Man fined S$7,600 for illegal import and possession of reptiles, another fined for abandoning cats

ASYRAF KAMIL Today Online 17 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE — A 28-year-old man was fined S$7,600 for the illegal import of a leopard tortoise, and possession of two endangered reptiles in his home.

In a statement on Wednesday (Oct 17), the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said that Joey Law Swee Siang, 28, was fined S$4,000 for the illegal import of the tortoise, S$3,000 for possessing an African spurred tortoise, and S$600 for keeping a razor-back musk turtle.

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Malaysia to do away with single-use plastics

sim leoi leoi The Star 18 Oct 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: There will be no more drinking straws and plastic carrier bags by 2030 under an ambitious plan that will see local councils imposing a “pollution charge” and a “no straw by default” policy.

These measures will be introduced under Phase 1 of the Roadmap Towards Zero Single-use Plastics 2018-2030 from next year until 2021.

The roadmap will also eventually see the implementation of a circular economy for recycling as well as position Malaysia as a leader in biodegradable technology and industry within the region.

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Indonesia: Death toll of C Sulawesi earthquake reaches 2,102

Antara 15 Oct 18;

Palu, C Sulawesi (ANTARA News)- The death toll of a magnitude-7.4 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami that hit Central Sulawesi on Sept 28, 2018, reached 2,102, following discovery of two more bodies by a marine team in Patoloan seaport area, here, Tuesday.

The bodies of a mother and a child were handed over to their family for funerals.

The total number of injured people was 4,612, while 680 people were still missing, and 152 others remained under the debris of buildings destroyed by the natural disaster.

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Climate change 'at point of no return': Ban

AFP Yahoo News 16 Oct 18;

The Hague (AFP) - Former UN chief Ban Ki-Moon warned Tuesday the world is at the "point of no return" on climate change as he launched an international commission on responses to global warming.

The Global Commission on Adaptation is endorsed by 17 countries including major economic powers China, Germany and India and will look at ways the world -- especially poor nations -- can shield themselves against the impact of rising temperatures.

"We are at the point of no return," Ban told an audience at the commission's launch in The Hague, where the Netherlands hosted its 28 commissioners.

Ban's remarks followed the release of a landmark United Nations report earlier this month that warned of global warming-triggered chaos unless dramatic action is taken.

The world must choose from two paths: one that could lead to a "more climate resilient future," said Ban, the United Nations secretary general from 2007 to 2016.

"Or we can continue with the status quo, putting at risk global economic growth and social stability that will undermine our food and water security... for decades to come," he said.

The commission is co-led by US billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and the World Bank's Kristalina Georgieva.

On current trends, Earth is on track to warm up an unlivable three or four degrees Celsius (5.4 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, far about the 1.5 C climate-safe threshold endorsed last week by the UN in its climate change assessment.

- Paris pact withdrawal -

International efforts to create a united front to tackle global warming have been hit by the US withdrawal from the Paris climate pact, with US President Donald Trump again on Monday questioning climate change.

The commission will look at measures countries can take to defend themselves against the effects of climate change, such as rising water levels and prolonged droughts.

Dutch knowledge of working with water will form part of the commission's recommended actions, which will be presented at the UN's climate summit in September next year.

"For the Netherlands, looking for solutions to water issues is part of everyday life," Dutch Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen said before the commission's launch.

"But experience has taught us that prevention is better than cure," she said.

Storm surges and tidal cycles caused record sea levels along the Dutch coastline last year and are closely watched in a country where much of the land lies below sea level.

The Netherlands is protected from flooding by a series of defences such as dykes, sand dunes, windmills to pump away water and sophisticated barrages.

'Bad news': CO2 emissions to rise in 2018, says IEA chief
Catherine HOURS, Marlowe HOOD, AFP Yahoo News 16 Oct 18;

Paris (AFP) - Energy sector carbon emissions will rise in 2018 after hitting record levels the year before, dimming prospects for meeting Paris climate treaty goals, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Wednesday.

The energy sector accounts for 80 percent of global CO2 emissions, with most of the rest caused by deforestation and agriculture, so its performance is key to efforts to rein in rising world temperatures.

"I'm sorry, I have very bad news for you," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told guests at a diplomatic function hosted by the Polish embassy in Paris.

"Emissions this year will increase once again, and we're going to have the COP meeting when global emissions reach a record high," he said, referring to the December UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland.

After remaining flat for three years, total global CO2 emissions in 2017 rose by 1.4 percent, dashing hopes that they had peaked.

The meeting in Katowice is tasked with finalising the "operating manual" for the 195-nation Paris Agreement, which enters into force in 2020 and calls for capping global warming at "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and at 1.5 C if possible.

"The chances of meeting such ambitious targets, in my view, are becoming weaker and weaker every year, every month," Birol told invitees, including former French prime minister Laurent Fabius, who shepherded the 2015 treaty to a successful conclusion, and Poland's junior minister Michal Kurtyka, who will preside over the December summit.

With one degree Celsius of warming so far, Earth has seen a crescendo of deadly extreme weather, including heatwaves, droughts, floods and deadly storm surges made worse by rising seas.

- Next two years critical -

Even taking into account voluntary national pledges to slash carbon emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, the planet is currently on track to warm by an unlivable 3 C to 4 C by century's end.

A major UN report released earlier this month said that capping average global temperatures at 1.5 C above preindustrial levels would prevent the worst ravages of climate change.

But reaching that goal would mean reducing CO2 emissions by nearly half compared to 2010 levels within a dozen years, and becoming "carbon neutral" -- with no excess C02 leaching into the atmosphere -- by 2050.

The UN report also details humanity's "carbon budget" -- the amount of CO2 we can emit and still stay under the 1.5 C ceiling.

At current rates of carbon pollution, that budget would be used up within two decades.

Fabius, who said he had accepted an invitation to help Poland prepare for the December climate summit, insisted that the next two years are critical.

"Climate change is a near-term problem," he said. "When you look at the tragic consequences, it is today, not in 50 years."

"This is not a negotiation like any other," he added. "If you fail, you cannot start over again."

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Best of our wild blogs: 17 Oct 18

Our Crazy Rich Shores: Kusu Island
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

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Sentosa Island, Pulau Brani development plans in the works

Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE: A comprehensive set of plans to reshape Sentosa Island is being developed, announced Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat on Wednesday (Oct 17) at the opening of travel trade show ITB Asia 2018.

Mr Chee spoke about Sentosa Island's status as a major tourism attraction in Singapore, and highlighted its need to remain competitive by constantly rejuvenating itself.

"We are currently developing a comprehensive set of plans to reshape the entire island and provide more scope for new attractions and investments on Sentosa," said Mr Chee.

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Singapore tops index measuring food security, but vulnerable to trade and climate-related risks

VICTOR LOH Today Online 17 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE — In a first for Singapore, the Republic has topped the Global Food Security Index, which measures the affordability, availability, quality and safety of food sources in 113 countries.

This is an improvement from its fourth position last year.

However, the index by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) highlighted Singapore's vulnerability to climate-related and natural resource risks, which is not reflected in the overall ranking.

Taking risks such as exposure to climate change (temperature rise, drought, flooding, etc) and the health of land and water resources into account, Singapore ranks 16th among the 113 countries, with Switzerland at the top.

“Singapore’s strong food-security score is largely attributable to its status as a high-income economy,” said the report, noting that the country’s GDP per capita has risen by nearly 30 per cent since 2012, and the percentage of household expenditure that is spent on food is the second-lowest in the index.

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PUB takes contractor to task for polluting Bukit Timah canal with silt from construction site

Tee Zhuo Straits Times 16 oct 18;

SINGAPORE - A contractor will be taken to task for polluting a canal in Bukit Timah with silt, PUB said on Tuesday (Oct 16).

In its statement, Singapore's national water agency said that it had investigated and confirmed the material discharged into the canal after a heavy downpour last Wednesday was silt.

"We have traced the silty discharge to a nearby construction site that had failed to provide adequate earth control measures on site," PUB added.

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Burger King Singapore to stop providing plastic lids and straws for drinks

Channel NewsAsia 16 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE: Burger King announced that it will no longer provide dine-in customers plastic straws and lids for their cold drinks at its 42 outlets in Singapore.

The initiative began on Monday (Oct 15).

Replying to Channel NewsAsia's queries, Burger King said that customers can however still request for the plastic lids and straws at the counter.

"We understand that some guests with children will still require straws, so we are happy to accede to their request," said a spokesperson, adding that the lids and straws will still be provided for takeaways and deliveries.

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Best of our wild blogs: 16 Oct 18

JOB OPPORTUNITY: Management Assistant Officer, Visitor Services/Casual Visitor Services Officer
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

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World's largest rice science conference opens in Singapore, to discuss challenges facing rice production

Jose Hong Straits Times 15 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE - The production of rice, one of the world’s most important crops, is facing major problems, such as slow growth and climate change, which could increase its price by more than 30 per cent by 2050.

“We need major changes to our rice and food production systems, to make them more resilient to weather disruptions, and also to reduce their emissions and their impact on the environment,” said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Monday (Oct 15).

Speaking at the opening of the International Rice Congress, Mr Wong said that although Singapore is a rice consumer instead of a producer, the country has turned its limited land space to its advantage by experimenting with more productive farming methods.

“After all, necessity is the mother of invention,” said Mr Wong, who is also Second Minister for Finance, citing examples of urban farming that produce more rice with less land.

The congress, also called the “Olympics of Rice Science”, is the world’s largest scientific conference on rice. It is held every four years, and is in Singapore for the first time.

This year’s conference, organised by the International Rice Research Institute (Irri) and Agri-food and Veterinary Authority, brings together 1,500 participants from 40 countries including scientists, government officials and representatives from international organisations like the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Among the announcements on Monday was a four-year partnership between Irri and Corteva Agriscience, the agricultural arm of chemical giant DowDuPont, which aims to improve global rice production and quality.

According to the two bodies, rice production needs to dramatically increase by 25 per cent over the next 25 years to meet the growing demands of the world’s population.

Both organisations will draw on each other’s scientific strengths to breed rice that will overcome looming challenges of climate change and decreased rice productivity.

Corteva, for instance, has access to seven million farmers throughout South and South-east Asia through its educational and outreach programmes, while Irri has expertise in rice genetics.

Mr Peter Ford, president of Corteva Agriscience (Asia-Pacific), said: “Our shared goal for this partnership is to help rice farmers to become more productive and sustainable.”

Irri director-general Matthew Morell said Singapore’s importance to international trade made it a natural choice for this year’s conference: “While agriculture plays a limited role in the economy of Singapore, the country is a significant logistics and shipping hub for rice trade. In addition, its robust financial market and reputation for regulatory rigour position it as an ideal location for a rice futures market that can help ensure the availability and affordability of rice worldwide.

“The International Rice Congress 2018 in Singapore provides a springboard for meaningful discussions on the policies, innovations and partnerships that can drive the growth of an equitable global rice sector.”

Ms Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, said: “The world is changing rapidly, and the future world rice economy will look much different than it does today.

“Diets are changing towards fish, meat, fruits and vegetables, although rice will remain the foundation of Asian diets, especially for the poor.”

Mr Wong said that everyone needs to come together to overcome the vast challenges facing rice’s future.

“Agriculture can and must be part of the solution to tackling climate change. We must intensify our research, enterprise and collaboration efforts to transform rice and agricultural production methods,” he said.

The congress, held at Marina Bay Sands, runs until Wednesday.

Agreement to preserve world's largest rice collection signed in Singapore
Jose Hong Straits Times 16 Oct 18;

SINGAPORE - The grain that feeds half the world has been given a boost to ensure it never dies out.
Almost $2 million each year will be pumped into a rice repository - a genetic treasure trove of 136,000 rice varieties - to conserve and distribute them to the countries that depend on rice.

At a time when harvests have plateaued and there are more mouths than ever to feed, research into the different grains could produce super rice which can thrive in the harsher weather brought about by climate change.

Crop Trust, the Germany-based international organisation whose mission is to ensure the survival of plants the world feeds on, will fund the International Rice Research Institute (Irri) to the tune of US$1.4 million (S$1.9 million) a year.

While funding goals will be revised every five years, Crop Trust has said it will permanently bankroll the endeavour.

Irri is an international organisation dedicated to reducing poverty and hunger through rice science. It holds the genes of 136,000 types of rice in Los Banos in the Philippines.

The two bodies met at Marina Bay Sands to sign the agreement on World Food Day on Tuesday (Oct 16) during the 5th International Rice Congress.

From 2019 to 2023, Crop Trust's funding will be used to cover the rice institute's essential operations, including the conservation, regeneration and distribution of its cultivated and wild seed collections.

Crop Trust executive director Marie Haga said: "This is a landmark moment for Irri and for Crop Trust. At a time when many donors have increasingly complex demands on their resources, it's important that the world's crop collections are safe, secure and the gene banks functioning effectively."

The issue of climate change and its impact on rice is evident, say experts.

In order to avoid catastrophes including falling crop yields, deadlier weather extremes, habitat loss and ever higher sea levels, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that deep emission cuts are needed before 2030.

On Oct 8, the United Nations' climate panel released a report pointing out that the world needs to lower its global warming limit from 2 deg C to 1.5 deg C.

One of its coordinating lead authors argued that the effects of climate change would be "exponentially more dramatic" above 1.5 deg C.

Scientists worldwide have been using the seeds stored at the rice institute's high-tech facility in Los Banos to develop improved rice varieties that can withstand the impact of climate change while keeping pace with the growing world population.

The institute's scientists have already used rice samples in the bank to develop varieties capable of handling drought and flooding, which are already threatening production in key rice-producing regions in Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and China.

A particularly exciting variety is called "scuba rice". It can withstand flooding for up to two weeks, compared to most rice varieties which die within days of being submerged under water.

This scuba rice variety is currently being grown by five million farmers in Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Laos. Researchers are presently adapting scuba rice for Africa as well.

Evolutionary biologist Ruaraidh Sackville-Hamilton, who manages the rice institute's gene bank, said: "Everyone in South-east Asia will benefit from this, as it ensures that rice can continue to be improved and adapted to meet local nutritional needs of our growing population despite the challenges of climate change.

"With this collection safely conserved, we can continue to use it to develop improved rice varieties that farmers can use to respond to the challenges in rice production, and to adapt to the changing tastes and preferences of consumers everywhere."

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Indonesia: Floods affect 24,321 people in Aceh Singkil District

Antara 15 Oct 18;

Illustration. Farmers are drying the rice which is submerged by floods in the rice field area of Blang Leuah Village, Samatiga District, West Aceh, Aceh, Saturday (10/13/2018). (ANTARA PHOTO/Syifa Yulinnas/aww.)

Banda Aceh, Aceh (ANTARA News) - The Aceh Singkil Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) reported that the floods that inundated 24 villages in the eight sub-districts of Aceh Singkil Districts, Aceh Province, affected 24,321 people.

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