Best of our wild blog: 24 Jul 14

Dead fishes at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
from wild shores of singapore

29 Jul (Tue): Talk on "Singapore’s Overlooked Marine Biodiversity"
from wild shores of singapore

Quiet But Still Have Stuff To See @ Pulau Hantu
from colourful clouds

All at sea
from The Long and Winding Road

You’ve come to the Jong place
from Diary of a Boy wandering through Our Little Urban Eden

spotted black flatworm @ terumbu semakau - July 2014
from sgbeachbum

Congratulations to Nexia TS for their fine effort of removing of 4,500 marine trash items on Changi Beach!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Malaysia: Houses, cars thrashed as storm hits Malacca

New Straits Times 24 Jul 14;

MALACCA: A thunderstorm, which hit several districts of the state yesterday, damaged at least 100 houses and 10 vehicles when they were blown away or hit by trees which were uprooted by the strong winds and heavy downpour.

Durian Tunggal in Alor Gajah was worst hit by the 5.45am thunderstorm, but there were no casualties reported. Many of the occupants of the affected houses had just finished their sahur and were waiting to perform their morning prayers.

Durian Tunggal health clinic security guard Ramli Haron, who was patrolling, related how he took refuge in the toilet of his security booth when he saw a whirling storm pass him.

Poultry dealer Ngow Dou Fa, 48, said his whole house was damaged by the storm.

“I was getting ready for work when I heard a loud thunder and 10 minutes later, strong winds ripped my house apart. All my belongings were destroyed, including two cars and a motorcycle,” he said, adding that the estimated loss amounted to more than RM30,000. Ngow said this was the second time he encountered a storm. The first was in 1989.

SJKC Sin Wah in Durian Tunggal was also damaged, with 40 per cent of its roof ripped off.

Alor Gajah member of parliament Datuk Koh Nai Kwong said 117 houses were affected in Durian Tunggal, 18 of them badly damaged.

“We will source for aid to help those affected repair their damaged homes.”

In Melaka Tengah, uprooted trees caused minor damage to roads in several areas, including Kampung Lapan, Bukit Baru, Duyong, Bukit Beruang, Bachang and Cheng.

In Temerloh, Pahang, 200 families from 12 villages face a bleak Hari Raya after a freak thunderstorm on Tuesday evening wreaked havoc when it blew away roofs and damaged their belongings.

In the 6pm incident, described as one of the worst in recent years, two people were injured.

Temerloh district officer Datuk Taarif Abdul Rahman said 11 of the 228 affected homes were badly damaged.

He said 178 houses were damaged in Mentakab, 28 in Lanchang and 22 in Kuala Krau. Among the worst-hit villages were Kampung Batu Kapor, Kampung Sungai Buloh, Kampung Tanjong Kerayong, Taman Saga and Felda Jenderak Utara.

Tengku Mahkota Pahang Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who visited two villages here yesterday afternoon, promised the victims that the state government, Welfare department and Pahang Islamic and Malay Customs Council would provide immediate assistance.

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Malaysia: Haze API readings in Taiping and Ipoh unhealthy

The Star 24 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Two areas in Perak – Kampung Air Putih, Taiping, and SK Jalan Pegoh, Ipoh, – registered unhealthy air quality.

As of 1pm yesterday, the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading for Kampung Air Putih was recorded at 131 and SK Jalan Pegoh was recorded at 101.

This was an improvement from morning when three areas were found to have unhealthy air quality.

According to the Department of Environment, 33 areas recorded moderate API, including Pasir Gudang (62), Alor Setar (53), Sungai Petani (76), Nilai (58), Jerantut (57), Seri Manjung (88), Perai (69) and Bintulu (60).

An API reading of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; between 51 and 100 (moderate), between 101 and 200 (unhealthy), between 201 and 300 (very unhealthy) and over 301 (hazardous).

The public can refer to the department’s portal at to find out about the API reading for their areas. — Bernama

Good API readings recorded nationwide
EUNICE HO New Straits Times 24 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: All regions in the country recorded good and moderate Air Pollutant Index (API) reading as of 10am except for Seberang Jaya 2 in Perai.

According to the Department of Environment web site, the reading at 9am for Seberang Jaya 2 increased to 101 from its 7am reading of 98.

Seri Manjung continued to record moderate API of 76 at 10am, a slight increase from its 9am reading of 74.

Ipoh and Taiping recorded moderate API of 71 and 92 respectively as at 10am.

Firefighters battle blaze around Bukit Gasing jungle
NICHOLAS CHENG The Star 24 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Firefighters battled blazes in and around the Bukit Gasing jungle in a tiring five-hour operation.

City Fire and Rescue Department deputy director Azizan Ismail said the fire, believed to have been caused by dry weather, engulfed about a 3000sqm area of jungle near the Lembah Pantai Community Centre, Jalan Pantai Permai and Taman Bukit Angkasa.

Around 14 Fire and Rescue Department personnel and four firetrucks were dispatched at 10.19am Wednesday.

“The fire began at the foot of the hill and slowly razed everything uphill. Officers were forced to use ropes to haul the hoses and other equipment up to put out the fires.

“With their bravery and dedication, we successfully put out the fires at 3.30pm. An aerial check on the area confirmed that the fire had been extinguished,” he said.

The Department of Environment (DOE) said 4,385 open burning cases were recorded involving forests, agricultural areas, industry, construction, landfills and bushland last week, as the dry season is expected to continue until August.

The number of hotspots detected via images by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-18 satellite rose to 50 last weekend.

Taiping and Tanjung Malim recorded unhealthy Air Polutant Index (API) readings yesterday, while 33 areas around the country recorded moderate levels of air quality.

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Thailand: Situation in haze-stricken Yala improves

National News Bureau of Thailand 23 Jul 14;

YALA, 23 July 2014 (NNT)-The situation in haze-stricken areas continues to improve with no areas registering an unhealthy Air Pollutant Index.

Haze from forest fires on Indonesia's Sumatra Island has moved over Thailand's lower Southern Region.The haze has drifted over Yala from its origins in Sumatra in Indonesia.Wildfires are a frequent occurrence in Indonesia, and the lower portion of Thailand's southern region is frequently affected by the Indonesian haze, mostly in June to August every year.

The haze has caused reduced visibility and a large amount of dust. The predicted rains and a change of climatic conditions will help sweep away the haze. It is not yet affecting the public’s health.

The director of the Yala Office of Natural Resources and the Environment, Mr. Saman Satae said that the authorities had been keeping a watchful eye on the situation to maintain the safety of air quality. According to the Office of Natural Resources and the Environment, the area recorded a moderate particulate matter measurement. The measurement reading is categorized as only moderate, PM-10 which maintains the health-based national air quality standard.

However, villagers who are sensitive to the haze and those with allergies will likely suffer from physical irritations. Health masks should be used to cover the nose when out in the open. All health offices are encouraging people to put on damp masks in the more heavily dusty areas.

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U.S. scientists urge 'national vision' to curb coastal risks in report

Jonathan Kaminsky PlanetArk 24 Jul 14;

A group of top scientists has called for a fundamental change to how the United States deals with risks to its Atlantic and Gulf coasts from storms and climate change in a National Research Council report released Wednesday.

Urging a "national vision" toward addressing coastal risks, the report comes on the heels of a Reuters analysis published earlier this month showing that coastal flooding along the densely populated Eastern Seaboard of the United States has surged in recent years, with steep financial consequences.

The great majority of money - most of it federal dollars -spent on coastal risks goes toward recovery after a disaster rather than on planning for and mitigating against storms, climate change and sea-level rise, the report said.

Instead, the federal government should push for a national coastal risk assessment to identify best practices and uniform measures of progress, and move away from the current decentralized approach to coastal management, the report said.

Such a shift would help the U.S. "move from a nation that is primarily reactive to coastal disasters to one that invests wisely in coastal risk reduction and builds resilience among coastal communities," a statement accompanying the report said.

Since 2001, water has reached flood levels an average of at least 20 days per year in six eastern U.S. cities, including Atlantic City, New Jersey and Charleston, South Carolina - which has more than $200 million in flood-control projects underway, the Reuters analysis found.

The National Research Council study is part of a five-year effort to advise the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on scientific, engineering and water resources planning issues.

(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Beijing shuts big coal-fired power plant to ease smog

David Stanway PlanetArk 24 Jul 14;

Beijing has closed the first of four large coal-fired power plants set to be de-commissioned as part of the city's efforts to cut air pollution, official news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday, citing the local planning agency.

Xinhua said the authorities had shut down the Gaojing Thermal Power Plant's six 100 megawatt generating units. The plant is owned by the China Datang Corporation, one of China's big five state power firms.

In the face of growing public anger about persistent smog in the Chinese capital, the government has been under intense pressure to cut coal use and relocate industry.

Beijing's three remaining coal-fired power plants are all to be closed by the end of 2016.

The city is planning to reduce coal use by 2.6 million tonnes this year and a total of 9.2 million tonnes by the end of 2016, leaving its annual consumption at less than 10 million tonnes by 2017.

It plans to fill the gap filled by building new natural gas-fired power stations and bringing in electricity from other provinces.

The city is also introducing tougher new fuel standards. It said earlier this year it would draw up new plans to ease traffic, which may include a congestion charge.

Average readings of tiny airborne particles that are hazardous to health, called PM2.5, reached 91.6 micrograms per cubic meter in the first half of 2014, down 11.2 percent year on year, official data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection showed.

The figure stood at an average of 89.5 mcg per cubic meter last year, and Beijing plans to bring it down to 60 mcg by 2017.

In 2013, PM2.5 concentrations in 74 cities monitored by the Chinese authorities averaged 72 mcg per cubic meter, more than twice China's recommended national standard of 35 mcg.

The Beijing Municipal Research Institute on Environmental Protection said earlier this month that Beijing was likely to reach the recommended standard by 2030 at the earliest.

(Reporting by David Stanway)

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Great Barrier Reef contaminated by toxic coal dust, inquiry told

Coral reef expert says 'damning' report found coal dust had spread hundreds of kilometres from dredging sites
Australian Associated Press 23 Jul 14;

Activists protest under water on the Great Barrier Reef. Photograph: Dean Miller/Greenpeace/AAP
Coal dust has spread throughout the Great Barrier Reef and exceeds toxic levels near the shore, a Senate inquiry has heard.

Senators are touring Queensland this week to examine how the Australian and Queensland governments manage the reef, as Unesco threatens to list it as a World Heritage site in danger.

Professor Terry Hughes, of James Cook University, says a “damning” new report from the university shows coastal sediments offshore of the Hay Point coal port are contaminated with coal residues that exceed Australian guidelines.

Hughes, who is also the director of the Australian Research Council centre of excellence for coral reef studies, said the report also found coal dust had spread hundreds of kilometres from ports.

“It has now accumulated everywhere on the Great Barrier Reef, not just near dredging sites or near the ports themselves, and it is exceeding toxic levels in near-shore locations,” he told the inquiry, which sat in Townsville on Wednesday.

“I think this new evidence is sufficient that recently issued permits to undertake dredging should be revoked.”

Hughes said the environmental impact process – carried out by proponents during the planning stages of development – was “deeply flawed” and should be reformed.

He does not believe the impact of dredging is being addressed adequately and wants all projects banned within the marine park.

The Queensland Resources Council defended dredging projects when it gave evidence to the inquiry on Monday, including a three million cubic tonne project off Abbot Point, north of Hay Point.

Its chief executive, Michael Roche, said the impacts were localised and temporary, and would not affect the long-term health of the reef.

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Fremantle bans plastic bags and imposes fines of up to $2,500

West Australian council becomes the first in Australia to enforce a law banning single-use, non-biodegradable plastic bags
Brendan Foster in Fremantle 24 Jul 14;

The city of Fremantle will become the first local government in Australia to enforce a law to ban plastic bags.

The port city in Western Australia voted on Wednesday night to introduce a new law banning retailers from providing shoppers with single-use, non-biodegradable plastic bags.

Shop owners who ignore the laws will initially be fined $150; serial offenders could face a fine of up to $2,500.

The mayor of Fremantle, Brad Pettitt, said there was strong business and community support for outlawing plastic bags.

“The Fremantle community has long seen itself as a leader in environment issues and we hope this leadership will lead to a statewide ban in coming years,” he told the Guardian.

“In many ways you could see the Fremantle local law as a trial for the whole state.”

In January last year Fremantle tried to adopt a similar law, which Pettitt said “tripped up on a legal technicality around mandatory charges”.

The council wanted retailers to charge customers 10c to buy environmentally friendly bags, but the Liberal and National MPs in the upper house quashed the move arguing the council did not have authority to impose the charges.

Pettitt said the council scrapped the 10c fee after getting legal advice. “There is no legitimate reason to disallow the local law this time around,” he said.

The Western Australian Greens MP, Lynn MacLaren, said banning plastic bags in Fremantle was well overdue.

“It’s a testament to their genuine commitment that [Fremantle] persevered after being knocked back the first time,” she said.

“It’s time to eliminate this easily avoidable waste. It is good that the Fremantle council recognises that the community is environmentally conscious and happy to shift away from pollution habits that aren’t sustainable.”

MacLaren hoped plastic bags would eventually be outlawed in WA.

Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT have all banned them.

“South Australia is a great example. In 2009 the use of lightweight plastic bags was banned in the state with little fuss,” she said.

“Evidence from SA shows that banning plastic bags helps shift community attitudes to become more environmentally aware. Consumers bringing reusable bags jumped from around six in 10 to more than nine in 10 once the ban was implemented.”

The Fremantle Labor MP, Simone McGurk, said the ban on plastic bags was crucial for “preserving our natural environment”.

“Consumers want policymakers to reduce overall waste,” she said.

“There will be an adjustment period for consumers, but overall it’s a positive move.

“It’s also a good opportunity to see how it works in Fremantle, so it can be rolled out into other places.”

McGurk also wants to see plastic bags banished from the state.

In March 2012 the WA Liberal/Nationals knocked back Labor’s bill to ban plastic bags from supermarkets.

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Best of our wild blogs: 23 Jul 14

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve - Our Ailing Forest
from Mountain and Sea

The rarest of the three large herons of Singapore
from Life's Indulgences

Common Flameback feeding on rambutan
from Bird Ecology Study Group

NASA: Sumatra fires in the rise
from news by Rhett Butler

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Malaysia: Johor Port expansion may be affected by Forest City project

SHARIDAN M. ALI The Star 18 Jul 14;

THE country’s biggest and the world’s 16th largest transhipment terminal, Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP), may face difficulties in increasing berths beyond its phase 3 expansion plan due to reclamation works from the ambitious Forest City project near Tanjung Kupang, according to a source familiar with matter.

PTP, a 70% subsidiary of MMC Corp Bhd, is located at the west of the Forest City project in Johor.

According to previous media reports, the Forest City project is backed by the Johor royal family.

“Phase 3 of PTP’s expansion plan will see an additional three berths that will increase the terminal’s annual handling capacity to between 13 million and 14 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from the present 10 million TEUs, which will be completed in two years’ time.

“Beyond this, the port would have problems in expanding as the Forest City project is lapping over the concession area of PTP. This may result in loss of competitiveness for the port against the massive expansion plan by ports in Singapore,” he tells StarBizWeek.

It has been reported that the project developer, China’s Country Garden Holdings, planned to raise a 2,000ha man-made island in the strait to build luxury homes over the next 30 years. Its partner in the project is Johor state company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

It is also reported that a strip sandbank stretching from the mangrove swamps in the south of Johor Baru to the middle of the narrow Johor Strait can be seen from the Second Link some 2km away.

The sandbank is supposedly the first part of this massive project and will be expanded into a 49ha island, roughly the size of 70 football fields.

According to news reports, PSA Singapore Terminals continues to boost capacity via phase 3 and 4 of its Pasir Panjang Terminal. The development will add 15 new berths and nearly 19,700 ft of quay at drafts of up to 59 ft, taking total port capacity to more than 50 million TEUs units per year by 2020, up from its capacity of 35 million TEUs now.

Navigation of vessels

This concern has been raised by certain interested parties, but Johor Port Authority (JPA) in a news report said that coastal reclamation works would not affect the navigation of vessels in the waterway.

JPA general manager Muhammad Razif Ahmad was quoted as saying that all port operations were going on as usual and no vessel operators had reported obstacles caused by reclamation work along the straits.

“There have been no reports that port operations at the PTP, Pasir Gudang Port and Port of Tanjung Langsat are affected,” he said recently.

It is also alleged that reclamation works could increase the sedimentation and eventually raise the height of seabed leading to PTP.

PTP in 2012 embarked on a RM1.4bil expansion programme to cater to the new-generation 18,000 TEU vessels.

PTP has managed to entice Maersk Line to make the port as its regional transhipment hub, moving away from Singapore in 2009, where it also owns 30% of PTP through its port unit APM Terminals.

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Malaysia: Forest City project will not damage ecosystem - Firm

MOHD FARHAAN SHAH The Star 23 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU: The huge Forest City project that will be taking shape off Tanjung Kupang, near here, will not damage the ecosystem between Malaysia and Singapore, state company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor Sdn Bhd (KPRJ) said.

Before the reclamation works for the man-made island started, Country Garden Pacific View (CGPV) had conducted several tests on the possible environmental impact to the surrounding areas, said Datuk Md Othman Yusof, executive vice-chairman of KPRJ, one of the stakeholders in CGPV.

“We appointed a consultant to carry out hydraulic works to see whether the island will affect the water currents in the designated area.

“The test results proved Forest City will not have a negative impact on the environment,” he told a press conference at the KPRJ office in Danga Bay here yesterday.

“Furthermore, the first phase of the reclamation work is for a 49ha to build our showroom,” he said.

The 2,000ha project – expected to involve the biggest man-made island in the region with a size larger than Pangkor Island – had also raised eyebrows across the causeway.

The Singapore government was reportedly perturbed over the project, which would take three decades to complete, because of the massive reclamation involved.

Furthermore, Singapore said there were international obligations that both countries had to be concerned about.

At around the same time, the Department of Environment (DOE) issued a temporary stop-work order on the reclamation works, pending a detailed study.

RM600 billion Forest City to bring positive impact to locals
CHUAH BEE KIM New Straits Times 22 Jul 14;

JOHOR BARU: The RM600 billion Forest City development will bring more positive impact than negative ones to the people of Johor.

Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) executive vice chairman Datuk Md Othman Yusof told a press conference here today that the development will bring direct and indirect returns to the state government which will then channel it to the local folk.

Md Othman said the taxes paid by those who occupy the man-made island will be used to build low-cost houses in suitable areas in Johor.

He said the project will also not affect the sea ports, namely, Port of Tanjung Pelepas but complement it.

Property values in the surrounding areas like Gelang Patah will also increase.

However, the stopwork order on reclamation works after several issues were raised had not only caused the developer Country Garden Property View to suffer financial loss, it may also shake the investors' confidence.

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360 volunteers go on litter-picking mission in Bedok

Amelia Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Jul 14;

Joining the volunteers yesterday was Dr Balakrishnan, who said people need to change their attitude that “someone will pick up after me”.

Just two years ago, it would be easy to spot cigarette butts, used tissue paper and empty food packets in parks and at the foot of HDB blocks in Bedok.

But Bedok is much cleaner now, thanks to residents and grassroots leaders who roam the neighbourhood regularly to pick up trash. Yesterday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan joined one of these litter-picking efforts in Bedok at an event called "Operation WE Clean Up!".

More than 360 volunteers from schools and other groups took part in the exercise held by the Public Hygiene Council, the Singapore Kindness Movement and the Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement.

They collected about 120kg of garbage after combing through the neighbourhood for an hour.

Speaking to reporters on the event's sidelines, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore may have gained a worldwide reputation for being a clean city, but it can do much more to improve.

One thing that needs to change, he said, is the "someone will pick up after me" attitude.

Dr Balakrishnan said he saw a man throwing a cigarette butt even as volunteers were picking up rubbish around him yesterday morning.

"He did not seem to care. This attitude has to change," he added. Public Hygiene Council chairman Liak Teng Lit agrees.

He recently saw Singaporeans throwing out litter from their cars at a multi-storey carpark in a new estate.

"I saw young, educated couples who did not care that they were littering the ground by throwing out large pieces of rubbish," he said. Yesterday, the council also introduced a litter picking toolkit, which includes trash bags and wet wipes.

It will be distributed during other litter-picking events held this year.

The council is not alone in its efforts to keep Singapore clean.

Anti-littering volunteer group Waterways Watch Society organised a competition to get Singaporeans to submit photographs of the dirtiest places here earlier this year.

Bedok Citizens Consultative Committee chairman Chia Ngiang Hong said community-led anti-littering activities work. "Residents feel bad and stop when they see their neighbours cleaning up their trash," he said.

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