step up action on key sustainability challenges and started the process for the formulation of sustainable development goals. Our


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Interview

proposal, the Communication [“A Decent Life for All: Ending Poverty and Giving the World a Sustainable Future”], outlines some key actions to that end. What are the main elements of the Communication? The Communication takes stock of MDG achievements and addresses the need to implement the main Rio+20 outcomes and commitments through actions at the EU and international level. It further addresses the fact that the follow-up to the Rio+20 Conference and the MDG review and future development agenda processes are currently running on two separate tracks. The Communication recommends that, as soon as possible, these processes should converge and be integrated into a single overarching framework for post-2015. The overall objective should be to ensure a “decent life

MDG Progress Report: Asia and the Pacific Highlights ¬ Between 1990 and 2009 the Asia-Pacific region reduced the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day from 50 to 22 per cent. ¬ Despite the reduction, the proportion of the population living below the $1.25-per-day poverty level rate ranges from country to country, as low as 0 per cent in Malaysia to as high as 55 per cent in Nepal. ¬ At the present rate of progress, the region as a whole is unlikely to meet MDGs related to eradicating hunger, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. ¬ The number of people without access to safe drinking water in the region fell from 856 million to 466 million between 1990 and 2008. Source: UNDP, February 2012


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Interview

for all� by 2030, ending poverty in all its dimensions [economic, social, environmental] and giving the world a sustainable future. The framework should cover basic human development [as well as], drivers for sustainable and inclusive growth and development to ensure structural transformation of the economy. [These are] needed for the creation of productive capacities and employment, the transition to an inclusive green economy capable of addressing climate challenges, and the sustainable management of natural resources. The framework should also address justice, equality and equity, as well as the empowerment of women and gender equality.

Who will benefit and how? This would apply to all countries and benefit every citizen of the world. The Commission suggests global goals representing commitments by all countries [...] in order to increase domestic ownership and accountability. Within the EU, the follow up to Rio+20 will implement commitments for sustainable development at EU and member state level, in particular through the Europe 2020 Strategy. What are the next steps? To further elaborate thinking on the goals, the EU should continue its open dialogue with

all relevant stakeholders. [...] The EU needs to engage fully in forthcoming international processes. An EU common approach will be needed by mid-2013. What we need to highlight is that eradicating extreme poverty across the globe in a single generation is within reach. It is not a question of resources, but rather of having the political will and the right framework. The next two years will be critical for the international community to prove the ambition is there. The EU is determined to play a decisive role and the Communication is a first step in this direction.


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SOCIETY

Out of the shadows For Filipinos like Vargas, US’ immigration debate is ‘not a policy but a moral issue’ Jon Melegrito Philippine Daily Inquirer Washington DC

To be honest, this was not the film I sought out to make,” Filipino journalist Jose Antonio Vargas explained. He wanted to make a film about young people like him who grew up American but are undocumented. “But after sending a film crew to the Philippines to document my own mother, whom I haven’t seen for almost 20 years, the film took a different turn—I didn’t want it to go there but it had to go there.” Documented, a deeply

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas on the cover of TIME magazine in 2012.

personal story of Vargas’ own journey to the US as an undocumented immigrant, had its world premiere here on June 21 at the American Film Institute’s documentary festival (AFI Docs), America’s leading showcase for documentary films. With immigration reform dominating the agenda in Capitol Hill these days, immigration reform advocates hailed the 90-minute documentary— written and directed by Vargas himself—as timely and relevant. This “journey inward as he reconnects with his mother” offers a first hand glimpse on how a broken system has profoundly affected the lives


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SOCIETY

Sold-out screening

Attending the recent sold-out screening at the 400-seat National Portrait Gallery auditorium were immigrant rights advocates from across the country, congressional staff, public policymakers, members of national media, film buffs and Vargas’ own family from California, including his own grandmother who took

Photo from Jose Antonio Vargas’ Facebook

of 11 million human beings, tearing families apart, says Frank Sharry, an immigrant rights champion who has been at the centre of every major legislative and policy debate related to immigration for many years. “The film shows that at its core, our national debate is not about policy or politics but about our own morality and humanity as a people. It opens up hearts and minds and, hopefully, the possibility that we may yet solve one of the country’s most urgent and divisive issues.” The film is the writer’s story of his own journey to the US.

care of him when he arrived in this country 20 years ago. “I thank AFI Docs for showcasing my film as there’s a Senate debate going on right now about an issue that most people feel uncomfortable talking about,” Vargas said in

his opening remarks. “It’s the riskiest thing I’ve ever done. But I also know that this is the only way to have impact.” As founder of “Define American”, a nonprofit organisation intended to open up dialogue about the criteria people


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SOCIETY

use to determine who is an American, Vargas is seen in the film touring the country engaging people in a conversation about undocumented immigrants. “I’m not really coming out,” he said. “We’re just letting you in.” The film showed clips of Vargas testifying at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which voted recently on a bipartisan immigration reform measure that includes a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. It also chronicles his travels through 45 states as an advocate, talking to Mitt Romney supporters during the Iowa Caucuses and engaging a construction worker in Birmingham, Alabama, who told Vargas to “get the hell out” because he has no legal papers.

Most poignant segment

But the film’s most poignant segment was the scene where 32-year-old Vargas talked to her

A series of illustrations by Julio Salgado as part of a campaign for immigration and equality in the US Photos from Facebook

mother via Skype on Christmas Day last year. He was 12 years old when he left the Philippines and he hasn’t seen her since. “Come home so we can see each other,” a tearful Emily Salinas, 56, begs her son. “Soon, soon,” he replies, breaking down in sobs, knowing that their reunion, like many other families, depends on the passage of the immigration bill working

its way through Congress. “I just want to be able to hug him like I did before,” she says after they hang up. “Even without words, I just want to embrace my child.” She talks about how “painful it was to be separated from Pepiton”, as she fondly called her little boy. “But I have to make the sacrifice so my son would have a better life.” In her introduction to the


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SOCIETY

screening, AFI Docs Festival Director Sky Sitney said: “We are honoured to present this exceptional film, which took two years to make, as our centrepiece showcase. It touches deeply on the emotional core of our country’s identity. It confronts a critical issue that’s currently being debated, one that will surely prompt essential national conversations in the days and weeks ahead.”

Standing ovation

Vargas received a standing ovation at the beginning and end of the film. He also entertained several questions during a panel discussion moderated by Juan Williams of Fox News. Hours before the screening, Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisa Jr, hosted a reception at the Philippine Embassy for Vargas and his extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins who came all the way from California. In

his remarks, Cuisa commended Vargas for his writings and “touching articles” on important issues like immigration. He noted that out of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, 2 per cent, or 270,000, are Filipinos. “They don’t deserve to be mistreated,” Cuisa said. “They contribute to US society through their talents, expertise, persistence and hard work. And Jose Antonio Vargas exemplifies all that.”


CITY

Which city would you choose to live in? Features Desk China Daily Beijing

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hich city has the lowest rental, which city sells the cheapest hamburger meal, and which city would you go to buy designer bags? China Daily sends out correspondents to seven cities to get you the answers. Every city has its bright or bad facets and most of us have love-hate relationships with our chosen site of abode, in varying degrees. Our investigative team does a random sampling of interviews in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, London and Paris, to find out the ups and downs of daily life in terms of dollars and cents—and come up with some surprising answers.

Dale de la Rey/AFP

From Beijing to Paris

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CITY

This is neither scientific research nor a report to tell everyone which is the best city to live in, but rather a presentation of what it is like living in these cities and a reflection of its urban psychographics. According the The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, one of the features of the cost-of-living ranking over the last few years has been the rise of many Asian cities offsetting traditionally more costly European locations. In our interviews, we find rising Asian hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong among the top 20 most expensive cities. In fact, of the world’s 20 most expensive cities, 11 are from Asia. The rest are from the West. A decade ago, it was six Asian cities compared to 10 European cities, with four from the United States. Wei Dongjian from Beijing says he and his fiancée Wu Yuanping plan to move to Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong province,

in the next few years, where the climate is milder, and where she can escape Beijing’s notorious smog. “I’m not suited to Beijing’s environment. On average, I end up in the doctor’s office every other month,” says Wu. Winky Lee’s biggest complaint about living in Hong Kong is also its pollution. But like many Hong Kong residents, Lee has a lovehate relationship with the city. “The climate is hospitable. It is easy and inexpensive to travel and experience different cultures within Asia,” Lee says. “The low taxes are a big plus. The city offers a lot of public holidays which helps break up long hours at the office,” she says. But, Lee feels that it is difficult to meet romantic prospects because of the city’s transient nature. She also bemoans the housing market and how difficult it is to afford a flat. Another Asian city that shares similar characteristics as Hong


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CITY

Kong is Singapore. Residents are drawn to the city-state because it is safe, sheltered from natural disasters, wired and has one of the lowest income taxes in the region. English is widely spoken and understood, and being a regional air-transport hub—one can travel anywhere in the world at a fairly low cost. But because of its small size, the island is crowded and as a result, prices of housing and private vehicles have been skyrocketing, and current infrastructure and public transport struggle to meet the needs of the population size. For those who love the arts, London and Paris are two cities that are oozing with it. Frederick Schneider who works for an advertising agency in London says one could walk into the world’s best museums without having to pay. He says London is also a good place

Graphics by China Daily


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CITY

to build one’s career. “It is a truly metropolitan city and you meet the most amazing people here,” Schneider says, but he quickly adds that, “It is exciting, but it is also exhausting”.

Housing and transportation in London are among the most expensive in the world, and the weather is rarely comfortable. Aurelie, a Parisien, says she enjoys living in Paris because of the city’s rich artistic and cultural life. She keeps aside about US$45 a month for art exhibitions and shows. “There is also a tremendous choice of painting exhibitions, theatre plays and old movie theatres such as Cinema Mac Mahon that replays old films,” she says, adding that she finds the magnificent architecture of Paris endearing. If there is anything that Aurelie hates about Paris, it is the fact that the Parisians are less friendly

compared to those from smaller towns. Plus, people have to work much longer hours than those living in other French towns. Meanwhile, New York City, often described as “the capital of the world”, is a place where contradictions co-exist and thrive side-by-side. “All you need is an open mind and an appreciation for the opportunity to experience so much in one place,” mortgage consultant Joseph D’Alessio says. But he admits that “it is very hard to relax when you live in NYC” and that “it is more difficult to raise a family” in the city. One common denominator stands out among those interviewed. Travel ranks as their top priority, with almost all of them saving up for overseas trips.


Science

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Genetically modified zebra fishes contribute to benefit humanity and science

S. Ashraf Ahmed The Daily Star Dhaka

T

here are not too many things Bangladesh can boast about in front of the international community. And yet we preferred staying in the “dark�, while one of our neglected creatures illuminates millions of eyes, minds, and homes across the globe with its enchanting and colorful glow!

Three zebra fish, which were injected with a green fluorescent protein gene from a jellyfish and a red gene from a sea anemone into its embryo, are seen glowing under ultra-violet light in Singapore in May 2001.

Roslan Rahman/AFP

Bangladesh glows in the world aquarium


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Science

It is found in the waters of a ricefield, in stagnant waters of ditches, canals or ponds, and in all geographic locations in Bangladesh. Almost all kids taking a bath in a pond has playfully “fished” it. Pollikobi Joshimuddin immortalised it in his famous poem “Nimontron”. Yet we have left it neglected as a ubiquitous, useless creature! It even does not have an approved proper Bangla name. The one I called it as a child was “Darkhina”, an English zebra fish having a scientific Danio rerio name. Its natural abode is in the lower reaches of the Ganges Delta, where Bangladesh is situated. So it is a Bengali fish. Alas, very little we know scientifically of its natural wildlife and habitat. Zebra fish has five blue stripes with gold or silver colour in between along its 30-mm-long body. As an animal, some of

its physiological attributes are similar to those of humans. With a small size, a short life cycle of four months, and easy cultivation in controlled environments, it made itself a valuable animal model to the medical community. It again all goes back to my mentor at Dhaka University, the late Dr Anwarul Azim Choudhury, who showed me the colourful glows of bacteria, insects, and other creatures. At the time, I knew that the Japanese scientist Osamu Shimomura had isolated the green light producing (fluorescent) protein called GFP from a jellyfish in 1961. A fluorescent compound absorbs light at one wavelength to give it up at another higher wavelength. Since each wavelength has a characteristic colour, the invisible absorbed colour can emit a visible light. GFP absorbs parts of the white light to emit green light. In 1998, a Chinese scientist

named Zhiyuan Gong in Singapore, introduced the GFP gene (information) into the embryo of a zebra fish that integrated the gene into its genome (chromosome) as its own. As the zebra fish grew, it kept on producing GFP that emitted green colour when exposed to normal light. Commercially it came to be known as glofish. Its popularity as a pet was such that 100,000 got sold at US$19 each in less than a month of its introduction. During almost 40 years in between these two milestone events with GFP, scientists worldwide had cloned, sequenced, and conducted a myriad of experiments with the GFP. Employing biotechnology, they changed the green GFP to yellow YFP, cyan CFP, and had isolated various other fluorescent proteins from other organisms. In the following years, all these fluorescent protein genes made


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Science

home in the zebra fish genome. As a result, the current glofish population shows almost five colours of the rainbow! They are thus genetically modified fishes. Apart from serving as a piece of decoration, zebra fish and its fluorescent forms are increasingly being used in environment pollution, cancer, ophthalmology,

immunology, cardiovascular, and drug discovery research. A Bengali fish is immensely contributing to benefit humanity and science. Today, you will seldom find a pet aquarium, domestic or commercial, without a few of these colourful creatures swimming around and bringing

delight to the spectators. But alas, they cannot speak. If they did, they sure would have said “I came from Bangladesh�. Bangladeshi scientists should work to give them speech. The writer, a former Dhaka University teacher, is a biomedical scientist working in the USA.


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ENVIRONMENT Photos provided by design house Journeyman

There’s a

garden on the rooftop Nazneen Haque Mimi The Daily Star Dhaka

O

ver the last few decades, an awareness of the environment has become part of our daily lives and concerns us in many areas, public and private. In the field of landscape gardening, sustainable designs have been developed which are attractive but at the


ENVIRONMENT

same time provide a reduction in pollution, both in terms of noise and to the environment. We take a look at design concepts for attic apartments and terraces which enable their users to enjoy green spaces in private, urban surroundings. The objective of this project was to create continuity between the interior public part of the house and the exterior by using seasoned wood platforms surrounded by marble chips. These give new depth and brightness to the area, which comprises of three different spaces: the dining room, the living room and sun deck. A wall with stained pine fencing raises the height of this urban, top-floor terrace and increases privacy. Sometimes we create a green area on the flat roof of a residence and in a private interior courtyard. In addition to its ecological merits, the area has been designed to be used and enjoyed by the owners. The main structure is made of

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ENVIRONMENT

rustic wooden tiles. The material— wood, steel, tiles and reinforced concrete—produce a limited range of simple colours in this space. A terrace is also a good place for shrubbery. The floor is made from processed strips of wood which level out the ground and produce a feeling of warmth. In the main entrance there is a wooden pergola with industrial sheets but you can use a fancy canvas canopy if desired. The roof concepts provide a dining area and also openness to enjoy the views. To emphasise the idea of privacy the wall has been covered in metal bars or wood panels, as a continuation of the flooring and finished off with a fence made from separated planks of wood. The dining area is located beneath a stained pine pergola with a glass roof. In Bangladesh, red brick roof tiles are commonly available. The red brick roof, wide glass door and louver window arrangement

altogether ensure privacy. The ends of the terrace have been landscaped and paths have been created between the plants and the platform with white stones. Furniture: A low backless “L” shaped bench runs around the perimeter, closing in the area. The seat cushions are white and light blue to project a calming ambience. Sometimes we use cement benches for seating. These are economical and maintenance free. Some people love local handicraft ecofriendly furniture, for example, cane sofas with large white cushion gives us a cool Balinese feel. Uneven wooden pieces are also an attractive feature for a garden. You can even arrange Pump trunks as seating arrangements. Containers: Choosing good containers is vitally important. A collection of square, round and rectangular containers in different materials is a great starting point. Plain containers suit both urban and rural interiors and will

not detract from the impact of the plants. Rough-textured pots in materials such as concrete look wonderful with succulent plants and suggest the sort of dry landscape from which these specimens originate. Bangladesh-


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ENVIRONMENT

grown creeper plants Jui, Neelmonilata, Aporajita, Jumkolata can be used for a romantic appeal. Different materials create different moods. Concrete and metal look urban and edgy, terracotta and ceramic more gentle and rustic. Baskets lined with plastic sheeting have a more traditional feel and look good with spring and autumnal arrangements. Tools and accessories: One of the most important items in

your gardening tool kit is a pair of gardening gloves, especially for handling prickly cacti. A watering can with a long spout is useful for reaching between leaves and directing the water to where you want it to be rather than bouncing off the leaves on to the cream silk covers next to them. Sometimes string or wire is needed to anchor the wayward stems of plants. We can set these tools in a shelf in the corner of the

garden which will also enhance the look and feel of the garden. Green has become a necessity and a therapy. A little arrangement of greenery on your roof will take your mind off the strains of modern living, provide visual delight and enhance your environment at the same time. The author is an interior consultant with Dhaka-based design house Journeyman.


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ENVIRONMENT

Greenery is now integrated into new building structures, such as the Sky Park at City Square Mall in Singapore. More people are seeing the tangible benefits of going green as trees help filter pollution particles and, planted wisely, their shade can reduce the need for expensive air-conditioning. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Big tree debate The past 50 years has seen the greening of Singapore but population needs still put pressure on the environment


ENVIRONMENT

less quantifiable needs such as the value of species-rich forests. However, recently those less Singapore quantifiable things have been found to have their own currency, now ou look out the window that the perils of climate change of your flat at a view that have reared their head, with more makes you happy. It is a pollution and fewer trees able to wide expanse of trees and filter carbon from the atmosphere. grass, an open space where children Going green now also means play football or where yellow tangible benefits such as realising orioles sing. But one day, hoardings that trees help filter pollution go up, construction cranes move particles and make for cleaner in. And your view is gone. air, or that, planted wisely, their Some may shrug and see it as shade can reduce the need for the price of progress. Others will expensive air-conditioning. be sad at the loss of yet another And to some extent, planners see precious slice of nature in this the need to be eco-aware, too, with tiny island of so many people. the latest Land Use Plan released in And, amid the rise of civic January setting a target of 0.8 park activism, a small but vocal ha per 1,000 residents by 2030. minority might wonder: Could I Still, there’s no escaping that have done something about it? tension between Trains versus Such a scenario is a microcosm Trees. Nature groups are upset of the conflict between urbanisation over plans for an MRT line and nature, that pits the needs through the Central Catchment of a growing country, such as Nature Reserve in Singapore. infrastructure and housing, against Ironically, June 16 marked 50 years Grace Chua The Straits Times

Y

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since the greening of Singapore took off officially, when the first treeplanting campaign was launched. Today, that planting campaign still continues, but even as trees are planted, others are chopped down to make way for development. Can any balance ever be found between a space crunch and the need for different shades of green? What are the challenges that lie ahead in trying to reconcile the two, especially as Singapore’s population grows?

How going green took root

On June 16, 1963, then-Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew planted a slender mempat sapling at a traffic roundabout called Holland Circus. Trees such as the mempat— known for its pretty pink blossoms— certainly are pretty to have around. But decades before it became fashionable to be environmentally conscious, Lee put shovel to soil to kick off a tree-planting campaign to help bring rain. It was the


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ENVIRONMENT

middle of a drought at the time, and leaves help send water vapour into the atmosphere. Pragmatic Lee also wanted to send visitors and investors the message that Singapore was a disciplined nation able to tend to its people and its environment. As well, an island-wide greening programme was a social equaliser, in contrast to British rule, when only wealthy enclaves like Tanglin had cultivated gardens. Since 1963, Lee—often dubbed Singapore’s “Chief Gardener”— has unfailingly planted a tree every year, typically in November, at the start of the rainy season. Professor Leo Tan, who in 1973 was a young biology lecturer at the University of Singapore, said: “Originally, people took (trees) for granted. The assumption was that we had enough green. But Lee Kuan Yew had this vision.” Singapore was a fledgling country, and it was not immediately clear why

The changing face of Singapore

1973

1989

2002

2009 PHOTO: US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

government money should be spent on greening. But Lee in his memoir, “From Third World To First”, called it “the most cost-effective project I have launched” to differentiate Singapore from its developing neighbours. But the scheme was not without flaws. Tan said: “At that time, any green would do. A lot of it was cosmetic, such as trees along the drive from the airport to town. That’s the first impression visitors had of Singapore.” There was also little understanding of conservation. Even as planting took place, much of Singapore’s mangroves were cleared as they were thought to breed mosquitoes. Clearing continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s as natural spaces were developed for housing, ports and industry. “I watched Tanjong Rhu make way for development, Sembawang for a shipyard.


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ENVIRONMENT

My research site made way for Changi Terminal,” Tan said. “I was really angry as a young lecturer—my research sites became the history of natural history.” In 1986, the Bukit Timah Expressway was built, slicing between Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the central catchment forests. It was the last straw for some. In the late 1980s, several members of the Nature Reserves Board (National Parks Board’s precursor) resigned en masse, including Tan, the Nature Society’s Richard Hale, and the board’s then secretary, Kiat W. Tan.” We said, ‘If we are here to supervise the demise of every nature reserve, there is no point’,” said Tan. But they were persuaded to stay on for the formation of the National Parks Board (NParks) in 1990. Recalling those eco-wilderness years, Tan, who went on to be NParks CEO and who is now

Gardens by the Bay CEO, said there was little civic sense then. “People were stealing plants. The parks were not used. Some MPs said, why are we wasting so much money on parks and greenery?” In 1990, signs had to be posted along the East Coast Parkway explaining to the public why the grass was allowed to grow. Even the tree that Lee planted at Holland Circus was removed when the roundabout made way for a flyover in 1997.

Learning to hug nature

Today, there are more than 300 public parks, from pocketsized neighbourhood ones to destination parks like East Coast Park. About 50 per cent of Singapore is under vegetative cover, more than half of which is “natural” green, like scrublands and forests. NParks chief executive Poon Hong Yuen says public reception has completely shifted. “In times past, people complained

about leaves falling and creating a mess; now when we chop down a tree, people complain.” When NParks recently asked for feedback on what people want from destination parks and an upcoming round-island park network, people said, ‘We don’t want our parks to be just manicured, with no wooded area’. “That surprised us because in the past, people would tell us they wanted an amphitheatre or a hard court. It’s a bit more sophisticated now.” Is that a reaction to being surrounded by more builtup space? Perhaps, he said. An NParks survey in 2010 revealed that 90 per cent of those polled say parks and greenery are important, even if they do not visit parks. The same number think nature should be conserved, even if they don’t visit nature. Yes, residents still complain of the noise and mess from, say, koels roosting in trees. But planners, academics and the


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ENVIRONMENT

public increasingly recognise the ecological value of nature, which can protect against the effects of climate change. The Building and Construction Authority looks to mangroves for coastal protection from sealevel rise. The Public Utilities Board has its ABC Waters programme, which cuts flood risk by turning canals into planted, more natural waterways. And studies from the National University of Singapore (NUS) show that green cover reduces the high temperatures that result when buildings and roads trap heat, and that natural areas support a more diverse range of birds and butterflies than cultivated ones. Some green innovations developed here have even gone international. Architect Ong Boon Lay came up with the concept of the green plot ratio, which measures the amount and quality of greenery used in architecture and has been applied

to cities in Sri Lanka and Egypt. In 2008, Singapore committed itself to developing the first City Biodiversity Index, which is used by parties to the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity. At home, greening has helped shape Singapore’s identity as the Garden City, then the City in a Garden. Take the national Community In Bloom community-garden programme, launched in 2005. At first, people felt the government should take care of greenery in their estates. “Now, people see the point of it—it brings the community closer together,” said NParks’ Poon. Senior research fellow Belinda Yuen, an urban planner at the Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, pointed out that besides “active” uses of green space such as for exercise and picnics, there is an indirect psychological benefit.

People like having a view of a garden or nature area, she said—they know it is available to escape to if needed.

Battles and trade-offs

Is there a difference in benefit or value depending on whether you’re looking at a cultivated park or a natural area? Little work on that has been done in Singapore yet, Yuen said. “We need to conduct a study to better understand what exact value people ascribe to open space.” But vociferous public debate over areas like a Pasir Ris patch of empty land, slated for an international school, and Bukit Brown cemetery, earmarked for housing, demonstrates “the people don’t just want manicured parks, they want wild areas also”, said Tony O’Dempsey, a council member of The Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS). “Promising a manicured park within some distance of each


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ENVIRONMENT

household—as per the White Paper discussion—is missing the point of what I think people really want.” The NSS is concerned that small forest patches at Bukit Timah, Lornie, Mandai and Seletar are getting too separated by roads from larger reserves to sustain rich plant and animal life. It has identified green sites rich in biodiversity that should get higher priority in protection efforts, and is currently preparing a report on the overall green impact of the government’s Land Use Plan. And N. Sivasothi, an NUS biology lecturer and coordinator of the Raffles Museum Toddycats volunteer group, calls for the protection of specific biodiversity-rich areas such as the Mandai mudflats. In an impassioned speech on the White Paper and Land Use Plan in parliament earlier this year, Nominated Member of Parliament Faizah Jamal said the plan’s emphasis on parks

“reflects a disturbing need for human control—not just green spaces, but indeed the constant need to control life itself ”. Afterwards, she said, several MPs came up privately to agree with what she said. Civil servants and politicians operate based on efficiency and cost-effectiveness, she noted. And providing parks for more users focuses on people, who are also voters. “But that’s not a paradigm that works any more” because of the growing importance of the ecological services that wild places provide. But how long will it be before nature becomes a real voter issue? On the one hand, urbanites don’t interact with nature every day and don’t see the value of the clean air or fresh water it provides. “On the other hand, I see young people actually doing something about it.”

The next 50 years

As NParks’ Poon puts it: “The top three challenges for us are space, space and space.” However, it is precisely because the population is growing that more nature also needs to be retained—to address the impact of climate change, serve as an emotional anchor, and meet recreational needs. But what happens when NParks’ mandate clashes with another agency’s—say, when planners decide a space is needed for housing? At the senior levels of government, there is an understanding that greenery is important, said Poon. So there is a serious attempt to come up with a solution—to retain or replace or enhance greenery. “In the past, we’ve been quite reactive—the Land Transport Authority says we want to do road-widening, we say you can’t get rid of this tree. Now, you’re


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ENVIRONMENT

doing road-widening, can (NParks) do something to beautify the area?” Still, retaining natural or managed areas, and adding new ones, remains a process of give and take. Later in June, an official tree-planting event took place at Holland Village Park, not far from where Lee planted his first mempat tree. And perhaps symbolising how much the need to value the environment has taken root, even amid necessary development, in order to build the pocket-sized green lung—completed in 2011—it was a carpark that made way.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF GREENING

IN SINGAPORE 1967

Garden City programme of roadside landscaping launched

1960

1974

Parks and Recreation Department formed

1970

1980

1973 1963

Lee Kuan Yew plants a tree at Holland Circus as start of island-wide campaign; Parks and Trees Unit formed under Public Works Department;Post-independence, mangroves at Pandan and Kranji cleared for development

1971

The first Tree Planting Day held (November); replaced by Clean and Green Week in 1990

Labrador Beach de-gazetted to be nature park


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ENVIRONMENT 1992

1990-91

1990

Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) publishes its master plan for nature conservation

National Parks Board (NParks) established to oversee nature reserves, Singapore Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning Park

1990

Government publishes its first Green Plan; Lower Peirce Reservoir golf-course development put on hold after environmental impact assessment by NSS

2000

2010

1989

1986

Sungei Buloh given nature park status after Malayan Nature Society (Singapore) calls on government to conserve it

Bukit Timah Expressway constructed, cutting through Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserve

2001

Labrador Park re-gazetted as nature reserve

1996

Parks and Recreation Department merges with NParks

2002

Sungei Buloh gazetted as nature reserve


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ENVIRONMENT 2013

Government publishes its Population White Paper and Land Use Plan laying out plans till 2030 Nature groups raise concerns about environmental impact, particularly of Cross-Island Line; Land Transport Authority agrees to postpone its Environmental Impact Assessment report till nature groups have studied the effect of different rail-line alignments

2012

Gardens by the Bay officially opened

1990

2000

2009

Eco-link between Bukit Timah and Central Catchment reserves over the BKE is announced; Blue Plan by academics and nongovernment groups is submitted to government, proposes specific marine areas that have high conservation value

2010

NParks, National University of Singapore and corporate sponsors begin five-year Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey

2010


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ENVIRONMENT

The rice terraces Hani people have cultivated for about 1,300 years are now a World Heritage site. Provided to China Daily

A blend of culture

and ecology The Hani tribe’s majestic terraces cultivate global recognition

Zhang Zixuan China Daily Honghe

T

he Honghe Hani Rice Terraces rise up the Ailao Mountains from the Honghe River’s southern bank. They span four counties in the Honghe Hani and Yi autonomous prefecture in southwestern Yunnan province.


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ENVIRONMENT

This man-made wonder was inducted into Unesco’s World Heritage List in June at the World Heritage Committee’s 37th session in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The nominated area and buffer zone is in Yuanyang county, which covers 461 square kilometres and displays the most concentrated and best-developed terraces in three valleys. The 82 villages in the area house 80,000 people from the Hani and six other ethnic groups. The more than 1,300-year-old terraces cascade from a summit 2,000 metres above sea level to the mountain’s base. In some places, there are as many as 3,700 terraces flowing down the slopes. The steepest drop at 45 degrees. “The Hani rice terraces are not just a natural splendour but also the most harmonious masterpiece of man and nature,” the prefecture’s deputy director Tan Ping says. Tan explains they create a system that fuses agriculture

and ecology, with forests, villages, terraces and water. The highland forests are the lifeblood of the system to capture the water that makes irrigation possible. “The forests are the only reservoir,” says Zhang Hongzhen, nomination group leader and Hani Rice Terraces Administrative Bureau director. The Hani traditionally believed the woodlands are home to their village god Angma, whose name translates as Village’s Soul, and their land-protection deity Misong, who blesses them with peace and prosperity. The Hani vigorously guard the sacred forests from outsiders, especially women. The villages are built in the timberlands’ lower fringes. The settlements are comprised of “mushroom houses”, built of rammed earth, adobe bricks and stone with umbrellashaped straw-thatched roofs.

The houses typically have three stories. The first is for livestock; the second is the living area and the top floor is for grain storage. “The scenery before rice transplanting is like heaven for photographers,” Yunnan’s deputy governor Gao Feng says. “The terraces are full of water, which makes them appear as millions of mirrors reflecting the sun, clouds and sky.” From late April to late September, Hani people grow red rice, the terrace’s dominant crop. Cattle and buffalo plough the terraces, and no chemical fertilisers are used. Fish and ducks are also bred in the paddies, which improves fertility while providing food for people and animals. The water from brooks, springs and rain is collected by the forests and distributed to the fields through a gravitational system of ditches, canals and bamboo pipes. Artesian wells in the villages


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ENVIRONMENT

Preserving a culture

In 2007, the local government and application office determined technical standards to be followed within all the villages to control development and construction. Some abandoned terraces outside the nominated area and buffer zone have been recovered. Improvements have been made to local living standards.

For instance, livestock have been centralised, rather than dwelling in houses. A monitoring centre has been running for a year to study more than 10 ecological dimensions, such as forests and climate. The centre has helped blunt the threat from alien species, such as the South American crayfish, which invaded the fields three years ago. Red rice contains up to 18 amino acids and is being sold outside the Ailao Mountains. More than 90 trademarks have been registered to protect intellectual property rights. The local government is working with Tsinghua University’s School of Architecture to develop guidelines for construction that maintain the mushroom houses’ extrinsic characteristics with improved interior functions. In accordance with local people’s wishes, the government will subsidise the houses’ construction but allow residents to build them according to the guidelines. Three

Zhang Zixuan/China Daily

provide drinking water. “The integrated four-element system plays the wetlands’ role. It conserves moisture and soil, adjusts the climate and sustains biodiversity,” says Xiong Zhengyi, director of the Yunnan cultural heritage bureau. He adds that the terraces withstood the severe drought that has parched Yunnan for three years. China began preparing the World Heritage application and domestic designations in 2000 to protect the world wonder.

Bamboo water pipes are Hani men's favourites.

houses have been built in this way, and more are planned. This May, the State Council designated the property as a State Priority Protected Site. From October, only electric


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ENVIRONMENT

vehicles will be allowed to drive in the area. “The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces’ protection must receive all stakeholders’ support,” says State Administration of Cultural Heritage deputy director Tong Mingkang. The government will offer farmers subsidies to encourage

them to continue cultivating the paddies. Otherwise, it is feared nearly all locals might abandon them to work in the tourism industry. More detailed and sustainable eco-tourism strategies are being developed to alleviate increased tourism’s pressure. Farmer Li Yousheng, from

Yuanyang county’s Dayutang village, says he now understands better than ever why protecting the terraces is important. “The World Cultural Heritage designation shows the magnitude of our guardianship of the Hani lifeblood,” the 53-year-old says.


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CULTURE

Keeping Mt. Fuji sacred Japan’s beloved Fuji-san has been recognised for its cultural value as a holy mountain worshiped by people since ancient times

Hiraku Kubo The Yomiuri Shimbun Tokyo

©Yasufumi Nishi ©JNTO

M

t. Fuji is now a designated World Heritage site and focus turns to preserving it to ensure the values embodied by this symbol of Japan can be passed to future generations without damaging the mountain.


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TRAVEL

According to the environment ministry, about 320,000 people climbed Mt. Fuji during the summer season in 2012—an indication that Japan’s highest mountain was already being overused. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a Unesco advisory body that recommended Mt. Fuji’s designation, also requested Japan report by 2016 on measures to deal with the expected increase in climbers and maintain the safety of the mountain’s climbing routes and surrounding areas. The current state of Mt. Fuji is hard to overlook: There is no restriction on the number of climbers to the “sacred mountain”, and slips often occur on slopes around the climb routes that become jampacked with climbers every weekend. Both Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, which intend to collect entrance fees from

Mt. Fuji climbers from next year, plan to ask for a 1,000 yen (US$10) donation from each climber this summer. Still, it might be difficult to keep the number of climbers low just by charging people who want to scale Mt. Fuji. One estimate, made by Kyoto University professor Koichi Kuriyama, even suggests a fee of about 7,000 yen ($72) per climber would be needed just to keep the mountain in its current state. “We’ll cooperate with Shizuoka Prefecture, and together we’ll have to take even more safety precautions than we have before,” Yamanashi Governor Shomei Yokouchi said. The prefectures will face the first test of their resolve as the mountain’s summer season started this month. The World Heritage Committee’s deliberation on the designation of a heritage site generally takes only 10 minutes.

However, the deliberation on Mt. Fuji in Phnom Penh lasted about 50 minutes. During the discussion, representatives of 19 countries offered their opinions, most of them supporting the inclusion of the Miho no Matsubara pine grove in the new heritage site and taking their time commenting on the beauty of Mt. Fuji. A representative from Malaysia said Miho no Matsubara was an integral part of the site considering its cultural and historical background. Similar views were given by representatives from Germany, France, India and other countries. When the committee’s chairperson brought the hammer down to announce the designation, Japanese delegates were ecstatic, clapping or raising their arms and shaking hands with each other. Some committee members from other countries gave them a congratulatory hug.


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TRAVEL

Seiichi Kondo, the head of the Cultural Affairs Agency and the leader of the Japanese representatives, who wore a stern expression throughout the deliberation, also managed to crack a smile and join in the celebrations.

Yokouchi said the committee’s decision brought joy to all Japanese and he would make every effort to protect the environment around Mt. Fuji in the hope the mountain would be loved the world over. As Miho no Matsubara, which

is in Shizuoka Prefecture, was included as a constituent asset, an elated Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu said he would help protect Mt. Fuji, pass it on to following generations and try to make the country as beautiful as Mt. Fuji.

A place of worship Daisuke Tomita The Yomiuri Shimbun Shizuoka

I

n early June, people dressed in white religious garb gathered at a shrine located at the northern foot of Mt. Fuji. They were ascetic devotees belonging to one of Fujiko groups—religious associations

that worship Mt. Fuji. In front of them was a bonfire, and the devotees began putting boards, called saiboku, into the fire one after another. On the saiboku, people’s wishes for good health and business


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TRAVEL

success were written. It was a holy ritual to relay people’s wishes to the god of the mountain. The saiboku burned instantly and smoke soared into the sky. Then a man facing the bonfire began chanting the mantras of his Fujiko group. Hot air blew toward him, but Yoshitsugu Saito continued his sonorous chants. Saito, 82, joined the group about 60 years ago after being seriously injured in an accident. Since then, he has undertaken various ascetic practices and maintained a clean-living lifestyle, which is a tenet of Fujiko associations. He has visited Mt. Fuji numerous times from his home in Kanagawa Prefecture, and he has climbed the mountain—from the base to the summit—nearly 50 times. Mt. Fuji has been recognised for its cultural value as a

holy mountain worshiped by people since ancient times. Its constituent property includes the five lakes around its base and the surrounding shrines, caves and trails. One day, Emiko Ozawa sent off ascetic devotees from her lodge near Mt. Fuji. Ozawa, 68, gracefully knelt at the entrance and placed her hands on the floor. “We wish you a safe journey,” she said. The Zuzuya lodge has a history of more than 400 years. The lodge is one of the “Oshi-no Ie” lodges, where ascetic devotees learn the principles of Fujiko and receive instruction on safe climbing. The lodge also serves food to visitors. During the Edo period (1603-1867), the current FujiYoshida area was flooded with ascetic devotees and there were more than 80 such lodges.

However, only a handful of them remain today. Ozawa’s son and the 20th generation master of Zuzuya, Terunobu, 38, said: “I’m resolved to maintain the culture [of Oshi-no Ie] as long as ascetic devotees visit our lodge.” I had an opportunity to enter Yoshida Tainai Jukei, a cave created by a large eruption of Mt. Fuji in 864. It was a narrow and damp cave that I could only enter by crouching. The cave is known as a sacred place and carefully protected by local residents. There is a small shrine at the back of the cave and in the past, ascetic devotees entered the cave to “purify” themselves before climbing Mt. Fuji. After visiting, I felt as if I could sense the breath of the people who offered prayers to Mt. Fuji.


| July 5-11, 2013

TRAVEL

MT. FUJI AT DUSK AMIDST THE URBAN JUNGLE OF TOKYO. (C)Y. Shimizu


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MT. FUJI AT NIGHT AS BUILDINGS IN TOKYO GLOW LIKE JEWELS. (C)Y. Shimizu


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mt. FUJI AS REFLECTED ON A LAKE. ©T. Satoh ©JNTO


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©JNTO


| July 5-11, 2013

TRAVEL

©Akira Okada ©JNTO


DATEBOOK

| July 5-11, 2013

Dhaka

Galleri Kaya 10 years’ anniversary exhibition

A piece by local painter Shohag Parvez.

Celebrating a decade of playing host to some of Bangladesh’s finest art selections, Galleri Kaya in Uttara Thana will commemorate its 10th anniversary with the “Glimpses” exhibition, showcasing the work of the country’s leading and upcoming artists. The exhibition is also dedicated to the memory of local painters, the late Aminul Islam and Nitun Kundu. When: Until July 20 Where: Galleri Kaya, Uttara Thana


DATEBOOK

| July 5-11, 2013

Niigata, Japan

Fuji Rock Festival 2013 The lush forest, streams and slopes of the Naeba Ski Resort provides the perfect acoustic setting for a music festival. Though it is not located anywhere near Mt. Fuji, the annual festival retains its name from the very first Fuji Rock Festival in 1997, at the foothills of the mountain. Music revellers at this year’s festival can choose from a wide selection of renowned Japanese and international artists in the likes of Skrillex, Yellow Card, Of Monsters and Men, The Cure, and Bjork who will take seven stages to perform for a capacity of 30,000 people. When: July 26-28 Where: Naeba Ski Resort Info: fujirockfestival.com


DATEBOOK

Osaka

EXHIBIT Fifty prestigious galleries from Japan and abroad come together to showcase their finest, most sophisticated pieces at this event. Here, lovers of contemporary art will appreciate the opportunity to view some of the modern world’s most exquisite works in an informative and stylish manner. When: July 20-21 Where: Hotel Granvia Info: artosaka.jp

| July 5-11, 2013

Seoul

Yilan, Taiwan

Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour

Yilan International Children’s Folklore and Folkgame Festival 2013

Lifelong fans of the late King of Pop can experience his legacy as Canada’s Cirque du Soleil puts on a show that captures the essence, soul and inspiration of the legend himself. When: July 10 Where: Olympic Park Gymnastics Gymnasium Info: ticket.interpark.com

Yilan county celebrates summer again, with this year’s festival themed “Spinning” to usher in energy, liveliness and uphold the importance of “exchanging ideas”. Set to provide families with an exciting summer experience, the Yilan county government has also enlisted Taiwan’s popular children’s books illustrator Jimmy Liao to create colourful and creative exhibition halls both young and old will love. The festival will also see captivating performances and fun summer activities catered for all ages. When: July 6-August 25 Where: Dongshan River Water Park, Yilan county


Asianews July 5 -11, 2013  

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