Best of our wild blogs: 24 Feb 18

Strategic Environmental Assessments — A Holistic Approach to Urban Sustainability

Biodegradable plastic signifies false hope for threatened Mediterranean seagrass community
The Dorsal Effect

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Indonesia: Agency eyes restoration of 140 thousand hectares of Riau`s peatlands

Antara 23 Feb 18;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Peatland Restoration Agency has targeted to restore a total of 140 thousand hectares of peatland areas in Riau Province this year, or an increase of over 400 percent than that in the previous year.

"We had restored a total of 27 thousand hectares of peatland areas last year. For this year, we have targeted to restore 140 thousand hectares of peatlands," Nazir Foead, the agency`s head, noted at a meeting with the Riau provincial government`s representatives here on Friday.

Foead expressed optimism that the target would be achieved owing to the involvement of various teams, including those from the Riau Peatland Restoration Agency and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

"I believe we can accomplish the target," he emphasized, adding that this year, Rp49.5 billion had been allocated for rewetting the peatland areas in Riau Province, or is higher than that of last year.

Riau, one of the provinces in Sumatra Island prone to forest and land fires, has some 4.8 million hectares of peatlands. However, the agency has targeted to restore 900 thousand hectares of peatland areas in Riau.

Last year, the Peatland Restoration Agency had assisted 75 villages and urban villages spread across seven targeted provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and Papua.

In order to support the restoration program, the agency has build several infrastructure, such as by drilling wells and building canals in the provinces of Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, and South Kalimantan.

A total of over 200 thousand hectares of peatland areas located outside those owned by plantation companies had been rewet, he added.

Reported by FB Anggoro

Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Indonesia: Tapir dies after falling into well

Antara 24 Feb 18;

Jambi, Jambi Province (ANTARA News) - A Tapir has reportedly died during treatment after being rescued from a well in which it was stuck for a day.

The well belonged to a citizen of the Muntialo village in West Tanjungjabung subdistrict of the Jambi province.

The Tapir reportedly died on early Thursday morning due to respiratory failure as he was stuck in the muddy well for a long time. "We evacuated the Tapir and treated it for one night but it could not be saved," Head of Section III Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Hall, Faried, said on Friday.

The adult male Tapir had been evacuated to the Taman Rimba Jambi zoo after being rescued from the well to receive treatment.

"Initially, our plan was to release it back in the wilderness after it recovered but Tapirs are sensitive and require special attention. We did not get the chance to release it," he added.

The Tapir weighed nearly 100 kg and had come from the protected peat forest in the Bram Itam area, he added. Tapirus Indicus, according to the listed status, is a rare and endangered animal. It has also been included in the red list of species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

In Indonesia, international trade of Tapir is prohibited, as per the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

Reported by Dodi Saputra
Editor: Heru Purwanto

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Study to challenge claim Indonesia second-biggest marine polluter

Moses Ompusunggu The Jakarta Post 23 Feb 18;

A top Indonesian marine scientist has said that Indonesia is planning to conduct a large-scale research study aimed at challenging international findings that the world’s largest archipelago nation is the world’s second-largest marine polluter.

"Many parties have said Indonesia's seas have been polluted by plastic and other [materials]. We want to determine whether this is accurate," said Dirhamsyah, who heads the Center of Oceanography Research at the government-sanctioned Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI).

Various studies indicate Indonesia is the second-biggest polluter of marine plastic debris worldwide after China. International parties like the United Nations have also pressured Indonesia to take stern action to deal with the plastic littering its seas on the back of its effect on sea ecosystems like coral reefs.

Indonesia's status as one of the biggest marine polluters on Earth was also highlighted in the UN's maiden Ocean Conference in New York last June.

A study published in the journal Science in January estimates that there were more than 11 billion pieces of plastic debris in coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific region. Surveying more than 150 coral reefs in Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Australia between 2011 and 2014, the study found reefs near Indonesia were littered with the most plastic, while the lowest concentration was found in Australia.

"People can say they accept or reject the results. But I personally don't really believe [the findings]," Dirhamsyah said, referring to the January study.

Reza Cordova, a LIPI marine scientist and lead researcher of the institution's upcoming study, said LIPI was trying to fill in the gaps in the data on marine debris in Indonesia's seas. The Indonesian government has yet to record official data on the matter. Most of the data, he said, came from outside parties like NGOs.

LIPI will begin gathering data for the study at the end of this month. It has identified around 20 locations in the country where sampling will take place. Eight universities across Indonesia and relevant agencies will help the institution conduct the study.

Researchers will focus on at least one seashore area in each of the 20 sampling sites, which are located in 16 provinces. In each seashore, researchers will use 50-100 m2 transects in three different locations to calculate the weight of and amount of debris in each transect.

The sampling will be conducted once a month, especially during full moons when high tides are expected to bring in more debris from the sea to the seashore. Reza said the results from the 20 locations could be used to calculate a nationwide estimate.

The method had never been used before, Reza claimed, adding that the institute was open to collaborating with NGOs to verify the sampling process.

Reza said it would take at least 12 months for his team to conclude the study, which he expected to be the basis for the country's effort to combat the problem of marine debris.

"From the study, we can give suggestions to the government on regions in Indonesia that need specific attention,” said Reza.

Globally, plastic debris is a major threat to coral reef ecosystems, apart from blast fishing by fisherfolk and coral bleaching caused by rising sea temperatures due to global warming.

Coral reefs are important for coastal communities because they help boost tourism and provide protection from waves and storms. More importantly, they also act as key spawning and nurturing grounds for fish and other sea creatures.

Plastics entering the sea carry pollutants and can be a magnet for harmful bacterial, which could lead to diseases in coral reefs entangled in the debris.

"Plastic is a silent killer for sea creatures," Reza said.

Andi Rusandi, director of marine conservation and biodiversity at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, welcomed LIPI's initiative, saying it could help the government in its sea conservation efforts.

"As the study will calculate the amount of marine debris in Indonesia, it will help the government to take a step forward," Andi said. (ahw)

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Taiwan to ban disposable plastic items by 2030

AFP Yahoo News 22 Feb 18;

Taipei (AFP) - Taiwan is planning a blanket ban on single-use plastic items including straws, cups and shopping bags by 2030, officials said Thursday, with restaurants facing new restrictions from next year.

It is the latest push by Taiwan to cut waste and pollution after introducing a recycling programme and charges for plastic bags.

The island's eco-drive has also extended to limiting the use of incense at temples and festivals to protect public health.

Its new plan will force major chain restaurants to stop providing plastic straws for in-store use from 2019, a requirement that will expand to all dining outlets in 2020.

Consumers will have to pay extra for all straws, plastic shopping bags, disposable utensils and beverage cups from 2025, ahead of a full ban on the single-use items five years later, according to the road map from the government's Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).

"We aim to implement a blanket ban by 2030 to significantly reduce plastic waste that pollutes the ocean and also gets into the food chain to affect human health," said Lai Ying-ying, an EPA official supervising the new programme.

According to Lai, a Taiwanese person on average uses 700 plastic bags annually. The EPA aims to reduce the number to 100 by 2025 and to zero by 2030.

The government has already banned free plastic shopping bags in major retail outlets including supermarkets and convenience stores, expanding the move to smaller businesses including bakeries and drinks kiosks from this year.

The island started recycling plastic and pushing to reduce single-use plastic items more than a decade ago.

Last year, nearly 200,000 tonnes of plastic containers were recycled, the EPA said.

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Britain and Europe must ban palm oil in biofuel to save forests, EU parliament told

Forest peoples affected by plantations urge EU to enact ban despite diplomatic opposition
Jonathan Watts The Guardian 23 Feb 18;

If Britain and other European nations are to fulfil forest protection goals, they must ban the use of palm oil for biofuel and tighten oversight of supply chains, a delegation of forest peoples told parliamentarians this week.

The call for urgent, concrete action comes amid an increasingly heated diplomatic row over the issue between the EU and the governments of major palm-producing nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Costa Rica.

The European parliament voted last April to prohibit sales of biofuels made from vegetable oils by 2020 in order to meet its climate goals. This was followed by a related vote last month. Whether and how this might be implemented is now being considered by the European Commission and member states.

The pushback has been strong, particularly in south-east Asia, the origin of 90% of the world’s palm oil exports, which is used in hundreds of supermarket products. Palm oil can also be blended with diesel to power engines, which is what the ban would halt.

Influential politicians in these countries, many of whom are closely linked to the industry, accuse the EU of trade protectionism, colonial thinking and undermining poverty reduction efforts. Malaysia’s plantations minister described the proposed ban as “crop apartheid.”

But indigenous and other communities who are negatively affected by the plantations urge the EU to push ahead with the ban and to go further by tightening other supply chain controls to prevent damage to their land, rights and environment.

Franky Samperante, a founder of the indigenous peoples’ organisation Pusaka, said the Indonesian government had granted concessions to more than 50 companies to open plantations on 1.2m hectares of land claimed by local communities. For him, any palm oil from this area should be considered a conflict product and prohibited from sale in Europe.

“There should be sanctions. If not, there is no point,” he said.

Samperante is part of a group of 14 forest peoples representatives from 11 nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America visiting Europe this week to lobby for a new action plan on sustainable supply chains.

The delegation proposed concrete steps, including for European nations to establish sustainable trade ombudsmen to look into reports of human rights and environmental violations, and for companies to adopt binding human rights policies rather than voluntary actions. Their call was supported by a coalition of environmental NGOs including the Forest People’s Programme, Global Witness, Greenpeace, WWF and the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Tom Griffiths, the author of a report on rights and deforestation, said lofty goals to protect forests were being undermined by a failure to protect the rights of those who live in them.

“There are so many pledges and commitments by companies and government that sound good on paper, but the reality on the ground is starkly different,” he said. “At the meetings this we, they are all saying close the gap.”

Their recommendations will be presented at a multilateral meeting in Paris in June, when the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is expected to launch his strategy for “deforestation-free trade”.

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Best of our wild blogs: 23 Feb 18

Mangroves = Chilli Crab!
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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Ultraviolet radiation in Singapore hit highest 'extreme' level of 15 twice in a week

Ng Huiwen Straits Times 22 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE - Slather on some sunscreen or seek shade in the afternoon, as the ultraviolet radiation level in Singapore has recorded "extreme" readings this week, reaching the highest of 15 on Monday (Feb 19).

On that day, the one-hour average UV Index of 15 was recorded at 1pm and 2pm, according to the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS).

This is not the first time Singapore has hit the highest value of 15 on the index. This was also seen at 2pm last Tuesday, as well as at 1pm on both Sept 8 and 17 last year.

However, it is not uncommon for the index to hit extreme levels for several hours during the day.

The UV Index - an international standard measurement of the level of UV radiation exposure - ranges from 0 to 11+ and is grouped into various exposure categories, from low to extreme.

Extra protection against sunburn is needed when the value hits "very high" levels of between 8 and 10, and "extreme" levels of 11 and above, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA) website.

The reading on Monday was first spotted by a netizen, who posted about it on online forum Reddit, firing a discussion among many Singaporeans.

Some of them pointed out instances during the day where they had felt the heat,while others raised concerns about the harmful effects of UV radiation.

Said a Reddit user: "Was wondering why it felt like a sauna in my house. Usually it's really cool here. Was out in direct sunlight for 5 minutes today and it was already too much."

Earlier this month, MSS said that Singaporeans can expect drier and warmer weather, following a mostly cool and wet January.

Some warm days can be expected in the second half of the month, with the daily maximum temperature possibly reaching a high of around 34 deg C, according to MSS' fornightly weather outlook.

On most days, the daily maximum temperature is forecast to be around 32 deg C or 33 deg C, while the daily minimum temperature is expected to range between 23 deg C and 24 deg C.

In response to queries by The Straits Times, an MSS spokesman explained that the weather on Monday had been fair with little cloud cover in the early afternoon.

Over the past two weeks, some of the highest UV Index values recorded included 12 last Friday (Feb 16), 13 last Saturday and Sunday, 15 on Monday and 14 on Tuesday.

The readings were recorded between 11am and 3pm.

The spokesman said that the UV Index varies with factors such as time of day and time of year, latitude (proximity to the Equator), altitude and cloud cover.

Countries near the equator are exposed to higher levels of solar UV radiation.

In Singapore, it is common for the index to reach extreme levels during a four-hour period from 11am to 3pm, when the sun intensity peaks and UV radiation is strongest.

"Under less common conditions when the skies are clear or almost cloud free, more UV radiation can reach the earth's surface," added the spokesman.

According to the NEA website, February is also among the months of the year when the average daily maximum UV Index hovers at "very high" levels. It is an average of 9 in February.

Excessive exposure to solar UV radiation can result in harmful effects to the skin and eyes, the spokesman said.

According to MSS, here are some protective measures to take to minimise the effects if you are out in the sun, especially between 11am and 3pm when the UV index levels are highest:

Use sunscreen (at least SPF 30)
Use an umbrella and seek shade
Wear sunglasses that block UVA/UVB rays
Wear a broad-brimmed hat
More information on factors that affect UV radiation is available here.

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S$5 per tonne tax rate ‘fair amount’ to pay for greenhouse gas emissions: Masagos

SIAU MING EN Today Online 23 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE – The initial carbon tax of S$5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions imposed on large emitters is a “fair amount”, and was decided after considering the industry’s compliance costs, among other factors, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli on Thursday (Feb 22).

The initial tax rate will also help affected businesses transit into the carbon tax regime, and give them time to adjust and comply, said Mr Masagos, who spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the opening of a green classroom at Bukit View Secondary School.

In his Budget speech in Parliament on Monday, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that large carbon emitters who produce 25,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gases annually will be taxed S$5 for each tonne of emissions from next year to 2023. This will be increased to between S$10 and S$15 by 2030.

The carbon tax will apply to about 30 to 40 of the largest emitters in the power generation, petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors, which account for about 80 per cent of Singapore’s emissions.

Mr Masagos said they had consulted the industry and arrived at the S$5 per tonne rate, which is lower than the S$10 to S$20 rate first announced by the authorities last year. They also wanted to make sure that the cost of compliance is comparable to the tax they will have to pay.

The businesses had also asked the authorities to be transparent about the tax rates in the long run, among other reasons, which is why they have set a flat carbon tax rate that will apply to all sectors, with no exemptions, he noted.

“We took into account that these companies need to transit into the future where they will need time to change their processes, improve their emissions, so that when the tax actually takes place at a higher rate… they (would) already have reduced (their) emissions,” he added.

Businesses will also need time to comply with the requirements under the carbon tax regime, as well as to adjust to them during this period of transition, he said.

“I think by giving them five years to adjust and also getting used to the compliance regiment of this carbon tax, S$5 is a fair amount to put to our companies,” said Mr Masagos. In jurisdictions where there is a high carbon tax, he noted that exemptions are also made for certain industries where the tax rates are lowered such that it is no longer as effective.

While there is concern about the projected carbon tax rates after 2030, Mr Masagos said that timeline is still “too far away”. Reiterating that companies will pay between S$10 and S$15 by 2030, he added that this is “depending on many factors, including competitiveness as well as the level playing field we will like to see around.”

When asked if more regular and detailed data on Singapore’s emissions,including those of individual emitters, will be published, Mr Masagos said the carbon pricing bill has to be passed in Parliament so that the authorities can get a clearer picture of how much greenhouse gas each large emitter produces and how to nudge them to do better.

In the draft carbon pricing bill released for public consultation last October, large emitters will have to register themselves as a taxable facility. The National Environment Agency will determine the number of carbon credits they have to surrender based on the emissions report they submitted for that year, which must be verified by an independent third party.

Such data will not be released publicly but the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) will continue to release key environmental statistics annually.

For instance, the most recent publication last year showed Singapore’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions for 2014 and 2015, which were recorded at about 50 million and 51.4 million carbon dioxide-equivalent tonnes respectively.

There is a more comprehensive emissions report published in 2012, which was submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change two years ago. Updated figures will be released at the end of this year.

Dr Sanjay Kuttan, programme director at Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Energy Research Institute, said more data on Singapore’s emissions will help with innovation, where specific innovation can be targeted at areas or processes that can be more efficient.

Associate Professor Toh Mun Heng from the National University of Singapore Business School said the amount of information to be made publicly available has to be balanced between allowing businesses to remain competitive, and to be accountable to the public.

Given that the large emitters will have to submit more of such data to the authorities, the Government has to be the “honest broker” to monitor the emitters’ emissions levels and their impact on the environment and the public, he added.

Carbon tax of S$5 per tonne of greenhouses gases to give companies time to adjust: Masagos
Deborah Wong Channel NewsAsia 22 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE: The Government decided to impose a carbon tax of S$5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, instead of the previously announced range of between S$10 and S$20, so as to give affected companies time to adjust, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said on Thursday (Feb 22).

“We considered a few things,” he said. “Number one: To make sure that the cost of compliance is comparable to the tax being paid. We impose it only on the highest greenhouse gas emitters. This means that to cut off at 80 per cent of the total emission, about 40 companies will be affected by this.”

On the decision to implement flat rates without exemptions, Mr Masagos said: “These companies also ask us to be transparent, to know what the rates will be like in the long term as well as to make it simple so compliance costs are not difficult. Because of that, we made the rates flat."

Mr Masagos was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the launch of JOULES Smart Centre, a green classroom at Bukit View Secondary School.

The centre will be used for the school's environmental classes, as well as other events and functions.

The school also plans to use the JOULES Smart Centre to help senior residents in the neighbourhood learn to use electronic devices.

The centre itself uses sustainable products, such as tables made from repurposed pallets, and a thermal air conditioning system that harnesses solar and ambient heat to reduce electricity.

It has an indoor green wall that purportedly gives better air quality and reduces noise levels by absorbing acoustic energy.

The Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC), which had a hand in building the JOULES Smart Centre, said it hopes to use the facility to make the case for greener, healthier classrooms.

“Green building should not be adopted by just the building and construction industry alone,” said the council's president Tan Swee Yiow. "Research has shown that Green Mark-certified buildings are not only better for the environment, but also have positive effects for the building occupants.”

BVSS has a strong focus on sustainability education. Its students attend a four-year enrichment programme, where they learn about key environmental issues and developments, how to build a solar car, as well as coding.

Source: CNA/aa

$5-per-tonne carbon tax is fair on companies, says Masagos
Samantha Boh Straits Times 22 Feb 18;

SINGAPORE - Getting large carbon emitters to pay $5 for every tonne of greenhouse gases they generate is a "fair" way to start a compliance regime, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said on Thursday (Feb 22).

From next year till 2023, all facilities producing 25,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gas emissions a year will be taxed $5 per tonne of emissions - significantly lower than the $10 to $20 per tonne envisioned last year.

However, the Government will review the tax rate in 2023, and eventually increase the carbon tax to between $10 and $15 per tonne by 2030.

He called the initial $5 per tonne a "fair amount", which gives the affected 30 to 40 companies - which contribute 80 per cent of Singapore's greenhouse gas emissions - time to "adjust and also get used to the compliance regime"

"They will need time to change their processes and improve their emissions" he said.

He added that the transition period will allow the affected companies - mainly from the petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors - to be better placed to comply with the higher tax rates to be imposed by 2030.

Mr Masagos was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Bukit View Secondary View, where he launched a new green classroom comprising various eco-friendly features, including a green wall - covered in plants - and motion-activated fans.

A carbon tax is a common tool used to control the amount of earth-warming greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

About 67 countries and jurisdictions, including China, the European Union and Japan, have implemented or announced plans to implement such a scheme. They aim to encourage companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency.

Households here could see their total electricity and gas expenses increase by 1 per cent on average due to the carbon tax, which will be offset by additional Utilities-Save rebates.

Asked how companies can be made accountable, Mr Masagos said it is necessary to pass a carbon tax act which will require companies to submit data on their greenhouse gas emissions, and which will impose stricter requirements on large emitters such as an audit report that confirms their data.

"By doing so we will have a better grasp of how much each of these industries and companies emit and therefore have an idea of how we can then nudge (them) to do better," he said.

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said there are no plans to make individual company emissions data public.

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Indonesian official warns of forest and plantation fires threat to Asian Games

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 23 Feb 18;

JAKARTA - The Asian Games could be threatened if forest and plantation fires are not addressed early, an Indonesian disaster management agency official has been quoted as saying.

The Games taking place between Aug 18 and Sept 2 are, for the first time, being co-hosted by two Indonesian cities - Jakarta, the capital, and Palembang, in Sumatra.

The Sumatra-based disaster management official warned that fires, if not addressed early, could spread and become difficult to control, national television Indosiar reported.

Mr Edwar Sanger, head of Riau's disaster management agency, was speaking on Wednesday after news broke that four provinces - Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan - were on disaster alert because of a rising number of hot spots within their boundaries.

"With the disaster alert being declared, we could better coordinate work with the military, police, local governments and seek help. I will indeed report immediately to the headquarters to send in helicopters for water bombing and aircraft for cloud-seeding," he told Indosiar.

Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for BNPB, the national disaster management agency, disclosed the alert status, which means that the government in Jakarta will now be now able to intervene easily and with less red tape to deal with the fires, including deploying troops and providing logistics and funds.

Four Indonesian provinces, including Riau, declare disaster alerts for forest fires
On Thursday, there were a total of 15 hot spots across the country, with only two recorded on Sumatra. Nine were in Kalimantan in Borneo and the remaining four on Java island. The figures represent a sharp drop from the day before when 78 hot spots were recorded throughout the archipelago.

The hot spots on Wednesday in Riau province - which is close to Singapore - were located in Indragiri Hilir, Bengkalis and Pelalawan. More than 500ha were affected and some residents exposed to choking haze, Indosiar, citing Mr Edwar, reported.

Pekanbaru, Riau's capital, however, has so far been spared.

Mr Patrick Tampubolon, an information officer at the Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in the provincial capital, said that visibility was recorded at 10km at 1pm, well above the distance required for any plane to take off or land.

"In fact Tuesday morning we had rain that lasted a short while, and in the evening more rain fell for longer," Mr Patrick told The Straits Times via telephone. "In the past week, we saw a total of three days of rain," he added.

The peatlands of Riau province are by far the most extensive in Sumatra, accounting for more than 50 per cent of the total on the island. The fragile, flammable peatlands are a major source of the choking annual haze that has blighted the region in the last two decades.

In 2015, six of the 14 districts and cities in Riau recorded hazardous PSI levels for extended periods. Malaysia and Singapore also suffered as a result of the raging forest and plantation fires in Indonesia

Indonesian provinces located near the equator are now in their first phase of the dry season, which usually runs from early in the year to March. The rainy season then sets in for these provinces in March and lasts until May, before another, more intense dry season from June to September.

Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) on Wednesday said the likelihood of transboundary haze affecting Singapore was currently assessed to be low.

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Indonesia: Polluted air from fires starts to affect Riau residents

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 22 Feb 18;

Air quality in Dumai regency, Riau has worsened, with the latest air quality index showing a moderate level of pollution resulting from recent fires in surrounding peatland, an official has said.

Dumai Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Tengku Ismed said pollutant particles in the air had increased.

“The PSI level stands at 43,” Tengku said Wednesday, referring to the pollutant standard index. He added that the level stood at 27 on Feb 15.

Tengku said the fires had affected land in West Dumai, South Dumai, East Dumai, Sungai Sembilan, Bukit Kapur and Medang Kampai.

Tengku said his agency would take measures to prevent air quality from worsening.

“We do not want it [the air pollution] to disrupt two major events: the Asian Games and the regional elections,” he said.

Dumai is nearly 1,000 kilometers away from Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra, which will cohost the quadrennial sporting event in August. Riau will also hold a regional election in June.

Tengku claimed that this year’s fires were less severe than those in 2015 and 2016, when fires decimated vast areas. In 2017, the agency reported that the fires affected 64 hectares.

Tengku attributed the cause of the fires to the dry season.

Meanwhile, Riau BPBD head Edwar Sanger said worsening air quality was also reported in the province’s other regencies, such as Rokan Hilir and Kampar.

On Wednesday morning, the Riau Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) spotted three hot spots in Bengkalis, Rokan Hilir and Siak.

“Rain is helping us put out the fires,” said Slamet Riyadi of Riau BMKG . (gis/dmr)

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Malaysia: Sabah Wildlife Dept captures aggressive female elephant in Telupid

OLIVIA MIWIL New Straits Times 22 Feb 18;

TELUPID: Sabah Wildlife Department has captured an aggressive female elephant Wednesday following villagers’ complaints.

This was made possible by the department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit.

NSTP has recently reported that the human-elephant conflict here has grown rampant with sightings of two herds of about 20 elephants reported at Kampung Gambaron and its surrounding areas since early this year.

The Wildlife Rescue Unit has been stationed at the area around the clock to contain the situation involving the large herd of elephants, including four baby elephants.

The herd, however, has gone separate ways in search of food, making it harder for the team to keep the elephants under control.

It is understood that three of the elephants have been identified as aggressive.

Department director Augustine Tuuga had said the three elephants, once caught, will be relocated to the Imbak forest reserve located about 100km from here.

In a statement, the Wildlife Rescue Unit acting manager Dr Diana Ramirez said the elephant has now been secured and will be translocated soon.

The department also listed villages damaged by the elephants so far. The villages are Kampung Gambaron 1, Kampung Gambaron 2, Kampung Batu 4, Kampung Bintang-Mas, Kampung Bauto, Kampung Telupid, SMK Telupid, Telupid Agricultural Department, Kampung Gaab, Kampung Lubang Batu, and Kampung Maliau.

The department has also stated that since the operation began, at least RM10,000 has been spent. However, the unit is currently fully funded by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

Yesterday, the unit also managed to secure a bigger team to conduct the operation, headed by Jibius Dausip, as well as additional hands from the Orangutan Appeal UK, Eco Health Alliance and Gambaron youths.

The bigger tea allowed the rescue unit team to focus on the translocation, while the rest of the support focused on elephant control to avoid further damages to the villages.

Telupid may see an end to attacks by aggressive elephants
stephanie lee The Star 22 Feb 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Over the past month, villagers in Sabah's interior Telupid district have been terrorised by several aggressive elephants.

Not only were they faced with dangers from being attacked, their plantations were also damaged.

However, their plight might end soon with wildlife rangers capturing a female elephant on Wednesday (Feb 21).

"A few from the herd of about 20 elephants have been acting aggressively towards villagers and our rangers, especially those involved in controlling their movements," said Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga in a statement Thursday (Feb 22).

He said it had been a difficult task to control and locate all the elephants, which included four babies and two bulls, as they normally travelled in several groups in search for food.

Augustine said the translocation operations by the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) were funded by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).

Apart from the Sabah Wildlife Department, other agencies such as the Orangutan Appeal UK, Eco Health Alliance and Belia Gambaron were also involved in the operation.

This allowed the WRU team to focus on the translocation, while the rest of the support focused on elephant control to avoid further damages.

About RM10,000 has been spent the past month for the purpose.

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