Best of our wild blogs: 6 May 16


Singapore Raptor Report – March 2016
Singapore Bird Group


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Royston Tan's 'Homecoming' - film about people of Pulau Ubin

Royston Tan: 'I must rebel for the right reason'
Despite a string of govt-commissioned works, film-maker Roystan Tan says he has not 'sold out'
Joanne Soh The New Paper 6 May 16;

Do not call him the reformed bad boy of local cinema.

Even though Royston Tan has effectively become the go-to guy for government-endorsed projects - he has done more than 20 in the past decade, including 10 in the last year alone - there is still a rebel in him.

It is just manifested a little differently now.

The local film-maker still wants his work, be it short or feature-length films, to raise eyebrows.

"I don't think my story-telling style has changed over the years. The objective is still the same," Tan told The New Paper over the phone.

"There are certain messages I want to get across. I'm still telling stories close to my heart."

And that would be uniquely Singaporean human interest stories or tales about the community.

Sixteen years in the industry have certainly changed people's minds and opinions, as well as his own "enfant terrible" reputation.

For a director whose seminal 2002 feature film 15 struck a nerve in Singapore - particularly that of the Government's - due to its unsavoury depiction of teenage delinquency, gangs and illegal activities, Tan appears to be going in the opposite direction.

This year, the 39-year-old has already completed three commissioned projects by various ministries and agencies.

The first was a video installation called A Moment Of Unity for the National Museum of Singapore to mark the first anniversary of the passing of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

That was followed by Shoelaces, a heartwarming commercial commissioned by the Workplace Safety and Health Council to create awareness that all injuries and ill health at work can be prevented. It is now showing on TV and in cinemas.

HOMECOMING

Then there is Homecoming, a one-hour documentary film commissioned by the National Heritage Board (NHB) for Singapore HeritageFest 2016.

It features personal stories of former Pulau Ubin residents who still return to the village and others who have left their homes on the mainland to settle down on Ubin.

Its premiere will be at the Pulau Ubin Wayang Stage on May 14, alongside another local film, Dahdi, by Kirsten Tan.

When asked if he is "selling out" for what may be perceived as propaganda projects, Tan brushed off the criticism, saying that "the culture has changed".

"I've not lost my edginess. It's just that the environment is more open, and that presented more opportunities for creativity," he insisted.

"The (agencies) don't interfere much nowadays... they just let me do what I want."

He said the agencies gave him free rein on the stories and direction.

"I guess they like my narrative and atmospheric style."

It is clear that there is no longer any bad blood between Tan and the censorship board, and all those 15-related fiascos are water under the bridge.

"I never thought of myself as a rebel against the authorities. When I rebel, I must rebel for the right reason."

He added, laughing: "I'm still very much against censorship, though!"

For Homecoming, Tan was approached by NHB because of a Pulau Ubin segment in his short film 50 First Kisses, which was part of the SG Heart Map campaign last year.

"(NHB) asked if I have any more footage on Pulau Ubin. After much discussion and brainstorming, we realised that the island has a lot of interesting people, and they should be featured.

"They have so many wonderful memories and those should be shared."

CAPTURING THE PAST

Capturing the past has long been a hobby for Tan, who is passionate about archiving and documenting Singapore's lost heritage, forgotten places and even old architecture.

Doing commercials such as Shoelaces pays the bills for him to indulge in such pet projects, Tan joked.

However, Tan insists he still pushes the envelope.

"I have a big 'naughty' project coming up," he teased, hinting that it may have something to do with the anti-dialect campaign.

"We used to have those Speak Mandarin campaigns and were forbidden to use dialect.

"But dialect is beautiful and it should not be lost. It's how we communicate with our elderly folks.

"If Singaporeans can speak Korean by watching the TV shows, why can't they pick up Mandarin so easily too?

"So don't blame dialect and make it the scapegoat for us not being able to speak Mandarin properly.

"Wait for my next project. It will be out in a few months' time and it is going to be historic," he said, laughing.

Royston's fond memories of the island from his younger days and his passion for documenting Singapore's heritage can be seen from his recent work, 7 Letters, and his other short film 50 First Kisses. We are confident that he will be able to tell the story of Pulau Ubin beautifully.

- Mr Warren Sin, film programmer, Singapore HeritageFest 2016

Royston was part of a group of three local film-makers shortlisted by our advertising agency to produce the commercial Shoelaces. We appointed him because we felt that his creative style and proposed execution of the (commercial) was best suited to achieve our objectives in getting the general public to take action to prevent injuries and ill health at work. The WSH Council had also previously worked with Royston (for) its 2012 television commercial Guilt Kid.

- Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council spokesman


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Heritage in the heartlands -- Bedok's lost shoreline

Today Online 6 May 16;

SINGAPORE — Before the massive land reclamation project in the 1960s permanently extended the eastern coastline of Singapore, the former coastal settlement of Bedok was the very scene of tropical idyll, with beach mansions of the local rich melding with traditional Malay kampungs and fishing villages set to a backdrop of swaying palm trees and the South China Sea.

Although such a scene is no longer available, this is what people can get a sense of when they sign up for a guided bus tour around the Bedok area. This new heritage trail was officially launched yesterday by the National Heritage Board (NHB) as part of the activities for this year’s Singapore HeritageFest (SHF).

Other activities offered this weekend (the second of three on the SHF calendar), which sees focus move from the city centre to the heartlands, include gastronomic tours of areas known for their food offerings, such as Balestier, Joo Chiat, Kampong Glam and Changi.

But of the myriad activities available for heritage buffs, the guided Bedok Heritage Trail stands out as a firm highlight. The bus tour will travel through history-rich sites such as the Frankel and Opera Estates, where Albert Einstein once visited as a guest of the prominent Frankel family; an intact piece of the old sea wall at Upper East Coast Road opposite Laguna Park condominium; and Bedok Corner, the former site of raucous sea regattas featuring koleks (small wooden Malay boats) and seafront kampungs that dotted the shoreline of Singapore’s east coast.

It is NHB’s 15th heritage trail, spanning over 15km and featuring 10 heritage markers installed at various sites around the area.

“We hope that the trail will raise the awareness of residents and visitors about Bedok’s heritage, pique their interest to re-discover key landmarks in the estate, and instil a sense of pride in them when they learn about Bedok’s role in Singapore’s progress as a nation,” said Alvin Tan, NHB’s assistant chief executive (Policy & Community).

Added Tan Teng Teng, researcher for the Bedok Heritage Trail: “Bedok was one of the most photographed areas of Singapore (in the earlier part of last century), as its coastal scenery inspired a lot of photographers and film-makers. The first open-air cinema was in Siglap. Bedok has managed to retain a lot of its character despite being one of the first resettlement zones in Singapore.”

Tan added that the discussions with the Housing & Development Board (HDB) and preliminary research for the Bedok Heritage Trail started in 2011, and was developed as part of the HDB’s Remaking Our Heartland plans for the East Coast area.

Yesterday also saw the unveiling of a brand-new mobile application titled Singapore Heritage Trails, which was developed by the NHB in collaboration with the Keio-NUS CUTE Center. The latter is a joint collaboration between National University of Singapore and Keio University in Japan to further research in digital interactive media.

The mobile app is a compilation of 80 heritage trails in Singapore developed by community and public agency partners, in addition to those by NHB, such as food-themed and paranormal trails. It also allows users to curate their own trails, and contribute pictures and accounts of their experiences through interactive and geo-tracking features.

“This project is the first attempt to consolidate all of Singapore’s heritage trails, and (it) is great for people who are after spontaneity as they are able to locate trails and heritage sites nearby,” said Dr Kelvin Cheng, research fellow at the Keio-NUS CUTE Center. Aside from heritage and historical information, the app also features food recommendations. “We wanted to build a platform that is more social and encourage contributions from the public to build on their memories with user-generated content,” said Cheng.

Two more heritage trails will be unveiled in the second half of this year; a refreshed trail of Bukit Timah and a brand-new one for Little India.

Added Tan: “We (at the NHB) don’t believe in just putting the infrastructure out there; we hope to encourage and foster community engagement and partnership with all of our heritage trails.”

The Singapore HeritageFest runs from now until May 15. To register for ticketed events, visit http://www.heritagefest.sg

Heritage in the Heartlands: Get to know the rich history of Bedok’s coastline


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Malaysia: Dugong carcass found off Kg Pendas Laut

KATHLEEN ANN KILI The Star 5 May 16;

GELANG PATAH: A dugong carcass was found floating in the sea near Kampung Pendas Laut, here.

Johor Fisheries Department director Zamani Omar said a team of officers is at the scene to investigate.

“I have yet to receive a report from my officers," he said.

“I have also instructed them to determine the cause of death,” he said, adding that the department will investigate whether the dugong died from disease or was hit by a vessel.


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Indonesia Limboto Lake: A migration stopover and a permanent habitat

Syamsul Huda M.Suhari Jakarta Post 5 May 16;

Despite alarming ecological concerns, Limboto Lake in Gorontalo remains either a stopover point or a permanent home for at least 85 bird species. Some of the birds are endemic to the region and many pass through Gorontalo when migrating.

The migratory birds, which rest at Limboto Lake, are water birds from Alaska, Siberia, Russia and Europe. Forty nine of the 85 species recorded at the lake are migratory birds.

They include the oriental pratincole, the whimbrel, the glossy ibis, the greater painted-snipe, the sharp-tailed sandpiper, the common sandpiper, the greater sand plover, the wood sandpiper, the oriental plover, the whiskered tern and the common sandpiper. Most of the birds rest at Limboto Lake before continuing their migration to various destinations.

“We can enjoy the migration phenomenon of the migrant birds during from October to December every year,” bird conservation group Burung Indonesia biodiversity officer Panji Ahmad Fauzan told thejakartapost.com on Wednesday.

From 2014 to 2016, Burung Indonesia, supported by photographers and journalists, has carried out a number of surveys to uncover the number and types of birds people can find in Limboto Lake.

Panji said the surveys were important because there was no comprehensive data on the birds at the lake, where the water level has continued to fall.

The presence of water birds at Limboto Lake had not been recorded by anyone else when conservation group Wetlands International carried out water bird surveys between 1987 and 2007.

According to Burung Indonesia, Limboto Lake is a natural habitat for 14 protected bird species and four Sulawesi endemic bird species. Those protected species are often still hunted people, for fun.

Debby Hariyanti Mano, a Gorontalo journalist and blogger who has documented birds at Limboto Lake, said wildlife hunting occurred there almost every day. When she goes to the lake to document bird species, Debby says she often meets hunters carrying air rifles and dead birds.

“Some of them proudly showed me pictures on social media of birds they hit while hunting,” said Debby.

The lake’s shallow and muddy nature has made it an ideal habitat for various water birds.

Unfortunately, the water at Limboto Lake has continued to recede and it will soon be dry. In the 1970s, the historical lake covered 5,600 hectares, and witnessed a peace agreement between two conflicting Gorontalo kingdoms.

Currently, Limboto Lake covers only 2,500 hectares. High sedimentation, forest clearing upstream and land conversion are among the major causes of silting in the lake. ( ebf )


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Coral bleaching in Seychelles' waters escalating, local groups say

Sharon Meriton Jean and Betymie Bonnelame Seychelles News Agency 5 May 16;

Bleaching of coral in the Seychelles archipelago has escalated the past two years, say officials from two non-governmental organisations.

In surveyed sites around Mahe, the most populated island, Global Vision International’s country director, Chris Mason-Parker, says as much as 90 percent of corals in shallow waters are now bleached significantly with signs of mortality.

Another organisation, Nature Seychelles, says extensive bleaching has been observed around Praslin, the second-most populated island, with over 17 percent of coral having died within the special reserve of Cousin, a neighbouring island.

Coral bleaching is a phenomenon where coral turns white or colours fade. It is caused by an increase in sea temperature. An El NiƱo similar to the one in 1998 has occurred this year, bringing above-average temperatures to the region.

The local media made a report last month on coral bleaching around Curieuse’ protected marine area, located 15 minutes from Praslin.

“Bleached corals continue to live, but growth is limited until they can regain the algae which give them their colour and food. This usually occurs when the temperature returns to normal,” said the chief executive of Nature Seychelles.

Given that it takes years for reefs to recover from such a phenomenon, Mason-Parker said this was an opportunity to identify resilient pockets of reef that may be critical for replenishing coral reefs in the Indian Ocean islands.

After the coral bleaching of 1998, coral transplantation is a well-established technique in Seychelles with several sites including Cousin and Curieuse being used as underwater coral nurseries.

Nature Seychelles implemented the largest coral reef restoration program in the region using more than 41,000 coral fragments which were grown in underwater nurseries for more than a year, off Praslin Island.

Over 34 species of corals were then transplanted to the Cousin Island Special Reserve in an area of 5,300 square meters, which was degraded by the 1998 bleaching incidence.

“We hope our transplanted corals exhibit the resilience needed to survive this episode,” said Shah, adding that this will establish proof of concept regarding the feasibility, and desirability of coral gardening.

Mason-Parker, on the other hand, highlighted the need to reduce stressors on local reefs such as avoiding overfishing, minimising nutrient loading and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. He said that protection should be provided for those reefs that are exhibiting resilience and extending this protection to adjacent seagrass and mangrove ecosystems.

“These will maximise our chances of protecting coral reefs and build their resilience to climate change,” Mason-Parker added.


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Drought takes toll at Palau's famed Jellyfish Lake

AFP Yahoo News 4 May 16;

Koror (Palau) (AFP) - A severe drought in Palau is killing marine life at the island nation's popular Jellyfish Lake, researchers say, forcing tourism operators to cancel trips to the unique Pacific destination.

The lake near the capital Koror normally provides a tranquil, otherworldly experience for tourists, mostly from China, who snorkel and float among throngs of non-stinging, golden jellyfish.

But with the tiny nation of 18,000 in the grip of its worst drought on record, scientists last month estimated the jellyfish population had plummeted from eight million to under 600,000.

Boat operators such as Sam's Tours say even that figure is optimistic, putting the numbers at 300,000 and falling.

Sam's no longer runs tours to the lake, normally one of Palau's main attractions, and four out of five operators contacted by AFP last week had adopted a similar policy.

"Many tour companies including ours that have been taking guests to the lake have not seen any jellyfish," Sam's said in a statement to customers.

"We at Sam's Tours have therefore decided to suspend our tours to Jellyfish Lake with immediate effect until further notice."

Palau had 160,000 foreign visitors last year, more than half of them from mainland China, and tourism is the economy's largest earner.

The drought, fuelled by an El Nino weather pattern, has depleted rivers and dams, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency and appeal for overseas aid.

The Coral Reef Research Foundation said the lack of rainwater had increased salinity in the lake, killing off the plankton that sustain the jellyfish.

"The golden jelly population could be on the verge of crashing, to the point where there are no more medusae (adults) swimming around the lake," the foundation said.

It said juvenile polyps could usually go dormant and repopulate when conditions improved but current conditions on the lake were unprecedented.

"This time around the situation is uncertain, as no one knows how this El Nino/La Nina scenario is going to play out," it added.

The Koror state government said it was confident that eventually Jellyfish Lake would once again live up to its name.

"This is a phase in the natural cycle of events in the overall realm of the ecosystem," it said.

"Similar events in the past show evidence of the resilience of our natural environment to recover to normal conditions."


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Best of our wild blogs: 5 May 16



Birdwatching in Pasir Ris Park (April 30, 2016)
Rojak Librarian

Singapore Bird Report-April 2016
Singapore Bird Group


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Fuel oil leaks from storage tank on island west of Pulau Bukom

Lin Yangchen Straits Times 5 May 16;

A storage tank containing fuel oil sprung a leak on April 29, flooding the surrounding area but stopping short of the sea.


Photo from Stomp

The leak occurred within a facility owned and managed by petro- leum storage company Tankstore on Pulau Busing, which is located off the south-western coast of Singapore, west of Pulau Bukom.

Fuel oil is a heavy oil used for power and heat generation.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it received a report on the oil spill at about 9.45pm on Saturday.

When contacted, Tankstore informed MPA that one of its tanks had leaked on April 29 at about 12.05pm. The leaked oil was contained within a pit wall around the tank and no oil had spilled into the sea.

MPA said it has not sighted any oil in the waters off Pulau Busing in its daily checks.

Clean-up operations were still in progress as of Tuesday, according to a report by marine fuels publication Platts Bunkerworld.

Tankstore did not respond to queries by press time.

On April 20, an oil tank on Jurong Island had caved in after catching fire. In 2014, a series of ship collisions south of Singapore released hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil into the sea, affecting the beaches and waters of Kusu Island and St John's Island.

Lin Yangchen

Related link
Oil spill at Pulau Busing on 30 Apr 2016 on wild shores of singapore


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Haze may be less severe due to La Nina rains

Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 May 16;

This year, Singapore may not experience haze as severe as last year.

This is because the El Nino weather phenomenon, which last year caused forest and peatland fires in Indonesia to burn harder and for longer, is expected to subside by the time the traditional dry season rolls in about next month.

Five ministers from countries in the region, who yesterday attended a haze meeting in Singapore, also noted that La Nina - a weather phenomenon associated with more rain this region - is also expected to kick in by the third quarter of this year.

While this could bring more rain to the fire-prone landscape in Indonesia during the dry season, meeting chair Masagos Zulkifli - Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources - told reporters at a press conference that there could still be dry spells in between bouts of rain.

"Whether the fires restart within this dry spell, and be put out quickly by the timely coming of rain, is something only God knows.

"But with more rain coming during that period, hopefully, the fires will abate," he said.

International climate expert Peter Hoeppe, who heads the Geo Risk Research division at German reinsurance firm Munich Re, said after a strong El Nino like the one experienced last year, there is a high probability that La Nina would kick in immediately.

In comparison, for El Nino years that are less strong, there would be a neutral phase for about a year or two before La Nina conditions set in, Dr Hoeppe noted.

The assumption of a La Nina following right after a strong El Nino is based on statistical analyses of events in the past 45 years.

Dr Hoeppe added: "This could mean relief for Singapore; I expect that the air quality would be better this year than last year as it is likely that there will be more rain in Indonesia, and less fires."

After the last major El Nino event in 1997, there was a strong La Nina event that followed in July 1998, pointed out Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's geography department.

He said: "The irony was that fires weren't the concern as the larger-than-average rainfall across Indonesia resulted in floods across the country.

"Likewise, my concern is that areas throughout the region that are currently experiencing drought due to El Nino will be subject to potential flood risk if La Nina occurs."
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ASEAN haze meeting ends on ‘disappointing, bewildering’ note

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 5 May 16;

SINGAPORE — A meeting of five Association of South-east Asian (ASEAN) nations here on Wednesday (May 4) to discuss transboundary haze pollution ended on an unexpected note, when a senior Indonesian official declined to take questions at a media conference after the meeting, saying there would be a separate press conference in Jakarta.

The five countries had earlier agreed to conduct a new study to assess the impact of the 2015 haze on the region.

The Indonesia official’s move prompted Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) to issue a media reply in the evening, calling it “disappointing and bewildering”.

MEWR said it was “just as surprised as everyone else” when Mr Arief Yuwono, senior adviser to the minister for energy at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said a press conference would be held in Jakarta.

This was not disclosed earlier and MEWR “agreed that it was a disappointing and bewildering development, but did not want to speculate as to what this meant for cooperation on haze among the (five) countries”.

Indonesian Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar did not attend the meeting, which was held at the Marina Mandarin hotel.

Last month, Ms Siti Nurbaya told Singapore to focus on its own role in addressing the haze issue instead of “making so many comments”.

Her comments — the latest in a series of critical remarks by an Indonesian minister — were in response to Mr Masagos’ statement that agro-forestry companies should take full responsibility for fire prevention and mitigation in their concessions, and that there must not be a repeat of last year’s forest fires which caused the haze.

Besides Mr Arief and Singapore’s Environment Minister Masagos Zulkifli, the 18th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution was attended by Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Surasak Karnjanarat, Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Hamim Samuri, Brunei’s Deputy Minister of Development Suhaimi Gafar and ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh.

The new study on the economic, health and social impact of last year’s haze episode will be conducted to obtain baseline data to understand its impact, stated a media release after Wednesday’s meeting.

The ministers tasked the ASEAN Secretariat to collate information from the five countries “in accordance with their national laws and regulations”.

Mr Masagos hoped the study would be done “quickly” and expected to have “something substantive” within a year. Countries collect different data, he said.

Singapore has figures on the haze’s impact on tourism. Figures from Indonesia could include the reduction in the crop yield.

The 2015 forest fires — caused by the rampant torching of peatland and other areas in Indonesia — were a “very important incident and very instructive for us to learn from”, Mr Masagos said.

An expert had estimated that between September and Oct 26 last year, daily greenhouse gas emissions from Indonesia’s fires exceeded daily emissions from the United States economy — 20 times the size of Indonesia’s — on 38 days.

One development at the meeting cited by Mr Masagos was the agreement by the five countries to share hotspot information, as specified in the ASEAN Standard Operating Procedure for Monitoring, Assessment and Joint Emergency Response.

The ministers tasked a technical task force to work out the mode in which information would be shared. They also agreed to continue working towards operationalising the sub-regional haze monitoring system.

From May 30 to June 1, a peat fire management workshop to “train the trainer” will be held in Pontianak in West Kalimantan. It will be co-hosted by Indonesia and Singapore.

Mr Minh said the Secretariat’s priorities include the effective implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution to be hosted by Indonesia, and work on a roadmap towards a haze-free ASEAN by 2020.

Dry weather conditions are expected for Sumatra and Kalimantan between June and early October this year, but the region could expect normal or above-normal rainfall in the third quarter.

The five ASEAN countries pledged to remain vigilant and step up haze prevention efforts to minimise the chances of transboundary haze.

Last month, the head of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency, Mr Nazir Foead, had said at a conference in Singapore that there is “zero chance” that any haze this year will be as severe as last year’s episode, given how seriously Indonesia is taking action to prevent fires from happening.

For instance, Indonesian President Joko Widodo had announced a moratorium on new permits for oil palm plantations, and had vowed in January to sack local military and police chiefs for uncontrolled fires in their provinces.


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Malaysia: Seven dams nationwide at critical levels: Wan Junaidi

ESTHER LANDAU New Straits Times 4 May 16;

KUCHING: Seven dams nationwide have recorded critical readings with water levels below 50 per cent as of today, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said the water storage at several of the dams can only sustain supply up to a month.

The seven dams include Timah Tasoh dam in Perlis (27.6 per cent); Bukit Merah dam in Perak (20.2 per cent); Beris dam (25.9 per cent); Muda dam (30.45 per cent) and Padang Saga in Kedah (33.9 per cent); Labong dam in Johor (12.43 per cent); and Bukit Kwong in Kelantan (6.9 per cent).

He said the Bukit Merah dam has enough water for another 20 days; Timah Tasoh and Padang Saga up to a month; while Labong and Beris dams have up to three months supply.

"We urge the public to not waste water and use it when needed during this hot and dry season.

"The decreasing water level at the dams are not only affecting the domestic usage, but also the agricultural sector," said Wan Junaidi at the Sungai Buntal Coastal Erotion Control and Conservation programme in Kampung Buntal here today.

Among those present at the ceremony were Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahadzir Khalid and Pantai Damai assemblyman Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi.


7 dams in Malaysia less than half-filled with water: Ministry
The water in each dam may last from 20 days to three months without rainfall, says the country's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Channel NewsAsia 4 May 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Seven dams across Malaysia have water levels that are less than 50 per cent of their full capacity, following the heatwave and dry conditions that have hit the country, said its Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) on Wednesday (May 4).

The Timah Tasoh Dam in Perlis, Bukit Merah Dam in Perak, Bukit Kwong Dam in Kelantan, Labong Dam in Johor and the Beris, Muda and Padang Saga Dams in Kedah were those listed in the ministry's news release.

The drying up of Bukit Merah Dam, has greatly impacted residents of the Kerian district - known as the "rice bowl" of Kedah. The dam, which is also known as Bukit Merah Lake, is the area's main water source for agricultural and domestic use.

As a result, the Perak state government decided to stop supplying water to rice fields to focus on domestic users. Even then, the water in the dam which is currently at 20.23 per cent of its full capacity, is only expected to last 20 days, according to the news release.

The water in Timah Tasoh and Padang Saga Dams may last up to a month, while that in the Beris and Labong Dams are expected to be able to provide water for up to three months before drying up.

There are 12 other dams across the country being run by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage and these contain water ranging from 54.5 per cent (Pedu Dam in Kedah) and 79.76 per cent (Sembrong Dam in Johor) of their full capacity, said NRE.

While it did not announce measures in direct response to the dire water situation, NRE said it continues to work together with agencies such as the Department of Environment in preventing outdoor burnings that have the potential to worsen the situation, for example by causing haze.

- CNA/hs


Better weather over next few days
The Star 5 May 16;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians can expect better weather over the next few days.

The weather forecast until May 10 is expected to be “generally good” in most places in all states, except for rain in one or two places on the coastal area of Sarawak in the morning, said Meteorological Department director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail.

“For afternoons and early evenings, rain and thunderstorms in one or two places are expected in the peninsula’s west coast, all areas in Sarawak, and the west coast and interior of Sabah.

“For late evenings, rain is expected in one or two places in the middle and interior of Sarawak only,” she said in a statement yesterday.

The department had earlier issued an advisory on the maximum temperature recorded between May 1 and May 3.

Batu Embun, Chuping, Kuala Krai, Temerloh and Mersing were the hottest places during the three days with temperatures recorded above 37°C.

The hot weather slowly cooled down after it rained on May 3.

On May 3, 24 main meteorolo­gical stations have recorded the highest amount of rain in Alor Setar with 44.0mm, followed by Sri Aman (36.8mm), Subang (35.2mm), La­­buan (32.0mm), Bayan Lepas (30.0mm), Batu Pahat (24.2mm), Keningau (21.4mm) and Mulu (20.0mm).

“Other stations recorded less than 20mm of rain. Only Kuala Krai meteorological station recorded a maximum temperature reading above 37°C, which was at 37.7°C.

“Other maximum temperature recorded at other stations are normal,” said Che Gayah.

Meanwhile in Kota Baru, a local company has taken up the role as a “rainmaker” and will spend some RM300,000 to conduct cloud seeding activities to induce rain.

AF Jets Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Amrul Nizar Anuar said such operations would be borne by the company as a contribution to the Kelantan people who were now facing hardship with rivers, lakes and wells fast drying up.

“We will conduct this exercise starting this Sunday and over the next 10 days

“As a local, I am obligated to give back to the people even though my base is in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.


Draw raw water from rivers, water authorities urged
SARBAN SINGH The Star 5 May 16;

SEREMBAN: Water authorities in all states should draw raw water from rivers instead of relying solely on the dams.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said the water stored in dams should be used during a prolonged dry spell when the levels of rivers recede.

“We have managed to avoid water rationing in Negri Sembilan because almost all the raw water we need is drawn from rivers.

“Since we had enough water in our dams, we were able to release some to replenish supply in rivers, where most of our treatment plants are located,” he said, adding that only two water treatment plants in the state received raw water supply from dams.

Negri Sembilan has seven dams. They are Sg Terip, Kelinchi, Talang, Teriang, Sg Beringin, Ulu Sepri and Gemencheh.

Mohamad said he had proposed this mea­sure at last week’s National Natural Disaster Committee meeting and it was well accepted by representatives from other states.

“For the past two weeks, we have been releasing some 90mil litres of raw water daily from the Talang dam into Ulu Sg Muar, where we have five suction pumps supplying water to different plants.

“We were fortunate that we had sufficient water in our dams as we have been storing it for some time,” he said.

Mohamad has also proposed that states build bunded facilities to store rain water at downstream areas so that this could be pumped back into dams in times of need.

“Statistics show that we harvest less than 5% of the rain we get and one way to increase this is to build bunded facilities,” he said, adding that these could also be an effective flood mitigation option.

Mohamad said since Malaysia was blessed with a high rainfall, the authorities should find more ways to harvest rainwater.

“Since it’s been raining the past few days, I have already instructed the water authorities in Negri to pump more water into our dams.”

On Tuesday, the National Water Services Commission said it was monitoring dams in five states and some of which had fallen to critical levels. These dams were in Perak, Perlis, Pahang, Kedah and Johor.


Sunken vessel ‘rises’ as Sungai Pahang water level drops
The Star 4 May 16;

PEKAN: The dwindling water level of Sungai Pahang due to the dry weather brought on by the El Nino phenomenon has uncovered what is claimed to be a British merchant vessel that had sunk under mysterious circumstances 100 years ago.

Villagers of Kampung Tanjung in Paloh Hinai noticed the emergence of the vessel over the past month, said Kampung Paloh Hinau Development and Security Committee chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman.

"The story of the shipwreck is popular among the villages, having been handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.

"It is said that the vessel sank due to the arrogant attitude of the captain and after the 'spirits' were disburbed," he told reporters Wednesday.

Abdul Rashid said it was only recently that the villagers were approaching the vessel to take photographs as they had been frightened by the stories narrated over time.

The vessel had a funnel, anchor rope, propeller and engine combustion chamber characteristic of ships of the 1900s, he said.

Abdul Rashid said he hoped that the history of the vessel would be compiled if it actually was the British merchant vessel that sank 100 years ago. - Bernama


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