SINGAPORE – Former diplomat Joseph Koh has made two to three night trips to the dense forests of Brunei – in search of spiders.
The 72-year-old’s interest in spiders led him to publish a book on the creatures here and amass a collection of over 12,000 specimens.
Mr. Koh has also contributed greatly to Singapore’s conservation efforts. He led the green group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) -Singapore between 2018 and last year, during which the organization worked with the National Parks Board on several projects, including combating the illegal trade in ‘wild species.
For his efforts and more, he received the President’s Award for the Environment at Istana on Wednesday, September 29.
The award is Singapore’s highest environmental honor and recognizes individuals, organizations, and educational institutions who have made significant contributions to environmental sustainability here.
The other four recipients are: Nanyang Girls’ High School, Edible Garden City urban agricultural social enterprise, port operator PSA Corporation and DBS Bank.
President Halimah Yacob, who presented the awards on Wednesday, said: “Everyone has a role to play as we tackle the growing threat of climate change, and I hope more individuals and organizations will be inspired by the winners to also contribute to more sustainable development. and Singapore climate resilient for future generations. “
This is the 14th edition of the award, which started in 2006 and went from annual to biennial in 2017.
The criteria for evaluating the award were also changed this year to reflect the Singapore 2030 Green Plan, which the government released in February.
The plan aims to chart the country’s course towards a more sustainable future over the next decade. Among other things, people will be encouraged to move in a greener way, with triple cycle paths and the extensive rail network.
Minister of State for Sustainable Development and Environment and President of the Jury, Desmond Tan, said in a statement that there had been 69 nominations this year, more than double that received in 2019, which, he added, reflects a growing sense of engagement among Singaporeans. To protect the environment.
This year has the highest number of recipients – aside from 2015, which saw four recipients, there were three for all other years of the award.
Mr. Koh is the sole recipient in the individual category. On Wednesday, he recounted how he and his wife brought walkie-talkies while searching for spiders in the forest, so they could communicate if they got separated and got lost.
But they have always struggled to find each other, he told the Straits Times.
“We found that a more effective solution was to bring a whistle,” he added.
Like his passion for spiders, Mr. Koh’s nature conservation efforts have not stopped.
He is now a senior advisor to the WWF-Singapore board of directors, and also chairman of the organization’s conservation fund.
He also runs the “Friends of Bukit Timah Forest” community group, which aims to encourage Singaporeans to appreciate and protect the forest ecosystem.
The group’s activities include planting trees and eradicating invasive weeds.
Nanyang Girls’ High School, recipient of the award in the educational institution category, actively encourages its students to adopt a sustainable lifestyle and offers a cycling-focused module in its physical education curriculum.
Its initiatives include those on recycling, food composting, edible gardening and waste reduction.
Edible Garden City, one of three recipients in the organization category, has trained 80 urban farmers, contributed to academic publications, and successfully cultivated new variants of plants that are supplied to local restaurants and consumers.
Among other things, he created 260 vegetable gardens from underused spaces.
PSA Corporation, which is committed to phasing out diesel-based equipment, has switched to using electricity to power its port cranes and liquefied nitrogen gas – a cleaner fuel – for its main engines. .
Its environmental sustainability efforts include working with industry partners to explore ways to use hydrogen as a low-carbon energy source.
DBS Bank, meanwhile, has developed a framework to help its clients transition to more sustainable business operations and is offering financing for such a transition.
Among other things, it seeks to phase out funding from carbon-intensive sectors, such as coal and palm oil, and pursues funding opportunities in the sustainable and renewable energy sectors.