Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jul 14



Marcus Chua talks about leopard cats at NSS on 1st Aug 2014
from Otterman speaks

Danainae butterflies – leaf scratching and withered plants
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Tree Flitter
from Butterflies of Singapore

Singapore Polytechnic launches Campus in a Garden
from The Tender Gardener


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About 80 boars in Lower Peirce area culled

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Jul 14;

About 80 wild boars in the Lower Peirce area have been culled, reducing the population there to an estimated 30 to 50 boars.

The National Parks Board (NParks) gave the update last week in response to queries from The Straits Times. It did not give a timeframe for the 80 figure.

NParks conservation director Wong Tuan Wah told The Straits Times last week that the agency is carrying out population studies to assess longer-term measures to manage the wild boar numbers.

"NParks takes a multi-pronged approach to wildlife management, including continual research, enforcement and outreach," he said.

However, "if a wild boar poses any threat to public safety, we will continue with targeted removal if necessary", he added, denying talk that the culling of boars in the area has ceased.

NParks started culling the boars there in 2012 to improve public safety and to reduce the animals' damage to the vegetation. Back then, it pointed to two incidents that year in which wild boars had attacked people in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Pulau Ubin. But some residents in the Lower Peirce area sent a petition to the authorities to prevent the culling, saying these were isolated incidents. Some also questioned if the attacks were provoked.

NParks estimated in 2012 that there were 80 to 100 wild boars in the 1.5 sq km Lower Peirce area. It said that, based on numerous studies done in other countries, there should be no more than seven boars there in a balanced ecosystem.

The NParks has said that after the animals are captured, vets will sedate them with dart guns and euthanise them with drug injections. When The Straits Times visited Lower Peirce yesterday morning, there were few signs of damage caused by wild boars.

Residents said they still see the boars on occasion but fewer seem to be around. Mr Victor Sim, a 67-year-old retiree, said he has not seen the animals in weeks.

Other residents said, however, that the remaining boars appear to have become bolder.

"Sometimes, you see them right in the carpark or in the open areas. They don't seem to be afraid of people at all," said a resident, who declined to be named.

Some of the thick vegetation in the area has also been cleared and replaced with young plants. NParks has said it may manage the boar population by reducing its food sources.


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Govt to invest S$100m in research on energy efficiency

Today Online 31 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE — The Government is investing S$100 million in two major initiatives in energy research and development (R&D) to improve overall building energy efficiency and research on green data centres here, the Energy Research Development and Demonstration executive committee announced yesterday.

Ms Yong Ying-I, co-chairman of the committee, made the announcement yesterday at the first Energy TechRoadMap symposium.

The first initiative, the Building Energy Efficiency R&D Hub, will be implemented and managed by the Building and Construction Authority, while the second, the Green Data Centre Research Hub Programme, will be managed by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

The initiatives come under five national energy technology road maps that were revealed at the symposium, namely solar panel research, carbon capture and storage or utilisation, green data centre, building energy efficiency and industry energy efficiency.

They will be used to guide government agencies in formulating their technology master plans and funding initiatives to secure the nation’s energy future and address climate-change challenges.

As buildings, including households, consume about 50 per cent of the Republic’s electricity, the building energy efficiency road map will be used to help Singapore attain the medium- to long- term goal of Low Energy High-rise Buildings in the Tropics, focusing on technological areas such as integrated design and air-conditioning, as well as mechanical ventilation.

Data centres are energy-intensive facilities and, with the sector expecting strong growth, there is also a need to develop those that use energy efficiently. Singapore already serves as the data centre hub of South-east Asia, hosting 58 per cent of the region’s data centre capacity in 2012.

The green data centre road map will outline ways in which the research community and data centre industry can assess technology options — together with Singapore’s energy efficiency initiatives — to achieve sustainability objectives.

All five road maps are part of efforts under the Energy National Innovation Challenge announced in 2011, which aims to develop cost-competitive energy solutions that can be deployed within 20 years to improve the Republic’s energy efficiency, reduce its carbon emissions and broaden its energy options to sustain economic growth.

Another two technology road maps in the areas of e-mobility and solid waste management are also being worked out and will be led by the Land Transport Authority and the National Environment Agency respectively, said Ms Yong, who is also Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Division and National Research and Development.

The symposium was jointly organised by the National Climate Change Secretariat and the National Research Foundation, and was attended by more than 700 participants.

Singapore's energy R&D sector gets S$100m funding boost
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 30 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: The Government will pump in S$100 million to fund two initiatives in energy research and development (R&D), specifically in building energy efficiency and research on green data centres, the Energy Research Development and Demonstration Executive Committee announced on Wednesday (July 30).

Ms Yong Ying-I, the committee’s co-chairperson, said the first initiative, the Building Energy Efficiency Research Development and Demonstration Hub, will be implemented and managed by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

The second, the Green Data Centre Research Hub Programme, will be managed by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), she added

The announcements were made at the first Energy Technology Roadmap Symposium, where five national energy technology road maps were revealed. They are in the areas of solar panel research, carbon capture and storage or utilisation, green data centre, building energy efficiency and industry energy efficiency.

One of the five roadmaps concerns carbon emissions. The authorities are studying the possibility of capturing the emissions from Singapore's power plants, refineries and petrochemical industries instead of releasing them into the air.

Carbon dioxide from these emissions can then be separated and stored thousands of metres underground. Experts said the carbon dioxide can also be used to make products like formic acid and urea.

“It can provide an interesting revenue stream, for instance in oil recovery,” said Ms Cecilia Tam from the International Energy Agency. “In countries like Singapore where you don't have suitable storage sites, it is a good opportunity to demonstrate and develop these technologies, but there is a question of scale that will need to be addressed in the longer term."

Apart from carbon capture, storage and utilisation, other energy technology roadmaps include research into solar panels, industry energy efficiency, and building energy efficiency.

Experts estimate about 80 per cent of existing buildings in countries which are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will still be around in 2050.

Closer to home, buildings make up about a third of Singapore's total energy consumption. In both OECD countries and in Singapore, experts said there is an urgent need to either retrofit buildings with energy-efficient features or build greener buildings.

The pursuit of green technology for data centres also received a boost. Singapore currently hosts more than half of South-east Asia's data centre capacity. "We should be able to design data centres to work more efficiently in tropical climates such as Singapore, where there is high temperature and high humidity – and this is quite different from data centre research done in sub-tropic areas,” said Dr Yeah Lean Weng, Director of the National Research Foundation's Energy and Environment Research Directorate.

Organisers said two more technology roadmaps involving e-mobility and solid waste management are also in the works.

- CNA/cy/rw

S$8.3m in grants awarded to improve building energy efficiency: BCA
Today Online 30 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE — In a bid to improve building energy efficiency, researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic were awarded S$8.3 million in grants by the BCA, BCA said in a press release today (July 30).

Under the Building Energy Efficiency Grant Call, the public and private sectors were encouraged to collaborate and develop innovative technologies and solutions in the areas of Air-Conditioning & Mechanical Ventilation (ACMV) and Building Management & Information Systems (BMIS) for building retrofits in the tropics that can be adopted in five years’ time, BCA said.

The scheme, first introduced in September last year, aims to support the development of energy efficient and cost-effective technologies and solutions for buildings in the tropics.

While ACMV systems take up 40 to 60 per cent of energy used in a typical air-conditioned building, there is a need for technology that can effectively remove water from the air by using less energy will greatly improve efficiency of air-conditioning system, BCA said.

It also noted the need to develop cost-effective solutions so building owners and developers will adopt the new technologies.

Meanwhile, a grant recipient from NUS, Dr Lee Poh Seng, will be collaborating with Daikin Air-Conditioning and four other SMEs to develop a new air-conditioning system that integrates a “novel oblique fin technology into a small capacity air-conditioning system, which can significantly enhance the air side-heat transfer”.

The new research project will raise “energy efficiency of the air conditioning system potentially by as much as 30 to 40 per cent”, said Dr Lee.

“More efficient buildings mean better use of resources,” said Dr John Keung, CEO of BCA.

“Low Energy High-rise Buildings in the Tropics” will be possible in Singapore if researchers are provided with the “right support and environment”, he added.


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Malaysia: Plans to lengthen runway on Tioman Island

New Straits Times 31 Jul 14;

KUANTAN: Six years after calling off plans for a new airport on Tioman Island due to environmental concerns, the Federal Government is now mulling over realigning the airport’s existing airstrip to accommodate the Aerei da Trasporto Regionale (ATR) turboprop aircraft.

Discussions are ongoing between the Federal Government, Pahang government, Malaysia Airports Berhad and the East Coast Economic Region Development Council on a proposal to lengthen the 992m air strip in Kampung Tekek to 1,200m.

Currently, the airstrip only caters to Berjaya Air’s 48-seater DeHavilland Dash 7 aircraft. If the upgrade materialises, it would be able to accommodate the 72-seater ATR aircraft.

Tourism Ministry Pahang’s director Edros Yahya said Berjaya Air was forced to use the discontinued Dash 7 aircraft for the Tioman route as it catered to the extreme short take-off and landing conditions.

He said the realignment of the existing air-strip would allow ATR aircraft, including Berjaya Air’s ATR 72-500 aircraft to land.

“The Dash 7 series is no longer in production, making it impossible to cater to the increasing number of tourists. The best solution will be to expand the airstrip which will allow more people to arrive by air,” he told New Straits Times.

Edros said the airstrip expansion plan would not pose any threat to the rich and colourful marine life, a haven for divers from around the globe.

Meanwhile, a source said the proposed realignment would study
several factors including the potential increase in vibration and noise level, including its impact on land use.

“Previously the locals, chalet operators, divers and non-governmental organisations had protested plans to build a new runway. Although the airstrip refurbishment will not consist of major works, the main aim will be to safeguard the environment,” he said.

In 2003, the Federal Government had planned to build a RM120 million airport in Kampung Paya on the island, which would feature a 2,000m-long and 45m-wide runway on the sea, which could accommodate Boeing 737 aircraft.

However, then Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat cancelled the construction in 2009 saying the decision was made after considering various factors, especially the environmental impact.

Currently, only Berjaya Air operates from Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang to the island.


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Malaysia: Sri Aman, Sibu choke in haze

EUNICE HO New Straits Times 31 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: SRI Aman and Sibu in Sarawak continued to bear the brunt of the haze yesterday while the rest of Malaysia recorded moderate and healthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings.

As of 3pm yesterday, Sri Aman and Sibu recorded API readings of 135 and 101 respectively.

The air quality in both areas has been unhealthy since the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

On Monday, which was the first day of Raya, a bushfire at Sibu’s Bukit Lima Forest Park caused the API to rise to 270 by noon, the highest in the nation, while visibility was reduced to 300m.

State Local Government and Community Development Minister Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh said the fire had been the main contributor of the haze since Saturday.

Sibu Fire and Rescue Department chief Abdul Mutalib Rashid said the fire was under control and they were monitoring the situation.

“We are also monitoring other areas and keeping a lookout for open burning.”

Mutalib said the Bukit Lima Forest Park bushfire had burnt peat soil about the depth of 3m.

The Federal Territory and Selangor recorded moderate API readings yesterday. As of 5pm on Tuesday, unhealthy API readings were recorded in Banting (109), Klang (117) and Batu Muda (132).

University Malaya Medical Centre consultant emergency physician Prof Madya Dr Rishya Manikam said: “The number of patients with respiratory problems has increased as the haze situation worsens.”

He advised the public to take precautions, especially senior citizens, infants and those who suffered from asthma or other respiratory problems.

Rain provides brief respite
The Star 31 Jul 14;

PETALING JAYA: Just when it was going to get worse, it got better. Malaysians in the central and southern peninsula can expect a short respite from the dry, hazy conditions.

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD), it has also been raining over central Sumatra, where the haze hotspots are concentrated, thus reducing the number of fires in the area.

“Hazy conditions are slowly beginning to improve, thanks to the rain pouring over both peninsular Malaysia and central Sumatra since Monday.

“At the moment, southwesterly winds are weak with a speed of about 10kph, allowing for rain in some parts of the peninsula,” he said.

However, the rain was not expected to last beyond the end of next week, as the southwesterly winds may become stronger after that, blowing at speeds of about 30kph.

“It is possible that the rains will slow towards the end of next week, leaving the country with the dry season that is expected to last until September. The winds may become stronger after next week, especially if the tropical storm east of Philippines intensifies, as the storm will absorb the moisture around it.”

A check with the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) revealed there were no hotspots in Malaysia, a marked improvement from the seven hotspots found on Monday.

However, Sumatra still had 98 hot­spot counts, while Kalimantan had 59.

For the haze to clear within the end of next week, the official said it was dependent on whether there would be enough rain at the hotspots.

“If it rains at the hotspots, this will help reduce the number of open burning incidents that contribute to the haze. If not, the southwesterly winds will pick up the smoke from the hotspots and blow it towards the peninsula, causing the haze to thicken.”

Indonesia’s disaster agency had warned last month that Malaysia and Singapore could be badly hit by haze again after a large number of forest fires in the Riau province, which was at the centre of an air pollution crisis last year.

The rain was also welcomed by people over social media.

Joylynn @tjoylynn tweeted: “i can see clearly now that the haze is gone. was beginning to wonder if i need glasses haha Praise God Maker of all, even the rain and wind.”

Lynn Zulkarim @LynnZulkarim said: “Super heavy rain in JB Alhamdulillah. Hoping for one in KL too to clear the haze and heat!”


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Indonesia: Riau Fires Burn Through 848 Hectares of Land, Haze Continues

Jakarta Globe 30 Jul 14;

Jakarta. Indonesia’s disaster-management agency reported on Wednesday that at least 848 hectares of land had been left depleted of forest cover and charred by fires that have burned with increasing intensity over the last week.

“The land [disaster] task force reported that 848 hectares have been burned,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of National Disaster Agency, as quoted by the state-run Antara news agency on Wednesday.

The government in Riau has declared an alert after the air quality dropped into hazardous levels. Fires sent acrid pollution into residential areas in Riau, increasing the risk of respiratory infections and the onset of asthma.

According to the BNPB, there were 143 hot spots detected on Tuesday — most of which were concentrated in Rokan Hilir district.

Sutopo said that the aerial task force was dropping water from helicopters and sending air force planes into the worst-affected areas to seed clouds for artificial rain.

Around 700 officers from military and police were working with officers from the forestry ministry and volunteers from Riau’s Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Forest fires are frequently caused by local people burning patches of forest cover in order to open up the land for agricultural use — most commonly for palm oil plantation.

“Many people and groups are still intensively burning the forest causing an increase in the number of hot spots,” Sutopo said.

Meanwhile, West Kalimantan also continued to by affected by forest fires and hotspots. Some 268 were detected on Tuesday.

Indonesian hotspots still need prompt response
Andi Abdussalam Antara 30 Jul 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, particularly in Riau Province, where fires have burnt 25 thousand hectares of forest and land this year, still require speedy actions.

As forest fires are increasing in the two provinces of Riau in Sumatra and West Kalimantan in Kalimantan, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is taking immediate measures.

"The BNPB took immediate steps after it received information that forest fires were on the rise in the two provinces," BNPBs Head of Data Information Center and Public Relations Sutopo Purwono Nugroho said through an electronic message to ANTARA News on Wednesday.

The Terra and Aqua Satellites had detected 417 hotspots in Riau Province on Monday last week, indicating an increase in widespread wildfires in the province.

According to the BNPB data, 417 hotspots were detected in Riau on Monday (July 21) at 5 a.m. local time last week, while a total of 570 hotspots were detected in Sumatra.

However, data has revealed that the number of hotspots actually have shown a downward trend this week in Riau.

"The number of hotspots on Tuesday had declined from 133 on Monday in Sumatra, of which 85 have been found in Riau Province," Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) Head Said Saqlul Amri told the press.

The hotspots dropped further on Tuesday (July 29). The US NOAA18 satellite operated by Singapore had detected 98 hotspots, of which 37 were in Riau Province, Said Saqlul Amri stated.

The 37 hotspots detected on Wednesday in Riau Province were scattered across several districts and municipalities such as Indragiri Hulu and Pelalawan, where 9 hotspots were found, respectively.

The BPBD has also revealed that the districts of Bengkalis had 7 hotspots; Dumai City 3; Rokan Hulu Siak and Kampar 2, respectively; Rokan Hilir 1; Indragiri Hilir and Kuantan Sengigi 1, respectively.

However, the Terra and Aqua satellites at 5 p.m. local time had recorded only 18 hotspots in Riau Province. Of the 18, eight were found in Pelalawan, 3 each in Kuatan Singingi and Roak Hilir, and 2 in Indragiri Hulu.

The other two hotspots were found in the districts of Kampar and Indragiri Hilir, respectively.

In 2014, forest fires have destroyed 25 thousand hectares of forest and land, which has resulted in the contamination of air over Riau Province.

During the current Idul Fitri holiday celebrations, hotspots have continued to emerge in Riau Province, engulfing at least 848 hectares of forest land.

"The land-based task force has reported that a total of 848 hectares of forest area has been gutted by fires. The fire continues to spread in affected areas, and because many sites are inaccessible, they have not yet been documented," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated on Wednesday.

Therefore, the Riau regional government has not yet lifted the haze alert status in the province, while the joint task forces continue to carry out their tasks.

According to Sutopo, the air task force has also continued to operate helicopters to drop water bombs and to modify the weather to produce artificial rain.

In the meantime, law enforcers have also acted upon suspects related to forest fires.

The Riau police have arrested and named 183 people who had allegedly committed crimes of burning bushes or forests.

A total of 116 suspects have been nabbed while conducting forest crime activities during the January-March period, while 67 others were named as suspects during the period between April 5 and July 10.

"The number of suspects could increase because the on-field team is still on the lookout for criminals responsible for new forest fires," stated spokesman of Riau Police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo.

While police have arrested suspected criminals, Riau Governor Annas Maamun has also called on all district heads and mayors of regions that have suffered from forest fires to take anticipatory steps in response to emerging hotspots.

Besides hotspots in Riau Province, the government is also responding to the forest fire cases in Kalimantan, particularly West Kalimantan Province.

The BNPB has sent a helicopter in anticipation of forest fires in the West Kalimantan Province.

Data show that hotspots are now on the rise in the province. The Terra and Aqua satellites on Tuesday (July 29) had detected 268 hotspots in West Kalimantan.

For this, BNPB Head Syamsul Maarif has ordered to send an MI-8 helicopter to the province.

"Syamsul Maarif, the BNPB head has asked to dispatch an MI-8 helicopter from Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, to Pontianak, West Kalimantan, which will be used to drop water bombs," Sutopo noted in his electronic message to Antara on Wednesday.

In West Kalimantan, 15 hotspots were detected in Bengkayang district, 25 in Kapuas Hulu, 7 in Kayong Utara, 19 in Ketapang, and 15 in Kubu Raya.

Eight hotspots were detected in Landa and Melawi, respectively, while 19 hotspots were detected in Pontianak, 65 in Sambas, 33 in Sanggau, 5 in Sekadau, 2 in Singkawang, and 47 in Sintang.
(T.A014/INE/KR-BSR/H-YH)

NOAA18 satellite detects 98 hotspots in Sumatra
Antara 30 Jul 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The United States NOAA18 satellite operated by Singapore has detected 98 hotspots in Sumatra on Tuesday, of which 37 were in Riau province, according to an official from the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD).

"The number of hotspots on Tuesday had declined from 133 recorded on the previous day in Sumatra, of which 85 were found in Riau Province," BPBD Head Said Saqlul Amri informed the press on Wednesday.

The 37 hotspots detected on Wednesday were scattered across several districts and municipalities such as Indragiri Hulu and Pelalawan where 9 hotspots were respectively found.

The BPBD also revealed that the districts of Bengkalis had 7 hotspots, Dumai City 3 hotspots, Rokan Hulu Siak and Kampar respectively 2, Rokan Hilir 1, Indragiri Hilir and Kuantan Sengigi respectively 1 hotspot.

However, the Modis Terra and Aqua satellites at 5 p.m. local time recorded only 18 hotspots in Riau Province. Of the 18, eight were found in Pelalawan, 3 in Kuatan Singingi and Roak Hilir, and 2 in Indragiri Hulu.

The other two hotspots were respectively found in the districts of Kampar and Indragiri Hilir.

In 2014, forest fires have destroyed 25 thousand hectares of forest and land, which resulted in the contamination of air over the Riau province.

Riau Governor Annas Maamun had previously called on all district heads and mayors of regions that suffered from forest fires to take anticipatory steps.

In connection with forest fire cases, the Riau police has arrested and named 183 people who had allegedly committed crimes of burning bushes or forests.

A total of 116 suspects were nabbed while conducting forest crime activities during the January-March period while 67 others were named suspects during the period between April 5 and July 10.

"The number of suspects could still increase because the on-field team is still on the lookout for criminals responsible for new forest fires," stated spokesman of Riau Police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo.

In the meantime, the Terra and Aqua Satellites detected 417 hotspots in Riau Province on Monday last week, indicating an increase in widespread forest fires in the province.

According to Head of Data and Information Division of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Agus Wibowo, 417 hotspots were detected on Monday (July 21) at 5 a.m. local time, while a total of 570 hotspots were detected in Sumatra.

Data from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) revealed that the number of hotspots had been increasing over the past two days. A total of 75 hotspots had been detected on Saturday (July 19) and 154 on Sunday.

The hotspots are spread across 11 districts in Riau, mostly in Rokan Hilir District with 327 hotspots, followed by Bengkalis with 27, and Rokan Hulu with 21.

The confidence level of the data is 70 percent, indicating that the hotspots had reached 273. The region with the highest number of hotspots is Rokan Hilir, with 223 hotspots.

"The Rokan Hilir Administration has been urged to step up measures to prevent forest fires," Wibowo emphasized.

The potential of forest fires may increase as Riau is forecast to receive below-average rainfall.

"The wind direction has a potential to carry the haze to Malaysia," Wibowo added.

The haze has reduced the visibility range in Pelalawan and Indragiri Hulu to four to five kilometers.

A haze disaster alert status has been issued by the Riau Administration as the forest fire potential is still high due to the dry season and the El Nino effect.

The Haze Disaster Alert Task Force of Riau is fighting the fires with the support of the land personnel, three waterborne helicopters, and weather modification technology applications to create artificial rain.

Data from the task force has revealed that at least 499 hectares of land had caught fire, and 429 hectares have been extinguished.
(Uu.A014/INE/KR-BSR)


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Best of our wild blogs: 30 Jul 14



A paddle through the magical watery woods
from The Long and Winding Road

Butterflies Galore! : Psyche
from Butterflies of Singapore

Oriental Plover in Singapore
from Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos



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Unsung heroes behind new park

Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 29 Jul 14;

Fifty years ago, two young men graduated from the same pre-university course at Victoria School.

As biology students, Francis Lee and Chou Loke Ming had gone on field trips to the Southern Islands, peering through the clear waters and marvelling at corals shaped like rotund mushrooms or branching like antlers.

Their paths branched too. One went to Britain where he qualified as a "no-good lawyer". The other stayed in Singapore and became a distinguished marine biologist.

Then, the lives of Mr Lee, the lawyer, and Professor Chou, the biologist, converged again on a common cause: marine conservation. Now, the past three decades of their work have contributed to the establishment of Singapore's first marine park, announced earlier this month - a 40ha patch that includes the Sisters' Islands and reefs off nearby St John's Island and Pulau Tekukor.

When Mr Lee was growing up in Siglap, the sea was ever-present. Kelongs dotted the coastline, which had yet to be reclaimed, and fishermen sold the day's catch along Joo Chiat Road. "Jalan Ulu Siglap was named because beyond that it was all jungle," quips Mr Lee, now 68.

When he came back from his studies in London, he found his old neighbourhood transformed. "I was amazed at the speed with which we were executing our land reclamation. It was right on my doorstep," he says.

The young corporate lawyer took up scuba-diving and found the Southern Islands also affected by reclamation. In the 1960s and 1970s, the marine environment here was in dire straits. Massive land reclamation projects silted the once- clear waters around the southern reefs. Sisters' Islands, along with other southern islands earmarked for recreation, were partly reshaped to create artificial lagoons.

Soil from excavations was indiscriminately dumped in the sea, and boats dropped anchor on corals. In all, about 60 per cent of reef cover was lost to development.

Meanwhile, Prof Chou took up scuba-diving, too, to switch his field of study from house lizards to the marine realm. Even in the silty waters, he and his colleagues mapped reefs and saw vast globe- like corals, crinkly ones resembling cabbage leaves, fronds of green and brown algae, and delicate starfish.

Already, a small group of marine conservation advocates was struggling to be heard. At the time, National University of Singapore Professor Leo Tan was a lecturer at the University of Singapore.

"Raffles Lighthouse and Pulau Biola were proposed by the Nature Society and Singapore University in the early 70s to the then Commissioner of Parks and Recreation as a marine park or reserve. I recall the commissioner and a few lecturers from SU visited Raffles Lighthouse for an inspection. I was one of the party," says Prof Tan, now 69.

But the view then was that Parks and Recreation had no jurisdiction over wildlife between high and low tide levels, he adds. The agency later combined with the Nature Reserves Board to form the National Parks Board (NParks).

In the early 1980s, alarmed by what he saw, Mr Lee contacted his old schoolmate, Prof Chou. In 1987, they started the Singapore Reef Conservation Committee, training 200 ecology specialist divers to survey the southern reefs.

Mr Benny Yeo was then chair of the Singapore Underwater Federation's technical committee. The dive group was asked to come up with a training plan for the divers.

Mr Yeo, now 58 and a past Underwater Federation president, started diving in 1972 for the adventure. Then, anything went. "At places like Pulau Hantu, we could shoot fish, and collect corals and shells."

He was "reformed" in the 1980s as world groups like Padi, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, introduced environmental awareness into their training.

The federation's reef ecology training scheme in 1987 sealed the deal by piquing his curiosity, Mr Yeo says. "Divers want something to do. I was bored with going out every weekend just to dive. With the ecology programme, there was an educational part to it."

Month after month, divers would descend into the dim greenish depths, laying several metres of white tape along a reef, counting corals along the line, and measuring the thickness of the sediment. In some places, they found just dead coral rubble. In others, like a patch west of Pulau Semakau, they found reefs two-thirds covered with live corals. There were seagrass beds, sandy flats and mangroves.

By 1990, they had cobbled together enough data for a report, submitted in 1991 to then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and other Cabinet ministers, calling for Semakau, St John's, Hantu and the military's live-firing islands to be conserved as marine parks.

Those reefs were labelled marine nature areas in the 1993 Singapore Green Plan, meaning any proposed development had to be assessed. But the URA's 2003 Master Plan dropped them as nature areas, allowing the option of development.

"The irony was that Singapore led the world at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992," Mr Lee laments, referring to the seminal United Nations meeting on environment and development, chaired by Ambassador Tommy Koh. "But at home, Government felt that (conservation) was too low in the list of priorities to allow it to affect development."

Prof Chou, now 68, adds: "Conservation was an alien language to them."

Meanwhile, nature and dive groups continued with coral relocation and underwater clean-up programmes. They recruited the likes of current Nature Society vice-president Leong Kwok Peng, 57, who got his feet wet relocating corals from Pulau Ayer Chawan to Sentosa when the former was reclaimed for industrial Jurong Island.

And throughout the 2000s, the number of marine enthusiasts who spent their weekends leading dives or guiding seashore walks, such as Ms Ria Tan of wildsingapore.com and Ms Debby Ng of popular dive site Hantu Bloggers, also grew.

In the early 2000s, Mr Lee and former Nominated Member of Parliament Edwin Khew outlined a bare-bones marine conservation plan that built on the 1991 proposal, and sent it to the Government's Feedback Unit. Mr Lee recalls that it was "courteously received and then lost in the woodwork".

So they had nothing to lose when the International Coral Reef Initiative, an international coral- reef conservation movement, declared 2008 the International Year of the Reef.

Mr Lee and Prof Chou decided to give it another shot. "It is never too late," Prof Chou says. Throughout the year, they worked with a broad spectrum of civil society groups like the Nature Society, Hantu Bloggers, and NUS academics to come up with the Singapore Blue Plan 2009, a comprehensive masterplan for the marine environment that called for a full marine survey and marine nature reserves. All this was done on their own time, in the evenings and on weekends.

At the Asia Dive Expo in 2009, they presented it to then National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan and then Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, and sent it to the National Parks Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority and other government agencies. Mr Lee and Prof Chou recall how Mr Mah called a few representatives to the MND offices and, on the spot, told the astonished conservationists that a full-scale marine biodiversity survey would be carried out.

Why the turnaround? The Government's attitude to marine conservation had been changing. In 2003, Singapore and Malaysia went to court over the republic's land reclamation, which Malaysia said would affect its environment and fishermen. Around that time too, says National Biodiversity Centre director Lena Chan, NParks was directed to build its capacity in coastal and marine biodiversity.

"The National Biodiversity Centre was formed in 2006 and was given the remit over both terrestrial and marine conservation," she adds. It is in charge of national conservation policy, and manages a database of relevant research.

Also in place was a new generation of policymakers who understood the need for science-based policy. For instance, National Biodiversity Centre deputy director Karenne Tun did her doctoral work under Prof Chou. The relationship between civil society and Government had also warmed.

"Previously it was arm's length," says Mr Leong. "Today, engagement is a bit more intimate."

Blue advocates are relieved about the Sisters' Islands Marine Park, but not quite ready to celebrate.

Mr Yeo, for instance, is concerned that divers will rush to dive at the park and that might have an impact on the reefs. Also, he cautions, there are strong currents between the two Sisters.

Mr Lee feels Singapore needs a systemic plan for marine conservation, instead of ad-hoc conservation of individual areas.

Ms Tan is keeping an eye on possible reclamation of the western islands, outlined in the MND's Land Use Plan last year. These "difficult decisions" are on the horizon, she says. So conservationists must work even harder to build relationships with agencies and policymakers.

Pleased that Singapore will have its first marine park, Prof Leo Tan says he is "edified that this has come to pass".

"The tensions between economic development and conservation will always be there," he adds. "We just have to soldier on."

As for the lawyer who returned to his first love at sea, Mr Lee says his four children are also avid divers, and the oldest of his six grandchildren is a junior diver.

"I want them to inherit this natural marine heritage - not from me, but from Singapore," he adds. "The task of protecting God's creation is never done, and I hope that my grandchildren will have a vibrant marine ecosystem to inherit."


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Flash floods reported at several locations: PUB

Channel NewsAsia 29 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: Flash floods were reported on Tuesday (July 29) at MacKenzie Road, Kramat Lane, and Bassein Road, according to a media release from the Public Utilities Board (PUB). The heaviest rainfall today was recorded at Handy Road, which saw a total rainfall of 95.4mm from 2.10pm to 4pm.

PUB said the flash floods were caused by intense rain overwhelming the drainage systems in these areas. "The localised flash floods subsided in less than 25 minutes and the roads remained passable to traffic," according to its statement.

The national water agency said that in addition to the drainage improvement works along MacKenzie Road completed in December 2013, the existing culvert at the downstream junction of MacKenzie Road and Bukit Timah Road will be upgraded in tandem with the Land Transport Authority's Downtown Line II works to improve flood protection for the area.

PUB has also scheduled works to deepen and widen the existing culvert at Bassein Road, which are slated to start in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Construction work for the Stamford Detention Tank and Stamford Diversion Canal has also begun, as part of measures to enchance flood protection for the Stamford Canal Catchment, which covers the Orchard Road shopping belt, including Kramat Lane. Works for the Stamford Detention Tank and Stamford Diversion Canal are expected to complete by 2016 and 2017 respectively, said PUB.

To obtain flood updates or report flash floods, the public can call PUB’s 24-hour Call Centre at 1800-284 6600 or go to PUB’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/PUBSg or PUB’s mobile app “MyWaters”.

For the latest weather reports, including heavy rain warnings, visit the NEA website atwww.nea.gov.sg or use the mobile weather service (Weather@SG - weather.nea.gov.sg). SMS alert services on heavy rain warning and water level information are also open for public subscription at:http://www.pub.gov.sg/managingflashfloods/wls/Pages/SubscriptiontoSMSAlerts.aspx

- CNA

Intense rain causes flash floods at several areas
Today Online 29 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE — As intense rain fell over parts of Singapore this afternoon (July 29), drainage systems in several locations were overwhelmed, resulting in flash floods.

Flash floods were reported at MacKenzie Road, Kramat Lane and Bassein Road, said the PUB. The localised flash floods subsided in less than 25 minutes and the roads remained passable to traffic, said the national water agency.

The PUB said the heaviest rainfall was recorded at Handy Road with a total rainfall of 95.4mm from 2.10pm to 4pm. It peaked between 2.30pm to 3pm, with a rainfall of 49.4 mm.

To improve flood protection, the existing culvert at the downstream junction of MacKenzie Road and Bukit Timah Road will be upgraded in tandem with the Land Transport Authority’s Downtown Line II works, said the PUB. This is in addition to the drainage improvement works along MacKenzie Road that were completed in December last year.

PUB will also deepen and widen the existing culvert at Bassein Road, with work slated to start in the fourth quarter of this year.

As part of measures to enchance flood protection for the Stamford Canal Catchment — which covers the Orchard Road shopping belt, including Kramat Lane — PUB has started construction work for the Stamford Detention Tank and Stamford Diversion Canal. Works are expected to be completed by 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Trees at Punggol, Tuas felled amid thunderstorms
Channel NewsAsia 29 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: Strong winds amid a thunderstorm saw trees toppling in various parts of Singapore on Tuesday (July 29), obstructing traffic in some areas and cutting off the entry to a car park in the north-east.

Callers told the MediaCorp hotline (68 2222 68) that trees or branches had fallen at Pioneer Road, Punggol Drive, Rivervale Drive and Edgedale Plains.

Mr Nor Nizar sent photos to Channel NewsAsia showing a tree along Punggol Drive apparently broken midway along its stem. Mr Nor said the fallen tree had blocked off access to the road leading to the car park at Blocks 637A to D and 638A to C. Another photo, also provided by Mr Nor, showed one lane at Edgedale Plains blocked off, though cars were still able to pass.

Another caller, Mdm Tan, said "six to seven trees" had fallen along Rivervale Drive, near Block 191A. She said pedestrians and cyclists were unable to use the pathway due to the obstructions following "a freak 15-minute storm".

At about 5pm, the police tweeted that the roads affected by fallen trees in Sengkang and Punggol were now passable for traffic.

A third caller, Mr Jiang, said up to three lanes were obstructed along the Jalan Buroh and Pioneer Road stretch at Tuas, though the roads were still passable to traffic.

The National Environment Agency had sent out an advisory on Twitter at 12.17pm, warning of "moderate to heavy thundery showers with gusty wind" over many parts of Singapore. The PUB also tweeted of high water levels at Tampines Road/Jalan Teliti briefly at around 1pm.

- CNA/es

Pouring rain stalls traffic, causes flash floods
NG JING YNG Today Online 30 Ju 14;

SINGAPORE — A heavy downpour accompanied by strong winds that lasted for more than two hours yesterday left a trail of fallen tree branches strewn over roads and pavements, even stalling traffic briefly on some expressways.

Flash floods were reported on some roads, such as Bassein Road, Mackenzie Road and Kramat Lane, although these remained passable to traffic, said national water agency PUB.

A PUB spokesperson said the flash floods were due to intense rain, which overwhelmed the drainage systems in these areas.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) sent an advisory before noon about strong winds and thundery showers. Within an hour, the PUB warned of a high risk of flooding at the area bounded by Tampines Road and Jalan Teliti as water levels in the drains and canals came close to overflowing. The warning was withdrawn minutes later, however, as the water level eased to 90 per cent of the drainage capacity.

As the storm raged on, the PUB started reporting flash floods from around 3pm at Bassein Road near Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Mackenzie Road near Little India and Kramat Lane behind Concorde Hotel Singapore. However, none of these flash floods lasted beyond 25 minutes.

In the Jurong West and Punggol neighbourhoods, residents reported broken, heavy tree branches as well as leaves being strewn across pedestrian walkways and road lanes, causing traffic to be obstructed — including access to a car park along Punggol Drive.

There were also four cases of road obstructions on the Tampines Expressway and one case on the Central Expressway due to fallen tree branches, the Land Transport Authority said, although these were cleared by 4.30pm yesterday. The heaviest rainfall was recorded in Handy Road at 95.4mm, said the PUB.

Reiterating its flood prevention efforts, the PUB spokesperson added that the existing culvert — a structure that allows water to flow under a road — at the downstream junction of Mackenzie Road and Bukit Timah Road will be upgraded along with the construction of Stage 2 of the Downtown MRT Line. Work to deepen and widen the existing culvert in Bassein Road will also commence later this year.

She also said the PUB had started to strengthen flood protection measures at the Stamford Canal Catchment, which covers the Orchard Road shopping belt, including Kramat Lane — with an expected completion date in 2017.

Based on the three-day weather outlook on the NEA website, thundery showers can be expected in the morning mainly over southern, eastern and western Singapore tomorrow.


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Students take charge of cleanliness with launch of Keep Singapore Clean Movement

Chitra Kumar Channel NewsAsia 29 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: The Keep Singapore Clean Movement in schools was launched on Tuesday (July 29), to get students to take ownership of the cleanliness of their school and the environment. The initiative was first announced at the 7th Teachers' Conference in June, and requires students to help keep the places they frequent clean.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who launched the movement today, said many parents had urged him to bring back the 'Use Your Hands' campaign to schools.

"These student-initiated activities are a very important aspect of encouraging them to take ownership of the community. We hope that through student-initiated activities, the values that underpin this will be much more deeply internalised and at the same time, we can tap the creativity and ideas of the students to be advocates of cleanliness and environment protection," said Mr Heng.

The Education Minister also joined Secondary Three students at Woodgrove Secondary School to scrub the boys' toilet today.

Earlier this month, these students conducted surveys around the school to gather information about the cleanliness situation in the neighbourhood. They shared their findings today and brainstormed ideas on how to have a more pleasant living environment.

The Public Hygiene Council will support schools by providing necessary resources such as this litter-picking toolkit containing tongs and gloves. The Keep Singapore Clean movement will be rolled out to all primary, secondary, centralised institutes and junior colleges.

"I believe that we should start young because from young, we can inculcate the values of responsibility and care towards the environment. So from here, we can spread the message of the importance of maintaining cleanliness in Singapore to our friends and family," said Haziq Shukur, Green Club President at Woodgrove Secondary School.

- CNA/by

Students encouraged to keep schools, environment clean
Channel NewsAsia 29 Jul 14;
SINGAPORE: Education Minister Heng Swee Keat kicked off the Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools by saying that students here can become role models and advocates of a clean Singapore to the people around them.

Mr Heng was speaking at Woodgrove Secondary School on Tuesday (July 29) at the launch of the programme, which will see students having the opportunity to propose ideas to keep the school and neighbourhood clean, put their ideas into action and carry them out on a sustained basis.

Through this initiative, students can take ownership of the places they frequent - such as the classroom, the school compound and the common areas in the neighbourhood - by keeping them clean, according to a joint statement by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Public Hygiene Council (PHC).

Several schools already have students adopting spaces within their compounds to keep clean. For example, Marsiling Primary School students are responsible for their classrooms and the school's common areas, while Damai Secondary School have adopted public waterways as theirs to maintain.

Mr Heng said: "Through the Keep Singapore Clean Movement in Schools, students can learn to take ownership of our community spaces and our Singapore. Students can become role models and advocates of a clean Singapore to their classmates, family members and people in the community.

"It will help our students develop empathy and responsibility, a sense of belonging and commitment to the community, and a deep understanding of our interdependence."

FOSTERING A CLEAN, NOT CLEANED, SINGAPORE

The Movement is organised in partnership with the PHC, which will support schools by providing various resources, such as litter-picking toolkits, and advice on areas that could be potential littering hotspots.

In 2015, the PHC will also provide every Primary 4 student a checklist to reflect on their habits and how these affect the cleanliness of the environment. Every Primary 5 student will be given a postcard to write to their Primary 1 to Primary 4 juniors, encouraging them to practise good habits and cleanliness.

Said PHC Chairman Liak Teng Lit: “Keeping Singapore clean requires a concerted effort from all. With the strong support from the students and their parents, I believe we are a step closer to being a truly clean Singapore, not just a cleaned one.”

- CNA/kk


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Haze Fines Win Indonesia’s Support With Caveats: Southeast Asia

Brian Leonal and Fitri Wulandari Bloomberg News 30 Jul 14;

The incoming president of Indonesia, a holdout in Southeast Asia’s pact to fight haze, is backing Singapore’s plan to wield heftier fines against overseas polluters as long as sovereignty is respected.

A year after the city-state endured its worst-ever air quality, Singapore presented a bill to Parliament this month that subjects foreign companies to as much as S$2 million ($1.6 million) in fines for illegal emissions, up from S$300,000 before. Indonesia and Singapore have a long-standing dispute over the haze that blows in from land-clearing fires in Sumatra.

Joko Widodo, the Jakarta governor known as Jokowi who won this month’s presidential election, agrees that companies implicated in unlawful fires may be fair game for Singapore’s enforcers. The sticking point is the sovereignty of Indonesia, where “incredibly prickly” officials have yet to join other ASEAN nations in signing a transboundary-haze pact, according to the Jakarta office of Control Risks Group.

“We should have some detailed protocols to guarantee the sovereignty of Indonesia,” said Sonny Keraf, Indonesia’s environment minister from 1999-2001 and adviser to Jokowi. “But we do appreciate the commitment of the government in Singapore to penalize these companies’ activities,” he said in an interview this month.

Accelerating deforestation makes Indonesia the world’s third-largest emitter after China and the U.S., according to estimates from organizations including the World Bank. An outbreak of fires in Riau, a center of Indonesia’s palm oil and paper industries on Sumatra island, were blamed for last year’s record smog in Singapore.

Hazard Threshold

Singapore’s Pollutant Standards Index peaked at 401 in June 2013, 100 points above the “hazardous” threshold. While the index in Singapore hasn’t topped 100 in 2014, an El Nino weather pattern may bring drought and worse smog this year to Southeast Asia, said Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who expects final approval for the bigger fines in August.

“There’s a high risk of unusually dry conditions in Riau and Sumatra in August and September,” Nigel Sizer, global director of forests at World Resources Institute, said in an interview. Unseasonably dry weather in February and March sparked 3,101 fire alerts on Sumatra, exceeding the 2013 high.

Washington-based WRI is working with Google Inc. and forestry agencies in Indonesia to use satellite imaging to pinpoint and respond to fires.

Social Media

“On social media and in the streets, we have seen the Indonesian people asking for better information about where these fires are occurring and how their government is responding,” Dino Patti Djalal, Indonesia’s deputy foreign minister, said last week. “With this alliance, we will be able to start answering these questions.”

Singapore’s new fines will require Indonesia to cooperate with gathering evidence in its territories, which may be seen as infringement, said Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University. The city would need “watertight” evidence to win in local courts, he said.

By pursuing culprits in Indonesia, Singapore may risk retaliation, said Alan Khee-Jin Tan of the National University of Singapore Law School. “There is a likelihood of Indonesian lawmakers enacting retaliatory laws that target individuals or entities in Singapore for infringing Indonesian law,” Tan said. “That would be diplomatically messy.”

Largest Emitter

While Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s president since 2004, pledged to cut emissions by 26 percent, the nation’s deforestation rate has surpassed Brazil’s, according to Nature Climate Change, a journal.

Indonesia lost more than 6 million hectares of primary forest -- an area the size of England -- from 2000 to 2012, scientists including Belinda Arunarwati Margono and Fred Stolle wrote in Nature Climate Change on June 29.

WRI’s monitoring showed fires burning this year on land controlled by Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd., the pulp and paper maker with offices in Jakarta and Singapore. The company known as April said it has a no-burn policy and is a victim of fast-spreading blazes set by villagers. The firm has about 700 fire fighters and backs Singapore’s bigger fines.

“The key will be in implementation,” said an April spokesman who asked not to be identified in a July 18 e-mail. Determining the cause of fires and who is responsible is difficult because of overlapping land rights, he said.

Ganging Up

Indonesia has yet to ratify the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ 2002 haze treaty, which requires nations to take steps against forest fires and cooperate with neighbors. Many Indonesians see it as “ganging up,” said Steve Wilford, Asia Pacific director at London-based Control Risks, a consultant on corporate threats and government corruption.

Indonesia’s Parliament is weighing the transboundary bill, Agus Setyaki, a division head at the Ministry of Environment, said July 10. The parliament hopes to approve the bill in September before current legislators end their terms.

Jokowi will push to extend the ASEAN pact beyond haze to include other environmental threats, Keraf said. Jokowi also plans to continue a moratorium on new permits to develop peatlands and primary forests. The ban, set to expire in 2015, was part of an agreement for $1 billion in aid from Norway.

The next president wants a network of drones to help monitor and stop land misuse across an archipelago of 17,000 islands that would stretch from New York to Alaska. “Drones are not only for the military but also for the economy, like for illegal logging,” Jokowi said in an interview on July 21.

Indonesia backs heftier haze fines
Channel NewsAsia 30 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE: The incoming president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, is backing Singapore's plan to impose heftier fines against overseas polluters as long as sovereignty is respected, according to a Bloomberg report.

The Singapore government has proposed stiffer fines of up to S$2 million for companies that cause unhealthy levels of haze. Under proposed laws on transboundary haze pollution that were introduced in Parliament earlier this month, a firm can be fined up to S$100,000 a day for every day of unhealthy haze that blankets Singapore - for a continuous period of 24 hours or more - at about the same time as the company's haze-causing activities.

Also, companies that fail to comply with notices to take preventive measures during a period of haze could be fined up to an additional S$50,000 a day. The maximum penalty for each of the offences is capped at S$2 million.

Widodo, the Jakarta governor known as Jokowi who won this month's presidential election, agrees that companies implicated in unlawful fires may be fair game for Singapore's enforcers.

"We should have some detailed protocols to guarantee the sovereignty of Indonesia," said Sonny Keraf, Indonesia's environment minister from 1999-2001 and adviser to Jokowi. "But we do appreciate the commitment of the government in Singapore to penalize these companies' activities," he said, in an interview with Bloomberg this month and published on Wednesday (30 July).

Indonesia has yet to ratify the ASEAN 2002 haze treaty, which requires nations to take steps against forest fires and cooperate with neighbours. However Jakarta hopes to ratify the agreement by 2015.

According to Keraf, Jokowi will push to extend the ASEAN pact beyond haze to include other environmental threats. The incoming president also plans to continue a freeze on new permits to develop peatlands and primary forests. The ban, set to expire in 2015, was part of an agreement for US$1b (S$1.24b) in aid from Norway.

- CNA/ir


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Malaysia Haze: Unhealthy air quality at two locations

The Star 30 Jul 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Two areas recorded unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings as of 7am Wednesday.

According to the Department of Environment portal, the two affected areas in Sarawak, are Sibu (127) and Sri Aman (102).

Nineteen other locations recorded moderate air quality including Nilai (52), Tanjung Malim (55), Port Klang (87) and Petaling Jaya (73).

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above, hazardous. – Bernama

Dry spell until September
KOI KYE LEE AND DENNIS WONG New Straits Times 30 Jul 14;

PUTRAJAYA: THE Natural Resources and Environ ment Ministry said the current hot and dry spell since May following the south-west monsoon, is expected to last un til September.

Its minister, Datuk Seri G. Palanivel, said the hot and dry spell and the El Nino impact wouldwill result in open fires.

He said based on the Asean Specialised Meteorological (ASMC) report, there were 133 hot spots in Sumatra and 32 in Kali mantan, Indonesia, respectively.

He said in a statement yesterday that the ASMC report had also shown satellite images with haze traces at open fire areas in Riau and West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

“The satellite images also show that there is moderate haze movement towards the centre of west coast in the peninsula.”," Palanivel said.

He added that 11 hot spots had been de tected in the country: , mainly in Sarawak (four); Pa hang (two); Kelantan (two); Selangor (one); Negri Sembilan (one) and Johor (one).

“The hot spots in the country will be investigated and ne cessary enforcement actions will be taken.”

As of 2pm yesterday, the Air Pollution In dex (API) showed nine places with unhealthy readings: Samarahan, Sarawak (106); Sibu, Sarawak (155); Sri Aman, Sarawak (105); Banting, Selangor (124); Port Klang, Selangor (113); Petaling Jaya, Selangor (105); Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur (134); Cheras, Kuala Lumpur (123) and Putrajaya (120).

He also said that the ministry had activated the ac tion plan to prevent open burning in the country since Feb ruary in a bid to tackle the hot and dry season brought by the monsoon and El Nino phe nomenon.

Among oOther actions the ministry had taken to address the issue was to monitor peat fires, aside from enforcing the open burning pro hibition order in states such as Selangor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Kuala Lumpur and Putra jaya.

Palanivel said under the order, which was activated in March, the public was prohibited from con ducting open burning, with the exception of religious activities, cremations or barbe cues.

He said the Department of Environment (DOE) had detected 4,408 open burning in the country from January to July 28, and 315 cases had been compounded and 101 cases received warning notices.

It was also learnt that 45 open burning cases in the country would be referred for further action. Fourteen of them had been referred to the deputy public prosecutor and five cases would be prosecuted in the Sessions Court.

Meanwhile in Kuching the long dry spell has created haze in several areas. Among the areas badly hit was Sibu with the Air Pollutant Index reaching unhealthy level of 165 at noon.

"On Monday the situation here was even worse. It was white all over and visibility was poor," said 46-year-old local resident Ramli Bolhassan.

Ramli said the poor weather condition had dampened Hari Raya festivities and many were not going outdoors.

Ramli believed that the poor air condition was also due to open burning activities at nearby oil palm plantation.

"I was told by my relatives that several plantations in nearby districts such as Mukah and Sarikei are also doing open burning. This might be one of the contributing factors for the poor air condition," he said.

On Monday, Sibu's API reached 261 which was Very Unhealthy level. Samarahan and Sri Aman also experienced poor air quality yesterday with both areas recording an API of 106.

Hazy Raya with big rise in hotspots
YUEN MEIKENG AND P. ARUNA The Star 30 Jul 14;

PETALING JAYA: Hari Raya turned out to be a hazy one nationwide with many areas recording unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings.

There has been a 40% increase in patients with haze-related respiratory and skin problems at clinics and hospitals checked.

At 5pm yesterday, the worst hit area was Sibu with a reading of 145, followed by Batu Muda at 132 and Port Klang and Cheras, both at 117.

Other areas with unhealthy readings were Samarahan, Sri Aman, Banting, Petaling Jaya and Putra-jaya.

The poor air quality in Sibu was due to a forest fire that broke out in the Bukit Lima Forest Park.

Visibility in Petaling Jaya dropped to less than one kilometre due to the thick smog while in Subang, it dropped to less than five kilometres.

While several people complained bitterly on social media about how the haze was ruining their health and had restricted their Hari Raya celebrations, others decided to take advantage of the public holiday and set out with their families to the zoo to see the pandas in their air-conditioned enclosures or for picnics.

While the haze is expected to last until September, Natural Resources and Enviroment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel warned Malaysians that they would have to endure the current thick smog for at least another day.

Malaysian Meteorological Depart-ment (MMD) spokesman Dr Hisham Mohd Anip said the current weak winds, which were blowing at less than 10kph, would not blow the haze away.

“The wind strength has been weak since yesterday (Monday). As a result, the thick haze might stay at least until tomorrow (Wednesday),” he said yesterday.

He added that the situation was made worse by the forecast of little rain until the end of next week.

In peninsula Malaysia, seven hotspots were detected on Monday while in Borneo, nine hotspots were found.

The rapidly increasing number of forest fires on Sumatra also indicates that the haze situation here is unlikely to clear up any time soon.

Indonesia’s disaster agency had warned last month that Malaysia and Singapore could be badly hit by haze again after a large number of forest fires in Riau province, which was at the centre of an air pollution crisis last year.

On Monday, there were 133 hotspots detected on the island based on satellite images from the Meteorological Service Singapore website.

In a statement yesterday, Palani­vel said there had been 4,408 cases of open burning locally from January until July 28.

Of this, there were 1,436 cases on agricultural land, 897 in forested areas and 1,011 bush fires.

“There have been 818 cases of small open burning incidents, 137 in construction areas, 75 at dumpsites and 34 in industrial areas,” he added.

Palanivel said 45 investigation papers were opened and compound notices had been sent to those involved in 315 open burning cases, adding that warning letters were sent for 101 other cases.

Under Section 29(A) of the En­­vironmental Quality Act 1974, those convicted of open burning can be fined up to RM500,000 or sentenced to a jail term of up to five years or both.

They also face a maximum compound of RM2,000 for each offence.

Malaysia air quality 'unhealthy' as haze obscures skies
AFP 29 Jul 14;

Air quality around Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur and on Borneo island was "unhealthy" on Tuesday, with one town reaching "very unhealthy" levels as haze -- mostly from forest fires in Indonesia -- obscured skies.

Kuala Lumpur residents wore face masks as protection from the choking smog, while visibility was low.

Nine out of some 50 measuring stations recorded air pollutant index readings above 100, which signify "unhealthy" air quality.

Readings in Sibu town in Sarawak state on Borneo breached 200 -- designated as "very unhealthy" -- on Monday, but recovered slightly Tuesday.

A reading of above 300 signifies "hazardous" air.

In Indonesia, the National Disaster Management Agency deployed a chopper to conduct water bombing to West Kalimantan on Borneo to tame 268 so-called hotspots detected in the province as haze also shrouded skies there and on Sumatra island.

In Riau on Sumatra, hundreds of military and police personnel as well as firefighters used water cannons to put out fires that stretched over more than 850 hectares of land.

"Ninety-nine percent of this fire is man-made," said National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

"Hundreds of fire-fighters and volunteers are trying to put out the fire, but the fire, set alight by individuals and groups, are more intensified still."

Haze is an annual problem during drier summer months when monsoon winds blow smoke from fires mostly on the huge Indonesian island of Sumatra, which lies across the Malacca Strait from Malaysia and Singapore.

The fires have been largely blamed on palm oil firms using the illegal but cheap method of burning vast tracts of rainforest and peatland to clear them for planting.

Indonesian authorities had warned last month that Malaysia and Singapore could be hit by haze again after a huge jump in forest fires in Riau province, which was at the centre of an air pollution crisis last year.

Both Malaysia and Singapore were effected, with readings hitting 750 in one town in southern Malaysia in June last year.

This was the highest seen in the Southeast Asian country for 16 years, causing a declaration of emergency in several districts, school closures and a regional diplomatic row.

Malaysia -- usually known for its tropical heavy downpours -- this year has also been plagued by drought, leading to water rationing, particularly in the central state of Selangor, the country's economic hub, which surrounds the capital.


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