Best of our wild blogs: 24 Oct 14

Mandai and Kranji mangroves to be fenced
from wild shores of singapore

Insights on the Circular Economy in Singapore
from AsiaIsGreen

Read more!

MEWR responds to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014


SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) has responded to recent findings in the latest World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) report that showed Singapore’s environmental ranking had worsened.

MEWR clarified in its statement issued today that the Living Planet Report 2014 (LPR 2014) “fails to recognize Singapore’s unique circumstances as a small island city-state with no hinterland”, adding that the report also did not give “due recognition to Singapore’s real environmental achievements” such as sustainable development and resource efficiency.

Out of more than 150 countries analysed, the LPR 2014 found Singapore had the seventh-largest ecological footprint - a measure of the population’s demands on natural resources - in the world, up from its 12th spot in the 2012 report.

With limited natural resources, about 70 per cent of Singapore’s footprint comes from carbon emissions, produced within the country as well as indirectly through activities driven by Singapore’s economy in other countries, WWF said. Consuming large amounts of imported food and services also contributes to the amount of carbon emissions produced per capita.

However, MEWR noted there is little Singapore can do over upstream manufacturing and processing of imports overseas, as well as the city-state’s lack of natural hinterland to harness renewable sources of energy.

The ministry also pointed out that the methodology employed by WWF deviated from internationally-accepted carbon accounting methodology of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where emissions embodied in imported goods are attributed to the exporting country instead.

“Given that the methodology in calculating carbon emissions is questionable and also takes no account of Singapore’s size and circumstances (for the reasons given above), the conclusion in the LPR 2014 that Singapore has the seventh largest per capita Ecological Footprint of the 152 countries studied is similarly mistaken,” said MEWR.

Related links

Lion City’s green ranking worsens Laura Elizabeth Philomin Today Online 7 Oct 14;

Read more!

Cats of St John's Island

SPH Razor AsiaOne 23 Oct 14;

Away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, St John's Island looks like tranquil place for a quick getaway. Particularly, it is a paradise for cats who laze and lounge in the sun all day.

Just a short boat ride away from the Marina South Pier, the former quarantine area is home to about a hundred stray cats. In fact, the moment you alight at the island's jetty, you'll be greeted by a very special welcome committee.

There are about five to six cat colonies on St John's Island and this is just one of them. Razor is here with about 35 cats at the local mosque on the island, and as you can see, they're very friendly and very used to human contact.

But as cute as they can be, too much of a good thing can become a problem.

A few years ago, the overpopulation problem here was brought to the attention of the SPCA. The food shortage and malnutrition issues which arose from the population boom caused a bigger problem - the cats here were more vulnerable to widespread diseases. So, the SPCA started a mass sterilisation programme in 2011 to keep the population at bay.

Corrine Fong, executive director of SPCA said, "When we first came in 2011, the island was over run by unsterilised cats. The problem of unsterilised cats is that you will see a population boom. Population in itself is not the biggest issue, the biggest issue is the transmission of cat diseases and so forth."

"Then with the population boom, you will have cats who are the stronger ones will survive. The weak ones will have to fight for food scraps. And death may occur due to malnutrition and malnourishment and so forth. What we want to do is to maintain the population so that there is enough food source to go around."

"We came in with the proposition that we will do TNR, which is Trap, Neuter, Release. Day one we will come here and trap all the cats that we can. The will be housed in a makeshift pre-op area, un-fed. Because fed cats will not be able to do well under anaesthesia. Out of the 15 we wanted to trap, we trapped about 10. The only way we recognised the sterilised cats from the unsterilised ones is by the ear tip."

"This morning, second day, the vets came to the island at about 9.30, we started setting up shop at 10 o'clock and surgery's started already."

"The animals will be patched up and put in post-op area and be observed. If everything is well, then tomorrow, we will leave a skeleton crew behind to release the cats. Now the cats will be tagged at the location where they were last caught, so the crew will transport them back to that location, feed them, and then release them back to the spot they were found."

"This being our seventh visit, we know now that the unsterilised ones have been reduced significantly because of the sterilisation programme. And this will definitely be the last visit to the island."

"We've asked the caretakers and the folks at AVA, that if they spot a pregnant cat or kitten to just bring it to us on the mainland. We'll sterilise them, return them to the island, and set them free here."

Mohd Salleh, a resident on St John's Island said, "My neighbour has about 20 cats. There are about 50-60 cats around this area, and more up the hills that I don't know about. Lazarus island has four to five."

"Every month my friend from the welfare organisation gives me one bag of cat food. Other than that I also buy my own."

"I used to spend about 60-70 dollars on cat food, and now I might even have to spend more. because I feed them, and they keep coming to my house. Because they know here got food."

"Although there were a lot of cats before, they are starting to decrease in number. Because if people find the cats pretty, they will come and take them. They'll even take away the cats that hang around my house. They mainly take away kittens."

"Because both islands have a lot of cats, at night some people might come and leave their cats there. That was in the 60s and 70s, but now no more. As fair as I know, I haven't seen any after that."

Corrine added, " On our previous visits, we found several purebred cats like Russian blues and Persians. We don't know where they're from, and the caretakers say they belong to them. But I suspect that they've been some dumpings here on the island. And I would advise breeders and owners to not dump cats on the island."

"No doubt St John's Island is also known as a cat colony, but when you introduce new unsterilised animals to the island, you create a lot of social and hierarchical problems within the colony. Do the right thing, don't dump your cats on the island."

On St John's Island, cats rule. And they are safe to live out the rest of their nine lives.

Read more!

Malaysia: Pact on transboundary haze with Indonesia soon

New Straits Times 24 Oct 14;

KUCHING: Malaysia and Indonesia are still discussing how to effectively tackle transboundary haze.

Department of Environment director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan said both countries were in the process of drafting a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to share expertise and data in efforts to tackle the problem.

“The MoU will enable both countries to share experience, information and expertise to find an amicable solution to the issue,” Halimah said after officiating the state-level Malaysian Environment Week and Environmental Quality Regulations Seminar 2014 here yesterday.

She said the MoU would focus on the prevention of open burnings and forest fires.

“We have urged our counterpart in Indonesia to take a more proactive stance. We have yet to be informed on the official date to sign the memorandum, but we hope it can be concluded soon.”

Several areas in Kalimantan, Indonesia, she said, had been identified as hotspots that had led to the recurrent haze, which also affected Sabah and Sarawak.

“Open burnings in the other side of the country have resulted in hot and dry weather in Sabah and Sarawak,” she said.

Read more!

Malaysia: Heavy rains bring fear of flood

New Straits Times 23 Oct 14;

JOHOR BARU: THE current rainy season is worrying the residents of Kampung Melayu Kedai Lima in Gelang Patah, here, as the village is flood-prone.

The flood woes have worsened with the proliferation of housing projects in the neighbourhood

They claim rapid development in the surrounding areas had caused their village area to be inundated each time it pours.

They also claim local authorities such as the Johor Baru Central Municipal Council was well aware of the residents’ predicament but had yet to come up with a solution to the problem.

Resident Azmi Badron, 51, said the family had to clean up the home after each flood, when the water would rise to ankle-level.

“It only takes an hour to flood the entire village. Although it is only up to the ankle, the cleaning up and removal of mud and silt are very tiring,” he said.

Azmi said the local council was aware of the problem but had not come up with long term measures to counter it.

Another resident Jesmi Din, 39, said the villagers had to rush each time to keep their belongings dry whenever rainwater started to flow into their homes.

“We have to move our furniture and electrical appliances above ground to prevent them from getting wet,” he said.

Housewife Salmah Atan, 49, said the worst flood happened exactly a year ago, when the water rose up to the knees.

“My car was filled with water and I had to fork out a lot of money to fix the damage,” she said.

Meanwhile, Nusajaya assemblyman Dr Zaini Abu Bakar said he would be speaking with the Johor Baru Central Municipal Council, Johor Drainage and Irrigation Department and Johor Public Works Department to resolve the flood woes.

“The problem is a longstanding one that needs a permanent solution,” he said.

Dr Zaini said he would call for a meeting between all the relevant agencies soon. “I will also ask the local district officer why there had not been any measures taken to mitigate floods in the area,” he said.

Read more!

Malaysia: Decline in sailfish numbers ‘worrying’

T.N. ALAGESH New Straits Times 24 Oct 14;

ROMPIN: EVERY year, hundreds of anglers from around the world will flock to Kuala Rompin here to participate in the offshore “catch and release” Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge (RPBIC).

However, the annual event could soon come to an end as sailfish, or scientifically known as “Istiophorus platypterus”, is in danger of extinction due to irresponsible trawler operators.

Known for its sail-like dorsal fin and pointed bill, the species has seen a noticeable decline in the east coast, where it is processed into keropok lekor (soft fish crackers) and fertiliser.

Pahang Tourism Ministry office director Edros Yahya said they had received complaints from anglers and boat operators about commercial fishermen, including foreigners, frequently landing the sailfish.

He said some of the complainants had submitted pictures of sailfish being loaded onto pick-up trucks and of fishermen arranging the dead fish.

“This is worrying as the species could be wiped out from our waters if this continues.

“A drop in sailfish numbers will jeopardise the tourism industry and RPBIC, which is listed as a qualifying round for the International Game Fish Association Offshore World Championship in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.”

Edros said the tourism sector raked in RM10 million annually from sailfish enthusiasts, including those who join the RPBIC .

Although the sailfish is not an endangered species, he hoped that more stringent measures could be taken to protect them.

Rompin member of parliament Tan Sri Jamaludin Jarjis had previously voiced his concern on the matter, while Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim was quoted as saying the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency would station its personnel in Kuala Rompin.

Boat operator Denis Lee said the authorities should step up efforts to protect the sailfish as without them, Kuala Rompin would suffer a drop in visitors and professional anglers. He added that the catch was 50 per cent lower compared with the previous year at the recent RPBIC.

Jason Lee, 45, of Mersing said the government should gazette a sailfish sanctuary or declare the fish a protected species.

According to him, boat operators here had already embarked on a nationwide campaign to save the sailfish.

Read more!

Vietnam moves to reduce demand for wildlife products

Vietnam News/Asia News AsiaOne 23 Oct 14;

HANOI - Viet Nam's rich biodiversity has made it a hub for illegal transportation of rare species and stronger efforts are needed to curb wildlife trafficking, experts said at a workshop that opened in Ha Noi on Tuesday.

The three-day workshop, jointly organised by CITES Viet Nam (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the US States Department, aims to find ways to reduce illegal trade in plant and animal products in the country.

Viet Nam's environment was extremely diverse, with 12,000 plant species and 1,600 mammals, birds and reptiles and other animals, making it a hotspot for illegal trade in rare flora and fauna, said Nguyen Ba Ngai, deputy head of the Viet Nam Forestry Administration under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Develoment.

In February this year, the Government ordered ministries and local authorities to step up legal measures as well as awareness campaigns to reduce the demand for wildlife products. It has also created a list of endangered species to be protected, the workshop heard.

Viet Nam has started modifying its penal code to include more severe punishments for wildlife trafficking and related crimes.

"Raising awareness and reducing the demand for wildlife products is an important instrument in the fight to protect wildlife in Viet Nam," Ngai said.

Viet Nam has made some headway in this regard.

For instance, the National Programme on Illegal Rhino Demand Reduction has demand for rhino-based products in Ha Noi by 77 per cent, according to CITES Viet Nam.

Other initiatives include the National Programme on Controlling Illegal Wildlife Trade, the Tiger Conservation Strategy and the National Plan for Elephant Conservation.

Read more!

Laos' hydropower dams draw criticisms from neighbours

Panu Wongcha-um Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 14;

VIENTIANE, Laos: Laos is building a series of hydropower dams as it wants to transform the country into the "battery of Southeast Asia". But this ambition has drawn criticisms from its neighbours due to concerns over the impact on fishing communities and the environment.

Hydropower is a major export for Laos. Two-thirds of electricity generated in the country is sold to its neighbours, mainly to Thailand.

There are plans for a massive expansion of the country's hydropower capacity over the next 15 years, from the current 3,200 megawatts to 12,000 megawatts. The surge will come from the building of more than 30 new dams from now till 2020. Twelve of these will be on the Mekong River.

Hydropower development is an important part of the Lao government's long-term economic strategy. But some dam construction projects have attracted criticisms from abroad. Critics say the building of some hydropower plants in Laos may have negative impact on the environment and affect communities living along the Mekong River, as well as in and outside the country.

Xayaburi dam - Laos' first Mekong River dam - has come under heavy scrutiny. Environmental groups say the dam could deplete fish supply and worsen river's water quality.

Thai farmers and fishermen living downstream from Xayaburi are legally challenging the US$3.5 billion project in a Thai court. The court proceeding has threatened to cut, or at least delay, the funding for the project.

Thai environmental activist Premrudee Daoroung said: "The biggest question is - where the benefit will go to. Will people get cheaper energy? Or do we have to pay for all the costs, including environment and livelihood."

Meanwhile, the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have questioned the construction of Don Sahong dam; the second Mekong River dam located in southern Laos.

Though construction for the dam has yet to start, observers say the planned 260-megawatt hydropower dam could significantly alter the fish migration pattern in Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake.

"Fishery is very important for our children, our grandchildren, and those who make a living in Tonle Sap. It is also important to others living nearby," said Long Sochet, a Cambodian environmental activist.

Aware of these criticisms, the Lao government says it is willing to make adjustments to their dams. But it insists that it will push ahead with the building of all the dams, as planned.

Laos' Vice Minister of Energy and Mines Viraphon Viravong said: "Despite the controversy surrounding the development of large scale dams, including those on the mainstream Mekong River, the Lao government will continue to develop every project within the international sustainability standard."

Laos remains one of the poorest countries in the world, and analysts say the development of its hydropower sector could help boost its economy in the long term. But the controversy remains as these dams will also affect the livelihood of millions and could change the region's ecosystem in years to come.

- CNA/al

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 23 Oct 14

Picnic At Upper Pierce Reservoir (22 Oct 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Albino plantain squirrel
from Bird Ecology Study Group

21/2014 – Segar Nature Trail (18 October 2014)
from Bugs & Insects of Singapore

Insights on the Circular Economy in Singapore
from Green Future Solutions

Demand for rhino horn drops 38 percent in Vietnam after advertising campaigns
from news by Jeremy Hance

Read more!

10 ideas to make Singapore more bike-friendly and walkable

Channel NewsAsia 22 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: In order to make Singapore a more friendly place for walking and biking, urban design and planning need to be focused on people, rather than automobiles which was prevalent in the past century, a new study revealed.

This fundamental change in how urban cities are designed is required in order to create a walkable, bikeable space, according to the study by Urban Land Institute and Centre for Liveable Cities, which was released on Wednesday (Oct 22).

The Creating Healthy Places through Active Mobility report offered 10 ideas to make cities more walkable, bikeable and people-friendly:

• Make walking and cycling convenient and efficient, integrating them into public transit systems

• Provide dedicated space for all forms of transportation

• Ensure high visibility at junctions to improve safety

• Maintain continuity of movement

• Keep motorised traffic slow in high pedestrian areas

• Make street-level crossings a priority

• Ensure consistency in design standards throughout the city

• Make walking and cycling paths comfortable and attractive (for example, shady trees help shield people from heat, sun and rain)

• Mix up the land uses adjacent to the routes; mixed-use developments are conducive to walking and cycling as an easy way to get from one place to another

• Close the loop with end-of-trip amenities such as shower facilities, lockers and bicycle parking

The study is the result of research that began in November 2013. The process involved engaging the community through two workshops in which participants from the private sector, Government and civic groups discussed perceptions, issues and ideas on active mobility in Singapore and sought to identify potential improvements. It also involved a cycling tour of Ang Mo Kio led by renowned Danish architect and urban designer Jan Gehl.

“The release of the ‘Active Mobility’ research study is the result of bringing together a diverse group of people to discuss land development issues within high-density cities,” said former ULI Singapore Chairman and AECOM Southeast Asia Vice President Scott Dunn, who worked with CLC representatives to prepare the report.

“Our hope is that the report will be used as a reference point for decision-makers in other tropical cities as well as other cities facing similar challenges,” he added.

- CNA/kk

Cycling should be viable transport option in Singapore: Khaw
Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 22 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan says cycling should be a viable transport option in Singapore for short trips to places like the supermarket, coffee shop, hawker centre or the nearest MRT station. For this to happen, such trips should be made safe and pleasant.

In a blog post titled "4 Wheels Good, 2 Wheels and 2 Feet Even Better" on Wednesday (22 Oct), Mr Khaw noted that Singapore is "quite walkable", with good pavements along most roads, pedestrian priority at traffic junctions and sheltered walkways.

"But we are not perfect. In fact, some cities, like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, have raised active mobility to a higher level. Walking and cycling as modes of transport have been honed to be the normal way of life. In these cities, they make up more than half of the modes of transport," he wrote.

"Bench-marked against them, we are way behind."

Cycling, he said, merely makes up one to two per cent of transport modes here. "We must now go beyond cycling for recreation," he added.

Mr Khaw highlighted initiatives such as the National Cycling Plan, which envisions a cycling network of 700km by 2030.

Next year, 100km of intra-town cycling paths in Yishun, Punggol and Bedok would have been developed. Eventually, all 26 public housing towns will have similar networks to connect homes to neighbourhood centres and MRT stations.

At the same time, the government is exploring bike sharing schemes, as well as increasing safety education programmes, such as the Safe Cycling Programme for Youth for secondary school students.

Mr Khaw's remarks came as the Centre for Liveable Cities and US-based Urban Land Institute on Wednesday launched a publication detailing recommendations to make Singapore more walkable and bicycle-friendly.

The strategies include integrating walking and cycling into public transport systems, installing amenities such as shower facilities, lockers and bicycle parking lots, and planting more trees to shield pedestrians and cyclists from the heat.

- CNA/by/xq

Read more!

Malaysia: Johor Forestry officers queried

HALIM SAID New Straits Times 23 Oct 14;

KOTA TINGGI: THE Johor Forestry Department is being probed over extensive illegal logging traced near a dam which is under construction.

After months of surveillance at the Seluyut Forest Reserve here, 26 Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission enforcers zoomed in on Tuesday, raiding a kongsi shared by about 20 foreigners who were involved in the activity.

The workers, who were here illegally, were handed over to the Immigration Department.

A man, in his 50s, who had been supervising the illegal immigrants, tried to bribe the officers with RM3,000 in cash on condition that the foreigners be freed. He, too, was arrested.

The MACC is now investigating several state Forestry officers for possible involvement in the illegal felling of trees which had put the forest reserve under threat of destruction.

MACC senior assistant commissioner Ruslan Che Ahmad, who led the operation, told the New Straits Times that MACC was tipped off by the public who claimed that the activity had been carried out extensively since several months ago.

“There were piles and piles of timbers found at the forest together with the presence of heavy machinery and vehicles.

“We want to know who had authorised the felling of forest trees in this protected zone.”

Initial investigations showed that a company was given a licence to clear the 39.94ha forest reserve to make way for the construction of the dam.

However, the company was believed to have defied the licensing conditions by starting the logging activity even before the approved date on Oct 15.

“We want to know whether the Johor Forestry Department is aware of what is taking place in the forest reserve and why no action has been taken so far.” said Ruslan.

Meanwhile, sources close to the MACC said at least eight enforcement officers, including Forestry rangers, were held in Sarawak to assist in their investigations into similar activities reported in several districts in the state.

It is understood that MACC may be making more arrests nationwide to put a stop to illegal logging activities.

Man caught in illegal logging claims trial to bribing police
New Straits Times 22 Oct 14;

KUCHING: A managing director of a plantation company claimed trial at the Special Court for Corruption here today for attempting to bribe a police officer who had caught him for committing illegal logging.

Ling Sing Ching, 50, was charged with corruptly offering RM2,000 to ASP Mohd Mazlan Mohd Ariff as an inducement for the latter not to take action against him.

The offence was allegedly committed at a restaurant at Lorong Lapangan Terbang here at 4.45pm on Sept 4 this year.

Judge Nixon Kennedy Kumbong allowed Ling bail of RM10,000 in one surety and set Nov 24 to 26 to hear the case.

Prosecuting officer from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Ikhwan Mohd Ibrahim prosecuted, while Ling was represented by lawyer Francis Wee.

In the same court, a 52-year-old police sergeant pleaded not guilty to a charge of accepting a RM1,500 bribe from a traffic offender.

Zainudin Samad, who is attached to the traffic branch of the Kota Samarahan district police, was accused of corruptly accepting the money from one Rano Paiman, whom had earlier being booked for careless driving. Kumbong ordered Zainudin to be released on bail of RM10,000 in one surety and set Nov 17 for hearing. Ikhwan also prosecuted in the case, while Zainudin was represented by counsel Abd Rahman Mohd Hazmi. - BERNAMA

Read more!

Will coal exports kill the Great Barrier Reef?

Jon Donnison BBC News 22 Oct 14;

"An icon under pressure." That was how Australia's Great Barrier Reef was described recently by the body that manages it.

Stretching along the Queensland coast, the reef is an underwater wonderland home to thousands of different fish and coral species. But it is facing multiple threats.

Swathes of coral have been killed by the crown-of-thorns, a starfish which has flourished partly because of fertilisers seeping into the sea from farm run-off.

Extreme weather has also damaged the reef, while increased carbon in the atmosphere has made the water too acidic, leading to coral bleaching.

Reef that was once blooming is now grey, crumbling and barren.

"It's never been worse," says David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology in Sydney. "There's been a slow but steady degradation of the reef. Around half the coral has been destroyed in the last few decades."

But environmentalists say there's another major threat: coal.

Queensland is Australia's biggest coal-producing state. Up and down the coast there are huge coal ports fed by kilometres-long trains that lumber in from the big mines inland.

The scale of the mining operation in Queensland is striking - and growing.

Great Barrier Reef
Stretches about 2,500 km (1,553 miles) along the eastern Queensland coast, covering an area the size of Great Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined.
Made up of a network of 3,000 individual reef systems, islands, islets and sandbars
Home to more than 1,500 different species of fish, 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of mollusc and hundreds of bird species.
Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the only living thing on earth visible from space.
A Unesco World Heritage site - Unesco is also considering listing it as endangered.
In July, the government approved a project that will lead to the creation of Australia's biggest coal mine in the Galilee Basin region of central Queensland.

The Carmichael Mine, owned by the Indian conglomerate Adani, will cover an area seven times the size of Sydney harbour.

When the A$16bn (£9.9bn; $16bn) project is developed, the plan is to export 60 million tonnes of coal each year to India, for 60 years.

The coal industry here believes India, with its massive and fast-growing population, is the new China.

"While the rest of the world demands our coal, we will supply it," says Michael Roche, chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council.

"If we don't, one of the other hundred countries around the world that produce coal will supply the coal."

Australia already exports around a million tonnes of coal every single day. A good proportion of it is shipped out through the Great Barrier Reef.

Looking out from the hilltop above the Hay Point Coal terminal near Mackay you can see more than a dozen huge coal ships queuing to pick up their cargo.

To accommodate those ships many of the coal ports are having to be expanded. Shipping channels are being dredged to make way for bigger boats.

The most controversial project is at Abbot Point, just north of the town of Bowen.

Earlier this year the government approved a plan to dredge the port, dumping thousands of tonnes of sediment at sea.

Environmentalists have been outraged, saying the sediment will further damage the reef.

"At dredging sites, we found more than twice as much coral disease than at our control sites," says Joe Pollock.

He is from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, which carried out the first study on the impact of dredging activity on the reef.

"Corals require both light and food to survive and unfortunately, dredging impacts corals on two fronts: increased turbidity (cloudiness in the water) means less light for photosynthesis, while increased levels of sediment falling onto the coral can interfere with their ability to feed."

Following pressure, the Queensland state government has now put forward a proposal to dump the dredged sediment from the Abbot Point project on land rather than at sea, although no final decision has yet been made.

The mining industry says the dangers are being overplayed, arguing far greater quantities of sediment are washed into the ocean naturally from Queensland's river system.

"Don't believe what some of the NGOs are saying," says Michael Roche of the Queensland Resources Council.

"The NGOs are putting out stories about the reef. They're not trying to save the reef. They're trying to stop the coal industry. It's a good emotional campaign to use in their campaign against hydrocarbons."

At the moment, it does not seem to be a campaign those NGOs are winning. The current government is a great champion of coal.

"Let's have no demonisation of coal," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said earlier this month as he opened the Caval Ridge coalmine in central Queensland.

"Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future, here in Australia and right around the world."

It is words such as this that have made Mr Abbott a hate figure for environmentalists.

David Hannan, one of the world's leading underwater cameramen, has been filming the reef for decades. He is also involved with a group campaigning to protect it, having witnessed the way it has changed.

"It's suicidal when you've got reef systems on the edge anyway, to be putting any more pressures on them. It's that simple."

People like Mr Hannan accuse the government of short-term thinking. What will happen when the coal runs out?

But coal has been hugely beneficial to Australia's economy. In Queensland alone, the industry invests around A$40bn a year and provides tens of thousands of jobs. If money talks, then coal will win.

The coal industry is clearly not the only factor having a negative impact on the reef.

But Unesco, the United Nations scientific, cultural and educational body, has already said the impact of coal export expansion could contribute to the Great Barrier Reef being classified as "endangered" on its list of World Heritage Sites.

"The science is clear," says Prof David Booth. "But the lack of uptake of science by the government here makes scientists feel impotent."

It's hard to imagine that a coal port could ever be beautiful. Yet looking out from Hay Point before dawn, the terminal's lights twinkle against the blackness of the sea.

But as the sun rises, the picture changes. Mountains of coal sit next to the azure waters that are home to the reef.

The next few decades could determine whether the two can continue to exist side by side.

Read more!