Best of our wild blogs: 19-20 Aug 18



Wild fun for kids during the September school holidays
wild shores of singapore

30 Sep (Sun): Seringat Trail kayaking with Kayakasia
Celebrating Singapore Shores!

Night Walk At MacRitchie Reservoir Park (17 Aug 2018)
Beetles@SG BLOG

Beting Bemban Besar a.k.a BBB
Offshore Singapore

Butterfly of the Month - August 2018
Butterflies of Singapore


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Helping households take a shine to LED lights

Rahimah Rashith Straits Times 19 Aug 18;

All households in one-and two-room public housing flats in the North East District will each receive a $25 voucher to redeem LED lights, in an effort to help residents be more environmentally conscious through using bulbs that reduce energy consumption.

The initiative was launched by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and North East Community Development Council (CDC) yesterday in Punggol North.

Singapore's total household electricity consumption has gone up by about 17 per cent in the last decade. An NEA study showed only 28 per cent of households in one-and two-room flats use LED lights, which are the most energy-efficient type of lights.

The programme will enable 13,000 households to reap cost savings in their utility bills.

If all these households switch their bulbs to LED, they are expected to collectively save about 360,000 kilowatt hours annually. This is equivalent to more than $70,000 in energy savings and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by more than 150 tonnes per annum.

All eligible households in the North East District will be notified via mail over the next two months to collect their $25 vouchers from designated collection points, such as their nearest community centre. They have to pick them up within six months of being notified.

According to NEA, there are, on average, about four to five light bulbs in each one-or two-room flat, and the $25 voucher should cover the cost of replacing them with LED bulbs. The voucher can be used at all Home-Fix, Selffix and Sheng Siong stores here, Philips Light Lab as well as roadshows organised by the NEA and North East CDC.

The NEA is looking into progressively rolling out the programme to other districts.

Its chief executive officer Ronnie Tay said: "Taking care of the environment can be done through simple ways. By choosing energy-saving appliances, households can not only save energy and reduce their utility bills, but also reduce carbon emissions."

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who was guest of honour at the event, also encouraged residents to do their part for the environment. He said: "The Government cannot tackle climate change alone. Using less electricity at home is one simple climate action that we can all take."


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Like real meat, but guilt-free? Beyond Burger debuts in Singapore

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 18 Aug 18;

SINGAPORE — They look, cook and supposedly taste like real meat patties, except they are not.

After making waves in the United States, Canada and Hong Kong, Beyond Burger's plant-based (or vegan) patties made their South-east Asian debut in Singapore on Thursday (Aug 16) at a food truck outside the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel.

Five hundred burgers costing S$10 each were sold on the day, the hotel's food and beverage director Jerome Pagnier said, and patrons were queueing on Friday afternoon for more of the same.

The food truck will operate until Saturday from 3pm to 8.30pm, and from Monday, the burgers will be available at the hotel's mezza9 restaurant.

Beyond Burger is among the plant-based protein products that food technology firms in the US have rolled out in recent years to give meat products a run for their money. Plant-based protein incurs a smaller carbon footprint than animal agriculture, which is one of the world's major contributors of greenhouse gases.

Besides Beyond Meat — the maker of the Beyond Burger — the other firm that has drawn extensive media coverage and high-profile investors is Impossible Foods.

Singapore investment fund Temasek is an investor in Impossible Foods while Beyond Meat's investors include billionaire Bill Gates and Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Beyond Burger is available only at the Grand Hyatt Singapore for now. A lunch or dinner set consisting of a plant-based burger and a side of fries, cauliflower, broccoli or grains will cost S$25++ at mezza9, less than a beef burger (220g patty) on its dinner menu that costs S$32++.

A 113g Beyond Burger patty contains 20g of protein, comparable to beef.

Mr Pagnier said that the hotel wanted to introduce a plant-based protein that mimicked the taste of beef, and had its eye on a few companies.

He got in touch with Mr David Yeung, the founder of Hong Kong social enterprise group Green Monday, through a friend. Green Monday distributes Beyond Meat's products in Hong Kong and this is where Mr Pagnier said the hotel is getting its Beyond Burger supply.

Mr Pagnier, 35, became a vegan two years ago after watching the documentary Cowspiracy, about the negative effects of animal farming on the environment.

"It made me want to give the chance to others to try plant-based alternatives to what they usually eat," he said.

The hotel also offers a plant-based Italian lunch buffet at its Pete's Place restaurant, uses certified-sustainable seafood, and, about four months ago, began using only cage-free eggs — laid by hens that are not confined in wire battery cages.

Not all customers who bought Beyond Burgers from the food truck knew the burgers were meat-free and some were surprised to know the patties were not made of beef, Mr Pagnier said.

Some customers approached by TODAY on Friday said that they were trying to cut down on meat consumption while others were vegetarian.

Member of Parliament Louis Ng, 39, heard about the food truck and made a trip down with his daughter. "I'm vegetarian but hate vegetables, so this is heaven to me," he said. "It tastes like the real thing, but is guilt-free."

Another customer, development manager Pei Yeo, 38, learnt about the food truck through a Meetup.com group for vegetarians. She had heard of Beyond Burger and was curious to try it. "I do eat meat but I try to eat more plant-based stuff," she said. "I think it is quite similar to a real burger."

Other plant-based proteins available in Singapore include Quorn, a British brand. Its products can be found in supermarkets.

Last year, TODAY reported that Singapore food technology start-up Life3 Biotech had developed a plant-based protein called Veego that it was hoping to produce on a larger scale.


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Malaysia: Water bombing intensified in Kuala Baram raging forest fire

The Star 20 Aug 18;

MIRI: More than 70 rounds of aerial water bombing have been conducted here to contain a raging forest fire in Kuala Baram district.

The fire has caused the Air Pollutant Index to hover at the 113 unhealthy level mark as of yesterday morning.

Miri Fire chief Supt Law Poh Kiong in his latest update said the Bomba Air Unit would conduct more water bombings to try to contain the blaze.

“We carried out 70 rounds of aerial water bombings on Saturday. This morning we did more rounds,” he said.

Bomba Miri air unit intensifies aerial water-bombing in Kuala Baram district this morning, the second day running as Air Pollutant Index was at 113 unhealthy level this morning. Bomba Miri pic
Fire-fighters are also on the ground battling the fires raging on peat soil.

While the aerial water bombing was being carried out, there was slight drizzle that helped clear the haze.

Kuala Baram is also one of the affected areas.

The state authorities are also worried about haze coming from west Kalimantan, where there are already more than 120 hotspots raging.

Fires in areas measuring one sq km in size and above are termed hotspots as they can be detected by satellites.

Water-bombing intensifies in Kuala Baram, raging forest fire worsens haze
stephen then The Star 19 Apr 18;

MIRI: The Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department in Miri has intensified aerial water-bombing operations to contain a raging forest fire in Kuala Baram district.

The fire has also worsened the haze, recording an Air Pollutant Index (API) level at 113 on Sunday (Aug 19) morning. A reading of 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 moderate and 101-200 unhealthy.

Miri Fire chief Supt Law Poh Kiong said the Bomba air unit will be dropping more water to control the flames from spreading.

"Yesterday, we carried out 70 rounds of aerial water-bombings.

Fire-fighters are also on the ground battling the flames on peat soils.

The wildfire in Kuala Baram is one of dozens that are burning throughout the state.

Authorities are also worried about the haze and smog coming from west Kalimantan.

There are already more than 120 huge fires raging in the area.

Those fires measuring one sq km in size are called hotspots as they can be detected by satellites even 100km above earth.


Water bombing operations begin as forest fire rages in Kuala Baram
stephen then The Star 18 Aug 19;

MIRI: The Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department in Miri has started aerial water bombing operations to contain a raging forest fire in the Kuala Baram district.

The fire had already spread to 32 hectares of land and was nearing the Komplexs Hamidah orphanage, said Miri Fire chief Supt Law Poh Kiong.

Supt Law in his latest update to Sarawak Bomba said the Bomba Air Unit would be dropping water from nearby sources to try and contain the flames.

"Firefighters are also on the ground battling the fires which are burning in peat soil," he said.

Aerial pictures show smoke visible for kilometres in the sky. The wildfire in Kuala Baram is just one of dozens that are burning throughout the state now.

State authorities are also worried about haze and smog coming from west Kalimantan, where there are more than 120 huge fires raging.

Fires measuring more than one sq km in size are called hotspots as they can be detected by satellites 100km above earth.


Haze report: API reading in Miri soars to 'very unhealthy' 228
Esther Landau New Straits Times 18 Aug 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: Although the haze eased for much of the country today, Miri, Sarawak found itself shrouded in smoke.

As of 3pm, the Air Pollution Index (API) reading for the city soared to 228, which is considered “very unhealthy” by the Department of the Environment.

According to the Air Pollutant Index of Malaysia (Apims) website, the next highest readings – categorised in the “moderate range” – were led by Mukah, Sarawak (85), Kuching and Kuala Selangor (both at 84), and Batu Muda here (83).

The rest of the country recorded readings in the “moderate” and “good” categories.

Apims categorises a reading of between 0-50 as “good”, 51-100 as “moderate”, 101-200 as “unhealthy”, 201-300 as “very unhealthy”, and 300 and above as “hazardous.”

Meanwhile, a post on the Malaysian Meteorological Department’s Facebook page said that it, together with the Royal Malaysian Air Force (TUDM) and National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) carried out cloud seeding operations on Aug 17 over Kampung Johan Setia, in Selangor.

It was reported that a peat fire caused by open burning had been raging in the area and was the partial cause of the haze in central Peninsular Malaysia.

For more information, visit apims.doe.com.my.


Environment Department monitors peatland fires
AUDREY VIJAINDREN New Straits Times 18 Aug 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Environment Department has raised concern over possible increase in peatland and forest fires in the country due to the current dry season.

Its director Datuk Dr Ahmad Kamarulnajuib Che Ibrahim said several fire prone areas have been identified and were being closely monitored.

"Our concern are peatlands in Johan Setia, Klang, northern and southern part of the Kuala Langat Forest Reserve, and bushes and peat areas in Dengkil,” he said.

“In Pahang, Rompin, Bera and Pekan are our worry. In Sarawak, hotspots included Miri, Kuala Baram, Permy Jaya, and Mukah's peatland area.

“In Terengganu, fire prone areas included Kampung Tok Kah, Besut and Dungun peatland. While in Kelantan, Bachok peatland area has been identified as a hotspot.” he said.

When asked about the use of cloud seeding to control the haze problem, Ahmad said the number of operations needed would depend on how long the haze would last.

On Friday, Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the cloud seeding operations could only be done with enough presence of clouds.

She reportedly said that the haze situation was bad especially in the north of Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.

As of 5pm today, the highest Permy Jaya in Sarawak recorded "very unhealthy" Air Pollutant Index (KPI) of 226 while Tawau, Sabah recorded “good” of 48.

A reading of 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 moderate and 101-200 unhealthy.


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Malaysia: Douse haze from the source in Indonesia

razak ahmad The Star 10 Aug 18;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia should ask Indonesia to do more to put out fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra which are contributing to the haze that has reached high levels in Sarawak, says a climate expert.

Universiti Malaya climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah said there was strong evidence that fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra were the major contributor of haze in this country.

“We have an Asean level transboundary haze agreement which Indonesia is part of. So, we should engage Indonesia as it is the main source of our haze,” said Prof Azizan amid worsening air quality, especially in Sarawak.

In Miri, the Air Pollutant Index (API) broke past the 200 point and hit 228 as at 1pm on Saturday.

Air quality is classified as good when the API is 50 and below, and moderate when the API reading is between 51 and 100.

An API of between 101 and 200 means the air quality is considered unhealthy.

A reading of 201-300 means that the air quality is very unhealthy and an API of more than 300 is hazardous.

Air quality in other parts of the state was moderate but several had API readings nearing 100, including Kuching (95), Mukah (89) and Sarikei (86).

Temperatures in several parts of Malaysia have been rising due to the current southwest monsoon, which started in the third week of May. The hot and dry weather during this time contributes to the spread of forest fires and open burning, which causes the haze.

On Aug 13, the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) activated a Level 2 haze alert for the Southern Asean region.

Level 2 means that there are over 150 hotspots in two consecutive days with dense smoke plumes, with dry weather persisting and prevailing winds blowing towards Asean countries.

Dry weather, said the ASMC, had led to deterioration of the situation in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

“In West Kalimantan, moderate to dense smoke haze from persistent hotspots has been observed and the prevailing winds could blow the haze toward western Sarawak,” the ASMC said.

An interactive map – accessible at nullschool.net, which provides a visualisation of global weather conditions – shows a high concentration of particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) over the hotspots in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

The map’s PM2.5 readings are sourced from, among others, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

Prof Azizan said PM2.5 was more dangerous compared to the bigger PM10 particulate matter that some air quality measurements were based on.

“This is because PM2.5 particulate is smaller in size and is easily absorbed into the respiratory system causing harm,” he said.

Since Aug 16, the Department of Environment had improved its API measurements by measuring PM2.5 particulate compared to PM10 previously.


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Malaysia: Injured pygmy elephant recovering well

stephanie lee The Star 18 Aug 18;

KOTA KINABALU: An endangered Borneo pygmy elephant rescued from Sabah's east coast is recovering from the injury sustained when its foot was caught in a snare trap.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Christina Liew said the animal was responding well to preliminary treatment, but it had to be taken to the Borneo Elephant Sanctuary (BES) in Kinabatangan for better care.

Liew said wildlife rangers were having trouble approaching the elephant, which could become aggressive when afraid or stressed.

"So far, all looks good. The wound on its leg seems to be healing well," she said in a statement late Friday.

She said the elephant was being transferred to the BES on Saturday (Aug 18).

The male elephant, aged between seven to nine years, suffered an injury to its front right leg in the Taliwas area in Lahad Datu and was rescued by rangers late Tuesday (Aug 14).

The snare caused a two-inch deep wound on the leg, which was infested with maggots.

Pgymy elephants in Sabah continue to face threats from human activities such as development and poaching.

Numerous elephant deaths and injuries have been reported over the years.

This year alone, more than 10 elephants have been reported dead with dozens more injured, mostly due to snare traps and gunshots.

However, authorities are still unable to uncover the parties responsible as no one – including estate workers or villagers – seem to have witnessed anything.


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Malaysia: Reforestation is the way forward

The Star 19 Aug 18;

PUTRAJAYA: A massive reforestation programme, including to rehabilitate land left barren by logging, is expected to be introduced, says Dr Xavier Jayakumar.

A non-governmental organisation called the Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre (TRCRC) would receive a grant from the Norwegian government to conduct the reforestation, said the Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister.

“It’s like an FDI. You come in, we sell green bonds. We say we are doing reforestation. We give you the land, you come and plant,” he said in an exclusive interview with Sunday Star recently.

After a cycle of six to seven years, the forest could be reharvested for a downline industry such as bio plastics.

Dr Xavier said that currently, 52% of Malaysia was under forest cover but if Sarawak and Sabah were not included, Peninsular Malaysia would not even reach 50%.

He said that three states – Kedah, Pahang and Kelantan – were undergoing rapid deforestation due to logging.

“The states will say that it is their only source of revenue,” he said, adding that illegal logging was not much of a problem now compared to before as they had drones to monitor forests.

He said in terms of permit values, the logging could be worth RM500mil a year to the states, but the industries could be 10 times the amount.

“We can tell them you cannot log anymore, we have to preserve the water basins. There are dams built and water retention areas built.

“So they turn around and tell you if don’t want us to log, give us compensation. How do you calculate the value? It’s not sustainable that way,” he said.

He gave the example of the Ulu Muda forest reserve in Kedah as one that was experiencing deforestation at a very rapid stage.

He said the forest reserve acted as a water catchment area for Kedah, Penang, Perlis and Langkawi.

He, however, said that a balance was needed because the removal of forests could cause natural disasters such as floods and landslides, as what happened in Penang and Cameron Highlands in recent years.

“And these are not one-offs. They are bound to happen again but I can’t tell you when,” he said.

Deforestation is the second leading cause of global warming, and has been linked extreme weather occurrences and the increasing severity of the floods in the country, such as those seen in Kelantan and Johor in recent times.

Deforestation is also threatening the livelihood and survival of the orang asli.

Malaysia is a signatory of the 1992 Rio Convention, with the country pledging to maintain 50% of land area under permanent forest and tree cover.


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Malaysia: Defence Ministry doing cloud seeding to deal with haze

The Star 17 Aug 18;

KLANG (Bernama): The Defence Ministry has mobilised its assets to carry out cloud seeding to help deal with the hot and hazy conditions in several parts of the country.

Its minister, Mohamad Sabu, said two Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) aircraft were sent out this morning to locate suitable clouds in the Selangor and Perak airspace, to precipitate rain.

"We need to find suitable clouds and locations to make cloud seeding a success," he told reporters after visiting the peat soil area at Johan Setia here today.

Also present was Selangor Fire and Rescue Department director Azmi Osman.

According to Mohamad, the hazy condition in the country was not caused by forest fires here but had been blown over from Sumatra, Indonesia.

For the record, the Air Pollutant Index readings for Banting and Johan Setia at 4pm today (Aug 17) were unhealthy at 106 and 117 respectively.

Meanwhile, Azmi said the forest fires in the peat soil area were under control and currently only eight hectares (20 acres) of the area were still on fire as compared to 16 hectares (40 acres) yesterday.

Peat soil fires are notoriously hard to put out as they burn deep underground. They often occur in former peat swamps that have been drained dry to plant oil palm.

Mohamad said the dry and hot weather this time around had made firefighting a problem and as such he advised the public, especially oil palm estate and farm owners not to carry out open burning.

"This month the Selangor Fire and Rescue Department received 545 reports on open burning ,” he added. -- BERNAMA


554 acres burnt in 178 Sarawak wildfires
stephen then The Star 17 Aug 18;

MIRI: Some 554 acres (224ha) of forests throughout Sarawak have been burnt in 178 different wildfires since Aug 2.

The latest statistics from the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) showed that in the past 24 hours, firefighting teams statewide had been tackling 15 such wildfires.

The wildfires are in Miri, Kuching, Sri Aman, Sibu, Mukah, Song and Bintulu districts.

According to the Bomba Sarawak operation centre, there was a huge wildfire raging in Sri Aman over an area of some 100 acres (one acre is about the size of one football field).


Haze hits Negri Sembilan; fishermen hope situation improves soon
Mohd Khidir Zakaria New Straits Times 17 Aug 18;

PORT DICKSON: Business is as usual for fishermen in the district despite the haze that has been enveloping the state since yesterday.

One of them, Taufik Abdul Ghani, 56, said he hoped that the situation would improve soon.

“The air pollutant index (API) recorded a moderate with visibility had yet to be affected. We can still carry out activities and daily chores as usual.

“It was worse two years ago when we couldn’t go even go to the sea due to the limited visibility,” he said when met here today.

As of 6pm today, the API readings at three locations, namely, Nilai (97), Port Dickson (73) and Seremban (90) recorded a moderate level.

An API reading of 0 to 50 indicates good air quality; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy and 300 and above, hazardous.

For the latest API readings nationwide, visit www.apims.doe.gov.my.


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Indonesia: Shoot-on-sight order issued in Riau as growing forest and peatland fires cause choking haze

Lee Seok Hwai Straits Times 17 Aug 18;

A commander tasked with preventing fires in Riau said he has issued a shoot-on-sight order across the Indonesian province against those found clearing land by burning, as growing forest and peatland fires shroud several areas in smog ahead of the Asian Games.

The order came as satellites detected 121 hot spots in Riau on Thursday morning (Aug 16) - a big jump from the 22 spots detected on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

"Ninety-nine per cent of the land and forest fires in Riau Province are related to the intentional acts of irresponsible people," Brigadier-General Sonny Aprianto, Commander of the Riau Land and Forest Fire Task Force, was quoted by Antara news agency as saying on Thursday.

He said he had ordered army personnel to shoot "arsonists" across Riau. The Indonesian military has previously issued similar orders, as was the case in Jambi, central Sumatra, last year, to deter fire culprits.

Land-clearing fires have been seen as a serious threat to the 18th Asian Games, which will be held in Palembang, South Sumatra Province, from Aug 18 to Sept 2.

President Joko Widodo and other senior leaders have ordered efforts to combat land fires be stepped up to ensure that the quadrennial games would not be affected.

Brig-Gen Sonny said on Thursday that he had discussed the shoot-on-sight policy with Riau Police Chief Inspector General Nandang, and soldiers would be deployed to every military district compound in Riau to enforce the order.

The authorities had asked locals not to clear land by burning but without much success, the one-star general noted, according to Antara. Indeed, he said the slash-and-burn method for clearing the land has become more widespread.

Several arsonists have been nabbed, he added, with at least three cases in Dumai city now ready for trial.

Meanwhile, the fires have blanketed several areas in Riau, including the provincial capital of Pekanbaru, in smog.

"At first I thought it was morning dew, but apparently the environment was dimmed by the haze," Pekanbaru resident Musfarin told the Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Similar conditions were also reported in Dumai city, where visibility dropped to 4km on Thursday morning on the back of the thick haze, the newspaper said.

The haze in Dumai originated from local forest and land fires as well as hot spots from the neighbouring area of Rokan Hilir regency, where the worst fires in Riau were burning.

The fires in Rokan Hilir have burned down hundreds of hectares of oil palm plantation and peatland as well as 20 houses and several vehicles in Tanjung Leban village in Kubu district, reported Jakarta Post.

The fires have also forced residents to evacuate, the report said, without giving a number.

"We have informed land owners not to clear their land for plantation during the dry season, but apparently they ignored it. We did not have the proper equipment to put out the fires and it was hard to find a water source so the fire spread quickly," Tanjung Leban village secretary Wandri was quoted as saying. He said thousands of residents needed surgical masks.

"Four villages near us are covered with smog from the land fires. All the villagers now breathe in haze. The government must take action to help the people."

Mr Edwar Sanger, deputy head of Riau forest and land fires task force who also heads the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency, said his team had tried putting out fires in Rokan Hilir both from land and air.

"But the dry season has helped the fires spread. Strong winds have also complicated wildfire suppression efforts," he said. Residents should "pray for rain", he added.


Indonesia faces challenges in ensuring haze-free Asian Games
Rahmad Nasution Antara 17 Aug 18;

Bogor, W Java (ANTARA News) - Jakarta and Palembang are gearing up for the opening ceremony of the 18th Asian Games, due to be held at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in the Indonesian capital city on Saturday.

The two cities that will co-host the world`s second biggest multi-sport event after the Olympics from August 18 to September 2 are located on two different islands -- Java and Sumatra. However, Indonesia`s success mainly depends on the two cities` preparedness.

The Asian Games venues and facilities have been readied for use in both Jakarta and Palembang, but Indonesia`s success in convening the event will not just be measured by its excellent services to both athletes and officials of the 45 participating countries.

Its success will largely be measured by the related authorities` capability to ensure that the air quality of Jakarta and Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra Province, is relatively healthy enough for the competing athletes.

Weather-related issues, particularly the air quality and air pollution in Jakarta, have been brought into the spotlight by the local and foreign news media, including Al Jazeera, considering the importance of clean air for those competing in the event.

The Qatar-based news channel, Al Jazeera, has criticized Jakarta`s air pollution level because it has reached an "unhealthy level of 154 micrograms per cubic meter" (Bayani, 2018).

The air quality of Palembang is relatively similar to that of the country`s capital city, Jakarta.

Palembang has been continuously challenged and threatened by haze, caused by land and forest fires in certain areas of South Sumatra and several other provinces in Sumatra Island.

On August 14, the Riau Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency reported that some 169 hotspots were detected in seven provinces across Sumatra Island, including South Sumatra.

Referring to satellite images, the agency remarked that South Sumatra Province had 13 hotspots, while 90 others were detected in different parts of Riau, 27 in Bangka Belitung, 22 in North Sumatra, 10 in West Sumatra, four in Jambi, and three in Lampung. Instead of having a fewer number of hotspots, on August 15, Riau Province had 103 hotspots. The majority of the hotspots were detected in the province`s northern coastal areas.

Head of the Riau Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Sukisno argued that the relatively low rainfall intensity makes Riau Province, whose area is just a few hundred kilometers away from Palembang, vulnerable to the spread of potential land and forest fires.

The BMKG has forecast that mild rain was likely to hit the areas of Rokan Hilir District early in the morning, while the maximum temperature at mid-day could reach 35 degrees Celsius, he said.

The Riau Land and Forest Fire Task Force will continue its ground and aerial firefighting operations through four water-bombing choppers.

However, the dry-bulb temperature and blowing wind have hampered the task force firefighters` efforts in extinguishing the land and forest fires on the wetland.

President Joko Widodo had earlier asked the related authorities to do their best to ensure that the 18th Asian Games are not disrupted by the land and forest fires.

"As the host of the Asian Games, we must be able to ensure that the land and forest fires do not occur during the multi-sport event, so that our image and flights are not disrupted by the haze," he said at a coordination meeting for the Forest and Land Fire Mitigation in Jakarta last February.

In response to the ongoing threats of land and forest fires in Riau, Commander of the Riau Land and Forest Fire Task Force Brig. Gen. Sonny Aprianto issued a shoot-on-sight policy.

He ordered army personnel across the province to implement it against arsonists found burning land.

The shoot-on-sight order was given because the land and forest fires along Riau`s coastal areas tend to spread fast.

The arsonists` acts have been seen as a serious threat that can disrupt the convening of the 18th Asian Games in Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra Province, he said.

By enforcing the law, the local police have been conducting a thorough investigation into the cases of land and forest fires on 45 land areas across the province.

The investigators have set police lines and notice boards along the areas, prohibiting anyone from working on the land, Aprianto remarked.

The dossiers of several suspected arsonists had been completed so that their cases could immediately be tried at local courts. "In Dumai city, for instance, there are three cases with `P21` status. This means that the suspects in the cases are ready for trial."

Aprianto said the suspects, whose cases are being handled by the local police, were all individuals, and none of them represented a company.

"Ninety-nine percent of the land and forest fires in Riau Province are a result of intentional acts by irresponsible people," the one-star army general remarked.

Aprianto further added that he had observed the areas of Dumai city and Rokan Hilir District from a chopper and found massive hotspots there.

The preliminary results of the aerial firefighting patrols that the taskforce team members had conducted indicated that the land and forest fires in Rokan Hilir District areas were intentional acts by those wanting to extend palm oil plantation areas.

"In Teluk Nilam, Rokan Hilir District, alone, the land and forest fires are expected to reach around 17 kilometers. The fires engulfed empty pieces of land located next to a palm oil plantation. This is evidence that the land was intentionally set on fire."

As the host country, Indonesia has no choice but to make utmost efforts to ensure that the over 14,000 athletes competing in Jakarta and Palembang can breathe relatively healthy air.


Editor: Fardah Assegaf


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Thailand: Indonesian smoke haze arrives

ASSAWIN PAKKAWAN Bangkok Post 16 Aug 18;

Smoke haze from this year's burning-off in Indonesia is starting to affect the health of people in Narathiwat, Satun, Songkhla and Yala provinces, the Pollution Control Department said on Thursday.

Particulate matter up to 2.5 microns in diameter had exceeded the safety ceiling of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air over the past 24 hours in the four southern provinces, the department reported.

Particulate matter up to 10 microns exceeded the safety threshold of 120 microgrammes in Betong district of Yala.
Officials said the haze was caused by people clearing forest on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo to turn the land into palm and rubber plantations.

The smoke was being carried to Thailand by prevailing winds.

Regional Environmental Office 16 in Songkhla reported the haze was expected to lessen as the number of hotspots on Sumatra had dropped from 62 on Sunday to eight on Wednesday.








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Older than dinosaurs: last South African coelacanths threatened by oil exploration

Just 30 of the prehistoric fish known to exist, raising fears oil wells will push it to extinction
Tony Carnie in Durban
The Guardian 17 Aug 18;

Bright blue, older than dinosaurs and weighing as much as an average-sized man, coelacanths are the most endangered fish in South Africa and among the rarest in the world.

Barely 30 of these critically-endangered fish are known to exist off the east coast of South Africa, raising concern that a new oil exploration venture in the area could jeopardise their future.

Coelacanths, whose shape has remained almost unchanged for 420m years, captured world attention when the first living specimen was caught off the port city of East London in 1938. This discovery was followed by the subsequent capture of several more off the Comoros islands in the early 1950s, confirming that coelacanths were definitely not extinct.

December 2000 brought further excitement when divers found a small coelacanth colony in underwater canyons near South Africa’s Sodwana Bay, adjacent to the iSimangaliso wetland park and world heritage site.

Now the Rome-based energy group Eni plans to drill several deep-water oil wells in a 400km long exploration block known as Block ER236.

Dr Andrew Venter, the chief executive of Wildtrust, one of several conservation groups lobbying for a significant expansion of South Africa’s protected ocean areas, said: “The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 decimated fish populations – so if we had an oil spill off iSimangaliso it is very likely it could wipe out these coelacanths.”

The Sodwana coelacanths are about 40km from the northern boundary of the Eni exploration area and nearly 200km north of the first drilling sites, but Venter said oil spills spread far and swiftly.

His concerns have been echoed by the coelacanth expert Prof Mike Bruton, who said the fish are specialist creatures, sensitive to environmental disturbance.

“Anything that interferes with their ability to absorb oxygen, such as oil pollution, would threaten their survival. The risk of oil spills or blowouts during exploration or future commercial production in Block ER236 is a source of serious concern.”

Last year, Eni commissioned a mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA) but the scoping report makes scant mention of the potential threat to the Sodwana coelacanths.

Instead, the report suggested that coelacanths were unlikely to be found next to the first exploration wells.

Responding to fears the fish could be wiped out by leaks or undersea blowouts, the oil drilling company said: “Eni always applies the highest operational and environmental standards, which often exceed local compliance regulations.

“Prior to any operation we undertake sensitivity mapping to identify sensitive offshore marine habitat which guide our planning. In addition to this, Eni would comply with all the requirements of the environmental management programme which is based on the outcomes of the impact assessment.

“Specialist studies have been conducted for both marine ecology and oil spill modelling scenarios and no specific threat has emerged in relation to this. The specialist study pertaining to accidental spillage modelling is currently being independently third-party peer-reviewed.”

Bruton said studies on coelacanths caught off the coasts of Indonesia and Tanzania showed that the remoteness of their habitat had not protected them from exposure to pollutants such as PCB and DDT, which had been used on land but had drifted over the sea on atmospheric winds and had accumulated up the food chain to the top predators, such as the coelacanth.

If oil were to be spilled in the ocean, Bruton feared the coelacanth colony could be destroyed. “The risk needs to carefully evaluated before this commercial venture has progressed too far and it is too late,” he said. “Oil spills do not respect the boundaries of marine protected areas.”


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Florida’s worst red tide decimates dolphins, fish, sea turtles

Over 100 tonnes of dead sea creatures have washed up as US state experiences worst red tide in 10 years
The New Paper 17 Aug 18:

SARASOTA, FLORIDA A state of emergency has been declared in Florida as the worst red tide in a decade blackens the ocean water, killing dolphins, sea turtles and fish at a relentless pace.

More than 100 tonnes of dead sea creatures have been shovelled up from smelly, deserted beaches in tourist areas along Florida's south-west coast as a result of the harmful algal bloom this month alone.

In the past week, 12 dolphins washed ashore dead in Sarasota County, typically the toll seen in an entire year.

"It is physically and mentally exhausting," said Ms Gretchen Lovewell, who is in charge of a skeleton crew at Mote Marine Laboratory that collects dead or distressed sea turtles and marine mammals. She and two colleagues "have been literally working around the clock".

On Sunday, Ms Lovewell recovered the remains of a dolphin. A faint number, 252, was visible on its dorsal fin.
SPECK

It was a 12-year-old male named Speck, who had been spotted more than 300 times by researchers monitoring generations of bottlenose dolphins in the Sarasota Bay.

"It was devastating," said Mr Randall Wells, director of the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Programme, the world's longest-running study of a wild dolphin population, under way since 1970.

"Speck is somebody we have known from the time he was born," said Mr Wells. "He was named after my dad."

Red tide is suspected as the cause of death, but researchers won't know for certain until the lab results come back.

A natural phenomenon, red tide is caused by a microscopic single-celled organism called Karenia brevis. It releases a neurotoxin that can become airborne, causing headaches, watery eyes, coughing and asthma attacks in people.

Ecologists have said the organism acts like a forest fire, clearing out weeds and allowing the landscape to start anew.

Karenia brevis is found year-round at low levels. But once it multiplies, sea turtles and manatees may inhale it, or die from eating too much neurotoxin-laced fish and sea grass.

The smell of rotting fish has choked Florida's economy, sapping millions in revenue from fishing and tourism.

"Our life is tourism here in south-west Florida," said Mr Omar Botana, owner of a boat rental firm. "It has hurt our business around 40 per cent."- AFP


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