[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Monday, August 27, 2007

[Manaus and Singapore]
1. After attending the Forum on East Asian - Latin American Cooperation in Brasilia, I continued on a bilateral visit to Brazil. After good meetings with the Ministers for Energy, Environment and Defence, I flew to Manaus for a two-day visit to the heart of the Amazon.

2. At the end of the 19th century, Manaus boomed because of the global demand for rubber which was collected from wild trees in the jungle. After the British brought rubber seeds through Kew Gardens in London and the Botanic Gardens in Singapore to be grown in rubber estates in Malaya, Manaus declined while Singapore boomed. Even though Manaus is on the opposite side of the globe from Singapore with a time difference of 12 hours, roughly on the Equator as well, we are connected by the global economy. Today Manaus prospers from its free trade zone status and its strategic position.

3. The Amazon basin is the largest river system in the world collecting some 20% of the rain that falls on the planet's land surface. It is navigable by large ships all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the foothills of the Andes. The river and its major tributaries are very wide. Near Manaus, the banks can be almost 10 km apart. After the rainy season, large parts of the jungle are underwater. The Amazon to Brazil is like the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Africa, the water being the primary mode of transportation.

4. The climate and vegetation are similar to ours in Southeast Asia. But the Amazon forest is much larger than the jungles of Borneo, Sumatra and other parts of Southeast Asia. Considerable efforts are now being made to protect it. It is a major lung for the world and a repository of a quarter of the world's species. A complex system of surveillance from space, in the air, on ground and in the water, ensures that illegal logging and deforestation are kept to a minimum. There is still much to be done but the situation is now much better than in the past. There must be a great deal we in Southeast Asia can learn from the experiences of Brazil. The Brazilian Environment Minister, a dynamic lady who described herself to me as an environmental missionary, is determined to mobilize mass support for conservation and sustainable development. I invited her to visit Singapore and address our environmental groups here.

5. I took the opportunity to visit the Brazilian Army's jungle training school in Manaus. The Commander offered places for the SAF but language may be a problem. The school's mascot is the jaguar. A live jaguar greeted me when I arrived, held in place by two burly soldiers standing on either side holding chains connected to an iron collar around the animal's neck. The mascot was quite friendly, at least to the Commander, who invited me to pat its body, which I did for the camera. I put on a brave front but was feeling a little nervous within.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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