Best of our wild blogs: 28 Feb 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [21 - 27 Feb 2011]
from Green Business Times

Places of Interest - Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
by Minister Mah Bow Tan on facebook

Jenal Jetty Mangroves
from Urban Forest

Wallace Trail, Dairy Farm Park
from Fahrenheit minus 459

Parakeets eating Swietenia macrophylla seeds
from Bird Ecology Study Group and A female Olive-backed Sunbird collecting nesting material

Birdwatching at Dairy Farm - 20.2.2011
from Urchin's World

Back to the rare seagrass meadows at Kranji for a closer look
from wild shores of singapore

二月华语导游 Madarin guide walk@SBWR,Feb (XVI)
from PurpleMangrove

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Eco-city competition hotting up in China

Tianjin province will have Italian-built eco-city as well as one built by S'pore group
Lynette Khoo Business Times 28 Feb 11;

(SINGAPORE) Competition is right at the doorstep of the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city as another iconic eco-city takes shape within the same province.

Led by an Italian consortium, the project's design draws inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci's urban studies for Milan in the late 15th century and the urban structure of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

It sits on a 13 square kilometre site in Tianjin and is expected to have residential buildings for 75,000 people, commercial buildings, schools, entertainment facilities, medical amenities and a science park.

This is but one of hundreds of eco-cities that have sprung up in China as local officials chase the trend, tying up with private-sector partners in most cases.

In Tianjin, the contract to build this Italian eco-city, Eco Nanhe Town - Nanhe Jingwu, was apparently awarded by the Nanhe municipal government just months after the joint- venture agreement was inked between the Singapore consortium led by Keppel Corp and the Chinese consortium for the bilateral project.

But the Singapore crew is undaunted. 'Competition is good as it keeps us on our toes,' said Ho Tong Yen, chief executive of SSTEC, the master developer of the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city.

'In China, competition for investments is a reality that any city has to face,' he added. He deemed it unsurprising that more eco-cities would spring up given growing awareness of the importance of sustainable development.

Tianjin was chosen for the bilateral project out of four sites, including Tangshan. Though Tangshan wasn't the chosen site, that didn't stop the local officials from pursuing their own 'green' ambitions.

They are now working on the Tangshan Nanhu Eco-City, where Singapore-listed developers Yanlord and Ho Bee Group are building high-end residential properties that meet international standards for energy conservation.

IE Singapore assistant chief executive Yew Sung Pei noted that there is always competition for attention, be it from other eco-cities or development zones. But the various eco-city projects that have emerged in response to varied needs in different parts of China may focus on different things.

'Companies' interest in participating would also depend on their own needs and expansion strategies, the market potential and value to be captured at each location,' Mr Yew said.

Apart from the competition, concerns have also been flagged concerning the land condition for the Sino-Singapore project, though it was intentional to choose land that is non-arable with limited water supply in order to demonstrate how eco-solutions can be adopted and applied elsewhere.

But treating the salt-alkaline land is proving to be rather challenging, sources close to the project told BT. In response to BT queries, a spokesman from Singapore's Ministry of National Development (MND) conceded that there are challenges, but 'these challenges are not insurmountable'.

The 'environment rehabilitation' of the eco-city is progressing on schedule, he added. Various studies are underway to understand how best to tackle the environmental challenges facing the project.

According to him, some other parts of China, including in the Tianjin Binhai New Area, are similarly located on salt-alkaline land and their experiences will offer useful pointers on the treatment of the land.

While the trend of building eco-cities in China is expected to continue, MND pointed out that the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city stands out in some ways.

Like the preceding bilateral project Suzhou Industrial Park, the Tianjin project - as a G2G undertaking - has the support of both governments at the highest level. It enjoys various preferential policies and financial support, including a recently launched programme by IE Singapore to encourage Singapore companies to set up operations and participate in projects in the eco-city.

While some 'eco-city' projects in China have no real measures on their green initiatives, Singapore's Tianjin project needs to fulfil a set of qualitative and quantitative key performance indicators.

Its significant scale - occupying a land area of 30 sq km with a projected population of 350,000 when fully developed - will provide the critical mass for investors and businesses to set up operations there, the MND spokesman said.

While many highly publicised eco-city projects in China have either remained on the drawing board or collapsed from shoddy implementation, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city means business.

Total investments drawn to date have hit 55 billion yuan (S$10.6 billion), SSTEC said. MND also noted that around 300 enterprises are registered with the eco-city and some will commence operations soon. Various residential projects, including Keppel Land's eco-homes, have been launched and met with feverish demand.

The 4 sq km start-up area is already starting to take shape. Construction has begun on the 130-hectare Eco-Industrial Park (EIP), touted to be the first of its kind in China to be built completely in compliance with green building evaluation standards.

'The Tianjin Eco-city has made significant progress since the groundbreaking ceremony in September 2008,' the MND spokesman said. 'Overall, we are on track to complete the start-up area by 2013, and the entire Eco-city by around 2020.'

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Indonesian President Kicks Off Integrated Tourist Zone Project in Bintan

Antara 26 Feb 11;

Bintang, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Saturday inaugurated the construction of the first-phase of an integrated tourist zone at Teluk Sebong, Sebong Lagoi village, Bintan District, Riau Islands Province.

The head of state named the new integrated tourist zone "Pesona Lagoi Bintang" (Lagoi Bintang Charm).

Yudhoyono in his speech hoped that the tourist area could become like Singapore or even better.

"Let`s develop this area to become an integrated economic zone," the president, who was accompanied by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, said.

Among those present at the inauguration ceremony were Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik, Riau Islands Governor Muhammad Sani, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa, Coordinating Minister for People`s Welfare Agung Laksono, Minister/State Secretary Sudi Silalahi, Transportation Minister Freddy Numberi, and Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro.

In the first phase of its development process, "Pesona Lagoi Bintang" will be built on a plot of land measuring 338 hectares.

The project is being implemented by a consortium consisting of several companies including Malaysia-based Landmarks lifestyle company.

The developers will construct a water city resort in the area bought by Landmarks Berhad in 2006.

The integrated tourist zone will also include an international ferry terminal, a marine terminal, a marine aircraft terminal, a cruise ship area, and integrated immigration service office.

There will also be a water recreational area, shopping centers, hotels, amusement parks, villas, housing complexes, apartments, meeting halls, universities and hospitals.

The construction works of the project`s first phase is expected to be complected in 2015 and it will connect with other isles in Riau Islands Province.

Only a short ferry ride of about one-hour from Singapore, the Riau Islands represent an ideal and easily accessible destination for holiday makers.

Editor: AA Ariwibowo

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Malaysia: protests against soldiers posing with dead Great Hornbill

NGOs lodge reports over picture
Sean Augustin New Straits Times 27 Feb 11;

PUTRAJAYA: Two environmental non-governmental organisations have lodged police reports over a picture of soldiers posing with a dead Great Hornbill on Friday.

Traffic Southeast Asia National Trade Policy officer Shenaaz Khan lodged the report at the Dangi Wangi police station at 11.25am, hoping the police will investigate the matter or refer the case to the proper authorities such as the Wildlife and National Parks Department and the Defence Ministry.

She also hoped it would create greater awareness.

"There are laws out there that need to be adhered to, irrespective of their background," she told the New Sunday Times.

She added that the matter could be investigated under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and the Armed Forces Act 1972, which prohibited soldiers from hunting.

Later on Friday, a second report was lodged by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia Conservation manager Han Kwai Hin at Taman Tun police station.

Han said the organisation was ready to assist the police with the investigation.

On Thursday, the NST reported that environmental NGOs were up in arms after a picture of soldiers, believed to be from the Malaysian Armed forces, posing with the dead bird surfaced on a social networking site.

The bird seemed to have its throat slit. The picture has since been removed.

The Great Hornbill is the larger of the hornbill species in Malaysia and is found only in the peninsula.

It is also protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act.

See also Photo: slaughtered great hornbill by soldiers raises ire [warning: graphic image] by Jeremy Hance 27 Feb 11

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Malaysia: More animal attacks with loss of habitat

New Straits Times 28 Feb 11;

From wild macaques living in suburban areas to tigers in the east coast, more and more animals are turning on humans. EVANGELINE MAJAWAT finds out why

TAMBUN Gediu was hunting for squirrels in the fringes of Belum Forest last week when a tiger pounced on him. The hunter had become the hunted.

The Orang Asli escaped the tiger’s deadly jaw-grip after his wife hit the big cat repeatedly on its head with a big ladle.

Tambun is a lucky man. Not so for first-time parents V. Nehru and V. Revathy of Seremban, whose 4-day-old daughter died after being bitten by a long-tailed macaque last year.

These stories are just some of the many human-wildlife conflicts that occur in Malaysia.

In the last three years alone, the Wildlife and National Parks Department recorded close to 35,000 cases of wildlife attacks.

The human casualties did not reflect the shocking number of cases as only five deaths were recorded between 2008 and last year, and 28 were injured.

Most cases Most cases cases involved monkeys (long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques) and snakes (cobras and pythons).

These animals lived close to humans in small pockets of greenery in the city.

Attacks by bigger and rarer species such as elephants, tigers and civet cats occurred mostly in rural areas, especially villages or plantations.

“Unlike the last decade, the current trend shows that human-wildlife conflicts are not restricted to agricultural and rural areas, but also urban areas,” department director-general Datuk Abd Rasid Samsudin said.

Human-wildlife conflict is a phrase used by scientists to describe killings, mauling and crop-raiding by animals on human settlements. The reason why these conflicts happen are obvious — loss of habitat.

“The biggest mistake commonly committed by urban dwellers when sharing space with small animals is feeding them.

“Feeding macaques and wild boars will only make these animals bolder, which can lead to disastrous incidents,” said Rasid, adding that these animals were aggressive, territorial and would attack if threatened.

Improper rubbish and food waste disposal also meant a higher chance of human-wildlife conflicts.

In 2006, participants of the Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Workshop Report by the World Wide Fund For Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) stated that farmers could reduce the chances of these conflicts with simple and inexpensive steps.

The cheapest was to ensure that all livestock were reared in proper paddocks which kept the cattle and goats in, and the tigers out.

A suggestion to emulate the practice in the Sundarbans, India, where workers wear human masks at the back of their heads, was also highlighted as a cost-effective measure.

Keeping a buffer zone between the plantations and surrounding forests also helps. It was reported that most tiger attacks happened in rubber plantations.

Methods to prevent elephant attacks include setting up electrified fences, digging trenches and using repellents.

But the best measure, according to scientists and environmentalists, would be protecting the animals’ habitat and creating wildlife corridors to connect fragmented forests.

While villagers usually organise hunts for rogue animals, Rasid warned that no animal can be killed unless there was “an immediate danger to human life”.

“Villagers are not allowed to go after these animals. Instead, they are advised to contact the nearest wildlife office.”

The department has methods of reducing human-wildlife conflicts and killing wildlife is only the last resort.

“We would usually chase the animals deep into the forest, capture and relocate them, and in other cases, set up electric fences around villages,” said Rasid.

For Malaysian Nature Society communications head Andrew Sebastian, education and awareness are key to reducing deaths and injuries to both humans and animals.

“People must learn and appreciate boundaries and respect the space that wildlife need.”

Enough to keep him off the jungle
P. Chandra Sagaran New Straits Times 28 Feb 11;

"I AM not going back into the jungle... I am afraid the animal will attack me again."

This was the response of tiger-attack victim Tambun Gediu, 60, when asked whether he would continue hunting in the jungle.

The injury on his right knee had restricted his movement.

Tambun, of Kampung Sungai Tiang, 75km from Grik, was hunting squirrels on Feb 12 when he was attacked.

He tried to climb up a tree but the animal caught him and dragged him down.

He owed his life to his wife, Han Besau, 55, who courageously drove the beast away by hitting it on the head with a large wooden ladle.

Tambun suffered injuries in the head, face, neck and both knees.

Speaking from his bed at Grik Hospital last week, the Orang Asli villager said he was recovering but doctors wanted to keep him for observation.

He said this was the first time he had come face to face with a tiger, which left scars all over his body.

"My knee hurts whenever I walk but my other injuries are healing."

The stitches on his wounds were removed earlier last week.

Tambun is expected to be back at Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh today for a check-up.

His son Amir, 19, who was at the hospital to look after him, said his father was traumatised.

"We will just do what we are doing like cultivation, but confined to the vicinity of the village. Fishing is the other source of food for us," he said.

Another Orang Asli from the same village, S. Ringet, 52, said the incident had discouraged villagers from going into the jungle.

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Malaysia: Hunt for rogue elephant launched

New Straits Times 27 Feb 11;

KOTA BARU: The state Wildlife Department believes that the elephant which attacked an estate worker in Dabong early this year is still roaming in a nearby jungle.

Its director, Rahmat Topani said rangers in Jeli had been directed to track down the elephant, which was believed to be in a herd of four, including a calf.

"A six-men team led by Jeli wildlife chief Cosmas Ngau started the operation on Feb 19, but until today, they have yet to locate the elephants.

"But we believe the animals are still in the forest and we will capture them soon."

He said the rangers were on a 24-hour standby to carry out the "Ops Tangkap-Pindah Gajah" operation.

"We are afraid that if the elephants are not captured as soon as possible, they will destroy plants belonging to villagers in Kampung Biak, which is about five kilometres from the jungle."

Rahmat added that three elephants had been captured by the department this year -- two in Gua Musang and another in Kuala Krai.

On Jan 24, an estate worker Bernardus Ngongo Naru was injured after he was attacked by an elephant while working in Dabong. The 24-year-old Indonesian, who suffered injuries on his chest, was sent to Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital where he was warded for almost a week.

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Scientists Back from Borneo with Tales of  Discovery

Ismira Lutfia Jakarta Globe 26 Feb 11;

Paradise does exist, and it can be found in the heart of Central Kalimantan, say two scientists who recently returned from an expedition deep into one of Indonesia’s last remaining tracts of forest.

Martin Holland and Tim van Berkel were part of the Heart of Borneo expedition to study animals and vegetation in the rain forest around the province’s Murung Raya district.

Holland, the project director for the eight-week expedition, said the endless variety of plants and animals proved that “the forests of Borneo are some of the most amazing areas in the world.”

He said the team of 13 European and Indonesian scientists found 140 species of birds, 30 species of frogs, 35 reptile species and 44 species of terrestrial mammals.

“Around 13 of these mammal species are threatened,” Holland told the Jakarta Globe.

Van Berkel, the lead researcher, said some of the animals they encountered had previously been spotted on the Malaysian side of Borneo but never before on the Indonesian side.

Among the species they encountered were the elusive and rare otter civet, cloud leopards, gibbons, pangolins and the bearded pig.

“We never expected to see so many species,” said van Berkel, a mammalogist.

“It was way beyond our imagination.”

He also said some of the species of frogs and snakes might have been unseen and unheard of before and had never been scientifically identified as new species.

“But we can’t really say yet if they are new since they will have to be formally recognized and it might take years for their taxonomic validation,” he said.

But little research has been done in the area, he said, while more data collection in the forests could benefit the local people and authorities in setting up efforts for preservation, given the imminent threat to the forests from nearby mining and logging concessions.

“Compared to Sumatra, Borneo still has lots of forests left and we need to set up preservation efforts as early as possible before it’s too late,” he said, adding that stricter law enforcement was needed to protect the area.

Holland said the richness of the biodiversity in the area could be lost unless a plan was put in place to protect it.

“I think the Indonesian government could start by ensuring transparency over which part of the area is protected and which part is allowed for concessions,” he said.

Both scientists said the government should also begin quantifying the value of the resources in the forests in order to get a clearer estimate of the preservation efforts needed.

Van Berkel said the team would continue its research in the area with a four-week expedition planned for September, and would set up more camera traps to gather additional information on the animals.

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Many countries use peat land without fear: Indonesian expert

Antara 27 Feb 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A number of countries have used peat land to support their economic growth without any fear of being accused of destroying the environment, a peat land expert said.

Indonesia should do the same as far as it used its peat land properly, Dr. Basuki Sumawinata of the Bogor-based Institute of Agriculture (IPB) said on Sunday.

Among the countries which had taken advantage of peat land for a long time were Malaysia, Canada, Finland and Sweden, he said.

Basuki said Finland and Sweden had used well their peat land for farming and energy sources. "Finland used to burn peat to make way for farm land and plantation but no party lodged protest against the practice and forced them to pay for carbon emissions they released," he said.

Now the country was still taking advantage of peat land but by using expensive technology instead of burning it any longer, he said.

Technology was badly needed to use peat land, he said adding many researches had been conducted on how to use peat land without destroying the environment or releasing carbon.

"Unfortunately, foreign pressure and allegation that Indonesia must be held responsible for the destruction of peat land and the release of carbon dioxides are far stronger than the positive achievement it has gained from the management of peat land for forestry activities or other farming activities in an environmentally friendly manner," he said.

He said the government must be aware of how much economic potentials had lost now that many people relied their livelihood on peat land.

Ecohydro technology was among those used to take advantage of peat land, he said.

According to him, the application of ecohydro technology by a timber estate company on Kampar Peninsula should serve as a reference that peat land could be utilized without destroying the environment.

"We should apply ecohydro technology to take advantage of peat land in other parts of Indonesia. We can do so if we have a high degree of discipline. But these all are up to the government to decide," he said.

Indonesia now had 22 million hectares of peat land but only 6-7 percent of it was taken advantage of, he said. (*)

Editor: B Kunto Wibisono

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Best of our wild blogs: 27 Feb 11

Butterfly of the Month - February 2011
from Butterflies of Singapore

Bright Blue, Bright Red
from Creatures in the Wild and 3 Snakes a Day!

Red-breasted Parakeet eats seeds of Lagestroemia speciosa
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Surprises from reclaimed Seringat-Kias
from wonderful creation

A short stroll to the mangroves at Sungei Jelutong, Pulau Ubin
from wild shores of singapore

110226 My garden
from Singapore Nature and Iridescence of beetles

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Indonesia: Infrared cameras monitoring wildlife in Kerinci Seblat park

Antara 26 Feb 11;

Jambi, Jambi (ANTARA News) - The Sumatran Tiger Patrol Team of The Forest Ranger Squad of Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS) has installed infrared cameras in several parts of the park to monitor wildlife existing in the areas.

"We have installed dozens of infrared cameras called Camera Trap in some forests inside TNKS in the Kerinci-Jambi, West Sumatra, and Bengkulu regions," Field Manager of the Sumatran Tiger Patrol Team (PHS) Risdianto said here Saturday.

At least 20 sophisticated cameras that can automatically record the movement of any animal passing by through its body temperature had been installed and were now fully operational.

The main target of the cameras would be the movements and developments of the Sumatran tiger (Panthera Tigris Sumatrae) whose population in TNKS was endangered, Risdianto said, adding that the cameras would also record the behavior and conditions of other wildlife inside the park.

The cameras had already enabled the park authority to catch pictures of some animals that were considered extinct such as Kerinci Hares, Golden Cats, Tohtor Birds, and Long-fanged Jaguars.

According to Risdianto, the high-tech infrared cameras were effectively used for monitoring as they were very reliable and supported by batteries which could last for more than two months.

The Camera Trap method has been widely used as well by tiger researchers around the world to study the tiger population.

The Forest Ecosystem Management Team (PEH) cooperating with the forest rangers had managed to document some carnivores and ungulates in a part of TNKS forest.

"The team managed to take pictures of a female Sumatran Tiger and her cubs," Risdianto said.

The team also documented a golden melanistic cat in video record, Risdianto said, adding that it might be the world`s first video of golden melanistic cat.

There were an estimated 140 Sumatran Tigers, one third of the total population in Sumatra (500), dwelling in the TNKS.

The Kerinci Seblat National Park has been stated as a Level I Tiger Conservation Landscape, a conservation area for the Sumatran Tiger.

The national park has become the habitat for five wildcats of eight species in Indonesia that it has significant roles for the preservation of thousands of wildlife.

Some efforts, such as law enforcements, survey or studies are made to preserve the nature in the national park and also the existence of the Sumatran tigers and the wildlife, Risbianto said.(*)

Editor: Ruslan Burhani

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Best of our wild blogs: 26 Feb 11

The Loke Cheng-Kim Foundation Scholarships for first degrees in Natural Sciences, Environment, et al. (closes 18 Mar 2011) from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Two Demons @ Toa Payoh Town Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Comb Jelly @ Lazarus Island
from sgbeachbum

Birds of a feather flock together
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Little Whippy's Still Home
from Creatures in the Wild and Spider Close-Ups

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Coral reefs in Philippines among world’s most endangered

Kristine L. Alave Philippine Daily Inquirer 26 Feb 11;

MANILA, Philippines—The coral reefs of the Philippines are some of the most endangered in the world from overfishing, pollution and climate change, according to an international report on the state of world reefs.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and several international environmental groups recently released a study, Reefs at Risk Revisited, showing that 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by local pressures such as unsustainable fishing, coastal pollution and development.

Ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures also contribute to coral bleaching and death, the study said.


If left unchecked, more than 90 percent of reefs will be threatened by 2030 and nearly all reefs will be at risk by 2050, the report said.

The loss of reefs could be devastating for many countries. Coral reefs provide food and livelihood to about 850 million people. They also give shoreline protection and support industries like fisheries and tourism.

If certain at-risk coral reefs are not protected, several countries will be economically threatened, it warned.

It identified nations as being the most socially and economically vulnerable to coral reef degradation and loss, noting that reefs provide food, tourism and coastal protection to these countries.

The nine are: Haiti, Grenada, the Philippines, Comoros, Vanuatu, Tanzania, Kiribati, Fiji and Indonesia.

The coral reefs in these countries face serious threats, but the governments do not have the adaptive capacity to protect them, the report said.

“These nations represent key priorities for concerted national and local efforts to reduce reef dependence and build adaptive capacity, alongside reducing immediate threats to reefs,” the report said.

In the Philippines—which is in the so-called Coral Triangle region with the highest diversity of corals, fish, and other reef species anywhere in the world—the reefs are being threatened by unsustainable fishing and population stress, the study said.

It also noted that deforestation and the loss of mangroves have contributed to the decline of reefs in the country.

Massive bleaching

Last year, a group of Filipino scientists reported massive coral bleaching in Philippine waters because of global warming. According to the marine scientists and divers, the massive bleaching of coral reefs all over the country was caused by warmer-than-normal ocean water temperatures.

The WRI study said that coral reefs in Southeast Asia, one of the most diverse in the world and which makes up 28 percent of the global reefs, “are the most threatened”.

Overfishing is the greatest threat to coral reefs in the Southeast Asian region, it said.

“Destructive fishing alone affects at least 60 percent of reefs in the region,” the report said.

Unmitigated human development in the coasts of the Southeast Asian countries also denigrates the reefs.

“Coastal development is variable, but dense populations around the mainland continental shores, the entire Philippine archipelago, and around Java and Sulawesi in Indonesia affect almost all reefs in those areas,” the report said.

The Coral Triangle, recognized as the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, refers to a roughly triangular area of the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste that contain at least 500 species of reef-building corals.

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Indian Fishermen in Survival Battle With Sea Turtles

Manipadma Jena IPS News 25 Feb 11;

BHUBANESWAR, India, Feb 25, 2011 (IPS) - A growing number of endangered olive ridley sea turtles have been getting killed in Eastern India’s coastal state Orissa by mechanized vessels defying a fishing ban on one of the world’s largest turtle sanctuaries, Gahirmatha.

While the government said "no more than 800" were killed since November last year, environmentalists counter that the casualty count of these tiny turtles is actually 5,000.

The problem illustrates the situation that confronts Orissa and other coastal states in India. Environmental and wildlife protection is a major concern, but so is providing sustainable livelihood to the coastal poor. Add to the mix shore-based infrastructure and industrial development and the result is a three-cornered tussle that is worsening by the year.

"We are all for the safety of turtles but the interests of the fishermen must also be kept in mind," said Narayan Haldar, president of the Orissa Traditional Fish Workers’ Union, summing up the predicament the state faces.

At least 40 percent of Orissa’s 480-kilometre coastline is off limits to fishermen from November to June. There is the seven-month fishing ban that is a part of measures to conserve Orissa’s marine sanctuaries. And then there is an additional two months when fishermen are warned against venturing out to sea because of recurring low-pressure systems on the adjacent Bay of Bengal.

"These areas are seeing a drastic reduction in income, large-scale out- migration, clashes over fishing zones, and even suicides," said Trilochan Das, another fisher group’s leader.

"As fishermen thus sit twiddling their thumbs nine months in every year, cheaper freshwater- cultured fish from the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh has overtaken Orissa’s fish market," Haldar lamented. "The government must rationalize the annual seven-month fishing ban in a vast area of the sea and offer alternative livelihood options to the fishing community."

This knotted issue confronting fishers and the fisheries administration as well as environmentalists and developers is now being addressed.

The Federal Ministry of Forest and Environment recently initiated an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) funded by the World Bank and being pilot-tested in four areas since June 2010.

These four pilots, one at the national level and one each for the three States of Orissa, Gujarat and West Bengal, are designed to address the intensifying three-cornered coastal tussle, a challenge further exacerbated by frequent natural disasters and climate-induced risks. The pilot lessons here would be used for future ICZMPs in other coastal states in India.

While environmental issues, improvement of livelihoods and protection of coastal communities are ICZMP’s priority, "de rigueur is community participation in all decision making processes; mainstreaming gender, poverty and equity, too, are top of the list," said Ajit Kumar Pattnaik, Project Director of Orissa’s ICZMP.

The total project cost is 286 million dollars or 1330 crore rupees. Of this amount, 49 million dollars are concentrated on two reaches of Paradip- Dhamra and Gopalpur-Chilka, which constitute 14 percent of Orissa’s coastline.

More than half of the State’s disadvantaged or ‘dalit’ caste population resides in the 641 marine fishing villages along Orissa’s coast. Sixty of these villages will benefit from the pilot project.

The selected coastal areas are richest in ecological and economic resources and have been the most vulnerable to exploitation. While Chilka Lake is one of the largest brackish water lakes in the world, Bhitarkanika, which houses the Gahirmatha wildlife sanctuary, is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in Asia.

Allied fish farming activities like crab fattening, sea bass or composite fish culture, scampi or fresh-water prawn culture are being promoted in the 60 villages as alternative livelihoods to make fishers less dependent on fishing. These activities are also aimed at reducing fishing pressure on the beleaguered ecosystems.

To replace the traditional making of salted and dried preserved fish that used to be the exclusive preserve of fishers’ womenfolk, the programme provides hygienic fish drying yards to women self-help groups. Diary and goat rearing are other alternate livelihoods.

Women self-help group leader Satyabhama Das, who is 60 years old, participated in an earlier regional stakeholders consultation and expressed reservations, saying, "Such fishers groups formed earlier were not supported properly. No real protection was provided against crocodiles, and the really needy people should be supported, not those with local clout." The Bhitarkanika mangrove area is a crocodile habitat.

Integrating heritage and eco-tourism with rural community livelihood is yet another option already taking shape.

Four of the 14 multi-purpose cyclone shelters that ICZMP will build will be located in Puri district. The shelters will provide safety to men, livestock and basic assets during disasters, and will be used as nodal points for coordinating rescue and relief operations post-disaster.

The ICZM addresses the key environment and social challenge that Orissa, Gujarat and West Bengal currently face - the loss of biodiversity and marine ecosystems as more coastal land is diverted for major industries and development infrastructure like ports, harbours and jetties. Lately, the shortsighted construction of upstream hydrological structures for irrigation and industrial water supply in Orissa has choked fresh water flow crucial to maintaining the required salinity for mangroves’ survival.

Coastal fragility is further exacerbated by increasingly destructive and exhaustive fishing practices. As coastal population and infrastructure grow, impacts of natural disasters such as cyclones, storms and floods take a costlier toll. The worst of these was the killer cyclone in 1999 that cost Orissa ten thousand lives.

Till now, governments have sought to deal with the situation through regulations, which clearly are inadequate and lack convergence between departments working towards similar goals. ICZM is structured to integrate various agencies, not just target communities, in its formulation and implementation.

In Orissa, for example, government arms working on the common ICZM platform include fisheries, water resources, archaeology, culture and tourism, and the wild life wing. Also included are the State disaster management authority, coir co-operatives, State pollution control board and the municipality of Paradeep, Orissa’s coastal industry hub. (END)

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Indonesia, Bengkulu: Boar hunting to be included in national tourism agenda

Antara 24 Feb 11;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - Wild boar hunting in Bengkulu province will become an item on the national tourism agenda and promotion program, local culture and tourism office spokesman Agus Sutianto said here on Thursday.

Agus said the boar hunting activity in the province has so far been a regular agenda with the financial support from regional development budget (APBD).

He added pointed out that if the boar hunting tradition was turned into a national tourism agenda, the spread of the disturbing pest's population would end.

According to Agus, the wild boar hunting tradition in Bengkulu was very unique and distinctive and therefore it could be offered to tourists.

For the local farmers, wild boars are exotic pests that can never be destroyed because of their rapid proliferation.

Therefore the wild boar hunting in the province has been a long lasting activity, and periodically the local people conducted it in the fields, bushes, and forests to destroy the pest.

With their beagle dogs, the hunters usually hunt the wild boars in traditional way with traditional weapons such as barbed spears, javelins, long machetes, and bows instead of using fire guns, toxic pest, and anesthetics.

"Such an activity can be made an national agenda to promote natural tourism and traditional sports because it is usually participated in by the members of Indonesian Boar Hunting Sport Association (PORBI)," Agus said.

He said the local people hunted the wild boars as part of of adrenaline sports and competition, and also as a means of social interaction among the individual community.

Agus added that each time the boar hunting sport was conducted, it was participated in by at least 2,000 people from different areas, and if such an activity was managed properly, it would have a positive impact on tourism in Bengkulu province.

Meanwhile, Bengkulu branch of Indonesian Boar Hunting Sport Association spokesman Chandra said the wild hunting activity was routinely conducted in a bid to reduce the population of wild boar pest.

Chandra said that the boar hunting sports in Bengkulu could attract tourists and therefore the tradition could be turned into an interesting tour package in the province.(*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli

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More than 1 tonne of ivory and rhino horns seized in Thailand

TRAFFIC 25 Feb 11;

Thailand, 25th February 2011—Thai Customs at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok, on Wednesday seized over a tonne of ivory and close to three kilogrammes of Rhino horns in a shipment from Nigeria.

This brings the total ivory seized at this airport since the beginning of 2010 to more than five and a half tonnes.

The ivory and rhino horn passed through Doha, Qatar, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, before reaching Bangkok.

The illegal cargo’s last leg of shipment was from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok and was meant to be picked up by a company located in Central Thailand. However, the shipment was left unclaimed.

The Suvarnabhumi Airport Cargo Clearance Customs Bureau with the help of officers from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation counted 118 elephant tusks and three rhino horns in the 11 cases that made up the shipment.

Customs said the shipment was declared as “craft work” in the airway bill.

This is not the first time a combination of ivory and rhino horns has been seized or transited in Thailand and Malaysia.

In July 2009, Kenyan authorities stopped a shipment of 16 elephant tusks and two Black Rhino horns which were scheduled to transit in Thailand before being flown to a destination in Lao PDR.

Last August, five rhino horns and two tonnes of elephant ivory bound for Malaysia was seized by authorities in Kenya raising concerns about the former’s role in the global ivory trade.

The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) lists Thailand as one of three countries most heavily implicated in the illegal global ivory trade and Malaysia as a country of concern because of its role as a significant transit point.

ETIS is the world’s largest database of elephant product seizure records, comprising more than 15,400 ivory seizure cases compiled over the last 21 years and is compiled by TRAFFIC on behalf of CITES.

In an effort to address the problem, Customs Authorities in Thailand teamed-up with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia to raise awareness among Customs Officers based at airports and other key checkpoints about ways to tackle the illegal ivory trade.

Thailand’s Customs Department has also seen a series of successful raids at Suvarnabhumi Airport since stepping up its efforts.

“The authorities involved are to be congratulated,” said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Regional Director Dr William Schaedla.

"This successful seizure highlights, once again, a flow of illegal ivory through Thailand and Malaysia. Customs authorities from both these countries must work with their counterparts in Africa to stem the tide of elephant and rhino poaching.

"Airport seizures are welcome, but there must also be a concerted long-term effort to investigate and shut down the criminal networks that enable the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade in the region.”

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Thailand: Facing down the dam in Laos

Thanhnien News 25 Feb 11;

Thailand appears to be the region’s last hope in opposing an environmentally disastrous hydropower dam in northern Laos.

Environmental activists are hoping that Thailand will put the breaks on Laos’ plans to begin construction of an enormous hydropower dam in its mountainous Xayaburi Province.

Others fear that no one in South-East Asia is prepared to oppose the project, which could cause irreversible damage to the river and the millions whose lives depend on it.

Last September, Laos announced that Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand had until April 22 to present official opinions on the construction of the Xayaburi dam to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) – an intergovernmental advisory body, to which they are all members.

Three weeks later, an independent scientific review commissioned by the MRC called for a decade-long moratorium of all dam construction on the lower reaches of the river.

The study underlined the grave environmental and economic impact that would result from the construction of 12 proposed dams on the Mekong River.

Despite the findings, Laos, an impoverished and fast-developing land-locked country, appears to be determined to go ahead with the construction of the Xayaburi dam—the largest and most advanced of the dozen.

Thai contractors and banks stand ready to supply the means to that end.

“There will be no need for any extension,” a Laotian delegate announced during a February 14 meeting of MRC delegates in Cambodia. “We hope and expect that the unanimous agreement will be reached.”

Laos was not clear on what would happen if any country opposed the project. But it does not appear that any minor objections would halt their determination to proceed.

“The final decision as to how to further proceed with the [Xayaburi] project development would of course be solely subject to the Lao government,” the delegate stated.

Heroes and villains

While some in the region have offered guarded criticism for Laos’ decision to ignore calls for a moratorium on construction, Thai opponents have presented the most ardent objections.

At the same time, Thailand has one of the largest financial stakes in the project.

Ninety-five percent of the electricity produced by the dam is slated to be purchased by the Electrical Generating Authority of Thailand. Four Thai banks are financing the project – none of which responded to requests for comment as of press time.

“Given that both the builder and the [four] financers are from Thailand, we have become very ‘engaged’ with this project,” said Prasarn Marukpita, chair of the subcommittee on Mekong River development in the Thai Senate.

Marukpita has lambasted Laos for snubbing repeated warnings from environmental experts that the impact of the Xayaburi dam will be far-reaching and affect the livelihoods of more than 60 million people.

“... Laos could not wait, demonstrating that Laos sees the Mekong as [its] own river,” Marukpita said.

Located in a mountainous valley in northern Laos, the proposed Xayaburi dam is the most advanced of eleven large dams planned for the Lower Mekong River’s mainstream.

The proposed dams will cause irreversible and permanent ecological change to the Mekong River. The dams would disrupt the delicate balances and seasonal shifts that support fisheries and downstream agriculture, according to the MRC’s October study.

“We are very much concerned about the reaction of Laos in relation to their movement toward the Xayaburi dam,” said Premrudee Daoroung, co-director of the Foundation for Ecological

Recovery, a Bangkok-based nonprofit organization. “Xayaburi is by no means solely a ‘Laotian project.’”

The die is cast

In mid-2007, Thailand’s Ch. Karnchang Public Company, the dam builder, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Laos government to produce a feasibility study for the project.

Since Laos announced that it planned to proceed with the project, the Lao government and the MRC have drawn flak from groups who claim that very little information has been supplied regarding the environmental and ecological effects the dam might have.

Ame Trandem, a campaigner at the US-based environmental group International Rivers has charged that the MRC has dragged its feet on effectively disseminating its scientific findings by withholding certain important project documents and failing to translate others into local languages.

Trandem has also accused the body of being slow to organize public forums on the project and indicated that an environmental impact study specific to the Xayaburi dam has yet to be released.

“It was only in January 2011 that the MRC finally explained when the consultations would take place,” she said.

Jeremy Bird, Chief Executive Officer of the MRC, countered that all relevant information has been presented to participating stakeholders during the national consultations of each country.

“We have recently been informed by the Lao National Mekong Committee that the Xayaburi project feasibility study is available on the developer’s website,,” Bird said.

Trandem of International Rivers said that without translating these findings into the region’s various languages, the MRC is effectively stonewalling the people that will be most affected by the dam’s construction.

"Who will actually lose and who will gain from Xayaburi dam? ... My question now would be, can we just state that we are going completely against the project?” said Lamlek Nilnuan, a Thai villager from Sakorn Nakorn Province during a public meeting held in Thailand on February 10. “We know nothing about this project ... Will the 'stakeholder' including the Thai company be able to tell us the truth about the project before it [starts]?”

At a public meeting held Tuesday (February 22) in the northern Vietnamese province of Quang Ninh, Vietnamese experts and officials also urged a halt to the Xayaburi dam, citing a lack of information.

Last chance

As the Thai people have become increasingly vocal in opposing the dam, experts believe that the nation is the region’s last hope for an effective opposition.

Senator Marukpita said he was convinced that the campaign against the dam building has gained momentum.

“NGOs in Thailand will demand that the Thai government... reconsider the purchase of electricity from the dam,” he said.

The Senator said that if the government failed to reconsider its deal with Laos, it will likely face opposition in the parliament.

“[The electricity purchase] may breach Article 190 of our Constitution, which requires approval from the Thai Parliament before signing any contract that may affect the Thai territory,” he said.

Marukpita acknowledged, on the one hand, that Thailand would play a crucial role in deciding the fate of the dam construction. But, on the other, he said the country should not be left alone in this battle.

“I’d expect Vietnam to get more vocal soon,” he said. “Cambodia will join force, but may not be as articulate as Vietnam and Thailand.”

Daoroung of the Foundation for Ecological Recovery said she hoped that the current movement on the Xayaburi project is a good lesson for all. “We still have another 11 projects, waiting to be built by Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and even French companies in this region,” Daoroung said. “If the ‘regional’ [consciousness] cannot emerge among us now, and the governments and people in the region cannot work together, I think the impact and change in everyone’s life will be really overwhelming in the coming decade.”

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Drought rattles farmers in eastern China

Boris Cambreleng Yahoo News 25 Feb 11;

BEISHANGPING, China (AFP) – Yu Ruicheng's weathered face creases with worry as she stands on her dry wheat field in eastern China, where a record drought is threatening to send soaring global food prices even higher.

"If it doesn't rain next month, we won't harvest anything," the 62-year-old farmer says, crouching down and sifting parched soil through her fingers, pointing to dried-up wheat shoots scattered across her plot of land.

China is the largest global producer and consumer of wheat. A bad harvest would not only devastate local farmers -- if China were to buy a large amount of wheat overseas due to a crop failure, world commodity prices would surge.

The government has allocated 13 billion yuan ($2 billion) to combat the drought, and the central bank announced this week it would provide 10 billion yuan in loans to farmers. But the aid injection cannot make the rains come.

"Even if it rains soon, the wheat harvest will be reduced by half compared to last year," Yu warns.

In Beishangping, a village nestled at the base of an arid hill in Shandong province, farmers will soon be unable to rely on the only water reservoir in the area to irrigate their crops -- it is now almost completely dry.

The area has not seen any significant rainfall since September, according to weather authorities in Linyi municipality where the village is located.

"Without a harvest, we will have no money and our life will become very difficult," said Yu, who like many other villagers is too old to move elsewhere to find work.

Families in Beishangping earn around 10,000 yuan ($1,520) a year from farming, which also provides sustenance for the 700 inhabitants. Villagers are now concerned drought will spell disaster for other crops when spring arrives.

"Without significant rain before Tomb Sweeping Day (on April 5), we will not be able to sow peanuts or cotton," Yu said.

Deeper into the valley, farmers irrigate their small plots with hosepipes linked to noisy machines that pump water from wells or rivers. Everywhere, people are concerned that the precious resource will soon run out.

The Yi river is almost dry because "the dam gates of Bashan lake, the source of the river, have been closed. No one will be able to live in this area when there is no more water in that lake," warns Guo Yubao, a young local.

Zhang Youtai, a farmer in the neighbouring Yinan district, explains that for his family of five, 50 percent of their income comes from wheat.

"The land plots are very small in our village, just around half a mu (0.3 hectares) per person. We use the wheat we grow for food. If we have a bad harvest, we will have to buy some," he says.

The central government is implementing a number of emergency measures such as diverting water to the worst-affected areas and building wells.

Near Haizi village, a team from the southwestern province of Sichuan -- around 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) away -- digs a well over 100 metres (330 feet) deep to help irrigate crops.

Members of the team say they are doing this to thank volunteers from Shandong who traveled to help victims of the massive 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, which left nearly 87,000 dead or missing.

"With this well, if we have enough water, we'll maybe be able to rescue 30 percent of the harvest," said Haizi resident Niu Shujie.

According to Ma Wenfeng, an analyst who specialises in cereal markets at Orient Agribusiness Consultant in Beijing, China's winter wheat harvest should only diminish by around two percent if the situation does not deteriorate.

But "anticipation of bad (wheat) harvests linked to droughts in China, India, East Africa, as well as a bad rice harvest in Southeast Asia" has put an upward pressure on prices on international markets, Ma adds.

Experts are calling on China to implement more long-term measures to fight drought, so that the dire situation in Shandong and other affected provinces does not recur.

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Indonesian mud volcano set to erupt for quarter-century - scientists

Winnie Andrews Yahoo News 24 Feb 11;

PARIS (AFP) – A mud volcano that has displaced more than 13,000 Indonesian families will erupt for at least a quarter of century, emitting belches of flammable gas through a deepening lake of sludge, scientists reported on Thursday.

Underground pressure means the volcano "Lusi," in Sidoarjo, East Java, is likely to gush grey mud until 2037, when volumes will become negligible, according to their computer model.

But gas will continue to percolate through it for decades and possibly centuries to come.

"Our estimate is that it will take 26 years for the eruption to drop to a manageable level and for Lusi to turn into a slow bubbling volcano," said team leader Richard Davies, a professor of Earth sciences at Durham University, in northeast England.

Thirteen people were killed after Lusi erupted on May 29 2006.

At its height, the volcano gushed 40 Olympic-sized pools of mud each day, a rate that has now slowed to four per day, Davies said by phone.

Its lake of mud has now smothered 12 villages to a depth of up to 15 metres (nearly 50 feet) and forced around 42,000 people from their homes.

The computer simulation is based on data from two existing commercial gas wells in the same region and on seismic reflection data that gives a picture of Lusi's geological structure.

"In the middle of the lake, or the volcano, is a vent that is 50 metres (164 feet) wide but there are 166 other vents that have popped up over the last four-plus years," said Davies.

"These have popped up in factories, in roads, in people's houses. Some of them have ignited, there have been examples of people being hurt by flames that have been formed due to the ignition."

Lusi's staying power means it will be a long-term but gradually less dramatic menace, he warned.

"You can't return to the area. In fact, ultimately, probably the impact of the volcano will increase," Davies declared.

"I think we've seen the most dramatic destruction. But it's not the end of the story. These vents are still forming."

The area is also slowly subsiding, and by 2037 could have formed a depression 95-475 metres (312-1558 feet) deep.

The Indonesian government blames the eruption on an earthquake that struck days before, about 280 kilometres (174 miles) away from Lusi.

But foreign experts accuse a gas drilling company, Lapindo Brantas, of failing to place a protective casing around a section of its well.

As a result, the well hole was exposed to a "kick" from pressurised water and gas that lie beneath the layer of mud, thus driving the grey, concrete-like fluid to the surface.

The study is released in the London-based Journal of the Geological Society.

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Can Geoengineering Save the World from Global Warming?

Is manipulating Earth's environment to combat climate change a good idea and where, exactly, did the idea come from?
David Biello Scientific American 25 Feb 11;

As efforts to combat climate change falter despite ever-rising concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, some scientists and other experts have begun to consider the possibility of using so-called geoengineering to fix the problem. Such "deliberate, large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment" as the Royal Society of London puts it, is fraught with peril, of course.

For example, one of the first scientists to predict global warming as a result of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius—thought this might be a good way to ameliorate the winters of his native land and increase its growing season. Whereas that may come true for the human inhabitants of Scandinavia, polar plants and animals are suffering as sea ice dwindles and temperatures warm even faster than climatologists predicted.

Scientific American corresponded with science historian James Fleming of Colby College in Maine, author of Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control, about the history of geoengineering—ranging from filling the air with the artificial aftermath of a volcanic eruption to seeding the oceans with iron in order to promote plankton growth—and whether it might save humanity from the ill effects of climate change.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

What is geoengineering in your view?
Geoengineering is planetary-scale intervention [in]—or tinkering with—planetary processes. Period.

As I write in my book, Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control, "the term 'geoengineering' remains largely undefined," but is loosely, "the intentional large-scale manipulation of the global environment; planetary tinkering; a subset of terraforming or planetary engineering."

As of June 2010 the term has a draft entry in the Oxford English Dictionary—the modification of the global environment or the climate in order to counter or ameliorate climate change. A 2009 report issued by the Royal Society of London defines geoengineering as "the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change."

But there are significant problems with both definitions. First of all, an engineering practice defined by its scale (geo) need not be constrained by its stated purpose (environmental improvement), by any of its currently proposed techniques (stratospheric aerosols, space mirrors, etcetera) or by one of perhaps many stated goals (to ameliorate or counteract climate change). Nuclear engineers, for example, are capable of building both power plants and bombs; mechanical engineers can design components for both ambulances and tanks. So to constrain the essence of something by its stated purpose, techniques or goals is misleading at best.

Geo-scale engineering projects were conducted by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union between 1958 and 1962 that had nothing to do with countering or ameliorating climate change. Starting with the [U.S.'s] 1958 Argus A-bomb explosions in space and ending with the 1962 Starfish Prime H-bomb test, the militaries of both nations sought to modify the global environment for military purposes.

Project Argus was a top-secret military test aimed at detonating atomic bombs in space to generate an artificial radiation belt, disrupt the near-space environment, and possibly intercept enemy missiles. It, and the later tests conducted by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, peaked with H-bomb detonations in space in 1962 that created an artificial [electro]magnetic [radiation] belt that persisted for 10 years. This is geoengineering.

This idea of detonating bombs in near-space was proposed in 1957 by Nicholas Christofilos, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. His hypothesis, which was pursued by the [U.S.] Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency [subsequently known as DARPA] and tested in Project Argus and other nuclear shots, held that the debris from a nuclear explosion, mainly highly energetic electrons, would be contained within lines of force in Earth's magnetic field and would travel almost instantly as a giant current spanning up to half a hemisphere. Thus, if a detonation occurred above a point in the South Atlantic, immense currents would flow along the magnetic lines to a point far to the north, such as Greenland, where they would severely disrupt radio communications. A shot in the Indian Ocean might, then, generate a huge electromagnetic pulse over Moscow. In addition to providing a planetary "energy ray," Christofilos thought nuclear shots in space might also disrupt military communications, destroy satellites and the electronic guidance systems of enemy [intercontinental ballistic missiles], and possibly kill any military cosmonauts participating in an attack launched from space. He proposed thousands of them to make a space shield.

So nuclear explosions in space by the U.S. and the Soviet Union constituted some of the earliest attempts at geoengineering, or intentional human intervention in planetary-scale processes.

The neologism "geoengineer" refers to one who contrives, designs or invents at the largest planetary scale possible for either military or civilian purposes. Today, geoengineering, as an unpracticed art, may be considered "geoscientific speculation". Geoengineering is a subset of terraformation, which also does not exist outside of the fantasies of some engineers.

I have recently written to the Oxford English Dictionary asking them to correct their draft definition.

Can geoengineering save the world from climate change?
In short, I think it may be infinitely more dangerous than climate change, largely due to the suspicion and social disruption it would trigger by changing humanity's relationship to nature.

To take just one example from my book, on page 194: "Sarnoff Predicts Weather Control" read the headline on the front page of The New York Times on October 1, 1946. The previous evening, at his testimonial dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, RCA president Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff had speculated on worthy peaceful projects for the postwar era. Among them were "transformations of deserts into gardens through diversion of ocean currents," a technique that could also be reversed in time of war to turn fertile lands into deserts, and ordering "rain or sunshine by pressing radio buttons," an accomplishment that, Sarnoff declared, would require a "World Weather Bureau" in charge of global forecasting and control (much like the "Weather Distributing Administration" proposed in 1938). A commentator in The New Yorker intuited the problems with such control: "Who" in this civil service outfit, he asked, "would decide whether a day was to be sunny, rainy, overcast...or enriched by a stimulating blizzard?" It would be "some befuddled functionary," probably bedeviled by special interests such as the raincoat and galoshes manufacturers, the beachwear and sunburn lotion industries, and resort owners and farmers. Or if a storm was to be diverted—"Detour it where? Out to sea, to hit some ship with no influence in Washington?"

How old is the idea of geoengineering? What other names has it had?
I can trace geoengineering's direct modern legacy to 1945, and have prepared a table of such proposals and efforts for the [Government Accountability Office]. Nuclear weapons, digital computers and satellites seem to be the modern technologies of choice. Geoengineering has also been called terraformation and, more restrictively, climate engineering, climate intervention or climate modification. Many have proposed abandoning the term geoengineering in favor of solar radiation management and carbon (or carbon dioxide) capture and storage. Of course, the idea of control of nature is ancient—for example, Phaeton or Archimedes.

Phaeton, the son of Helios, received permission from his father [the Greek sun god] to drive the sun chariot, but failed to control it, putting the Earth in danger of burning up. He was killed by a thunderbolt from Zeus to prevent further disaster. Recently, a prominent meteorologist has written about climate control and urged us to "take up Phaeton's reins," which is not a good idea.

Archimedes is known as an engineer who said: "Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the Earth." Some geoengineers think that this is now possible and that science and technology have given us an Archimedean set of levers with which to move the planet. But I ask: "Where will it roll if you tip it?"

How are weather control and climate control related?
Weather and climate are intimately related: Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given place and time, while climate is the aggregate of weather conditions over time. A vast body of scientific literature addresses these interactions. In addition, historians are revisiting the ancient but elusive term klima, seeking to recover its multiple social connotations. Weather, climate and the climate of opinion matter in complex ways that invite—some might say require or demand—the attention of both scientists and historians. Yet some may wonder how weather and climate are interrelated rather than distinct. Both, for example, are at the center of the debate over greenhouse warming and hurricane intensity. A few may claim that rainmaking, for example, has nothing to do with climate engineering, but any intervention in the Earth's radiation or heat budget (such as managing solar radiation) would affect the general circulation and thus the location of upper-level patterns, including the jet stream and storm tracks. Thus, the weather itself would be changed by such manipulation. Conversely, intervening in severe storms by changing their intensity or their tracks or modifying weather on a scale as large as a region, a continent or the Pacific Basin would obviously affect cloudiness, temperature and precipitation patterns with major consequences for monsoonal flows, and ultimately the general circulation. If repeated systematically, such interventions would influence the overall heat budget and the climate.

Both weather and climate control have long and checkered histories: My book explains [meteorologist] James Espy's proposal in the 1830s to set fire to the crest of the Appalachian Mountains every Sunday evening to generate heated updrafts that would stimulate rain and clear the air for cities of the east coast. It also examines efforts to fire cannons at the clouds in the arid Southwest in the hope of generating rain by concussion.

In the 1920s airplanes loaded with electrified sand were piloted by military aviators who "attacked" the clouds in futile attempts to both make rain and clear fog. Many others have proposed either a world weather control agency or creating a global thermostat, either by burning vast quantities of fossil fuels if an ice age threatened or sucking the CO2 out of the air if the world overheated.

After 1945 three technologies—nuclear weapons, digital computers and satellites—dominated discussions about ultimate weather and climate control, but with very little acknowledgement that unintended consequences and social disruption may be more damaging than any presumed benefit.

What would be the ideal role for geoengineering in addressing climate change?
That it generates interest in and awareness of the impossibility of heavy-handed intervention in the climate system, since there could be no predictable outcome of such intervention, physically, politically or socially.

Why do scientists continue to pursue this then, after 200 or so years of failure?
Science fantasy is informed by science fiction and driven by hubris. One of the dictionary definitions of hubris cites Edward Teller (the godfather of modern geoengineering).

Teller's hubris knew no bounds. He was the [self-proclaimed] father of the H-bomb and promoted all things atomic, even talking about using nuclear weapons to create canals and harbors. He was also an advocate of urban sprawl to survive nuclear attack, the Star Wars [missile] defense system, and a planetary sunscreen to reduce global warming. He wanted to control nature and improve it using technology.

Throughout history rainmakers and climate engineers have typically fallen into two categories: commercial charlatans using technical language and proprietary techniques to cash in on a gullible public, and sincere but deluded scientific practitioners exhibiting a modicum of chemical and physical knowledge, a bare minimum of atmospheric insight, and an abundance of hubris. We should base our decision-making not on what we think we can do "now" and in the near future. Rather, our knowledge is shaped by what we have and have not done in the past. Such are the grounds for making informed decisions and avoiding the pitfalls of rushing forward, claiming we know how to "fix the sky."

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Best of our wild blogs: 25 Feb 11

New snake record for Singapore: Dendrelaphis haasi
from Celebrating Singapore's BioDiversity!

Nesting Grey Herons: 7. Feeding ritual
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Not extinct after all: the curious 'Penis' clam
from wild shores of singapore

Forest Terrapin
from Creatures in the Wild and The Flower, The Spider and The Bee

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New degree course to tackle complex environmental issues at the National University of Singapore

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 25 Feb 11;

SINGAPORE - In August, the National University of Singapore (NUS) will welcome 50 students whose idea of fun is doing field studies on Christmas Island, or learning the myriad issues behind haze in the region.

The students will form the pioneer batch of the new Bachelor of Environmental Studies programme, a four-year, direct Honours course.

Environmental issues are too urgent and wide-ranging to be tackled in a fragmented way, say the leaders of the taskforce that designed the inter-disciplinary curriculum.

During discussions, "it impressed on me, really, that as a social scientist…I'm only trained to appreciate one fragment of the entire global issue", said sociologist Paulin Straughan. The taskforce was co-led by NUS Faculty of Science special projects director Professor Leo Tan, a respected conservationist.

The involvement of eight NUS faculties and schools - including the Arts and Social Sciences, Science and Law faculties - in the programme signals just how broad-based it is, said Prof Tan.

In the first two years, modules in biology, chemistry and economics, among others, will be taught. Subsequently, students may opt to specialise in either Environmental Biology or Environmental Geography.

Field studies will be conducted at places where NUS already has research interests - such as Christmas Island and possibly northern Thailand.

On Christmas Island, students will see first-hand the delicate balance between conservation, development, tourism and migration.

Another intriguing issue is the haze. "We always complain that the Indonesians don't care about haze and they burn, but if you go to places that have been burnt, you find the problems there are very complicated. Some companies there are owned by… multinational corporations," said Professor Peter Ng, director of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

"If you expose students to these real world situations, they begin to see a different angle to this. At the end of the day, environmental challenges in different countries are all inter-connected."

Prof Tan said NUS hopes to attract "top-notch A Level students" to the course. Students need to have a "good" pass in Maths and either Biology or Chemistry, though exceptions could be made, said Assoc Prof Straughan.


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PUB to expand Changi Water Reclamation Plant

Andre Yeo Channel NewsAsia 24 Feb 11;

SINGAPORE: National water agency PUB will be expanding the Changi Water Reclamation Plant to treat an additional 60,000 cubic meters per day.

This would include the installation of a plant that uses membrane technology on top of the existing treatment facility.

This would increase the plant's capacity to 860,000 cubic meters per day.

Mr Wah Yuen Long, director of PUB's water reclamation plants, said: "The Changi Water Reclamation Plant employs state-of-the-art technology to collect, treat, reclaim and dispose of Singapore's used water efficiently and cost effectively. With this expansion, the plant will also produce more feedstock for NEWater production."

Engineering design services for the project has been awarded to Black & Veatch, who will provide consultancy services as well as oversee the installation of the membrane plant.

A tender will be called for the construction and installation works for the expansion in the second half of this year.

The project is expected to be completed by mid-2013.


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Guam islands vote to protect sharks

Yahoo News 25 Feb 11;

NEW YORK (AFP) – Sharks won a new friend Thursday when Guam, a US island territory in the Pacific, voted to ban commerce in fins, a leading environmental group said.

Guam's Senate passed a bill banning the sale, possession and distribution of the fins, which are in high demand for Asian shark fin soup, Pew Environmental Group said.

The measure extended a trend across the Pacific to shield the endangered predators from unsustainable fishing practices.

Palau, Hawaii, the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as Honduras and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, have passed similar protections.

"More and more, we see the islands of the Pacific stand tall against commercial fishing fleets that are depleting shark populations," said Matt Rand, director of Global Shark Conservation for Pew.

"Pacific island leadership is helping these fish, threatened by the fin trade, to keep their place as apex predators in the ocean food chain. Guam, a major fishing hub, now joins other Pacific Ocean voices in support of shark conservation."

According to Pew, as many as 73 million sharks are killed annually primarily for their fins. Thirty percent of shark species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction, Pew says.

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Phuket Builds Own Reefs to Ease Dive Congestion

Pathomporn Kaenkrachang PhuketWan 24 Feb 11;

OFFICIALS were gathering at Phuket's Bang Tao beach today to launch a large artificial reef project, designed to take the pressure of tourist numbers off damaged natural corals.

A total of 1630 large concrete blocks are to be sunk to the ocean bed at a cost of 7.996 million baht. The artificial reef will be in two segments, one at the southern end extending towards Kamala, and the other off Bang Tao.

Each of the ''reefs'' will extend about 1.5 kilometres.

Paitoon Panchaipoorn, of Phuket's Marine Coast Preservation Office, has coordinated the project with the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organistion, local authorities, Marine Transport, the Royal Thai Navy and the Fisheries department.

Experts agree that Phuket needs to create artificial reefs to ensure the long-term future of the natural corals. Increasing numbers of tourists have accelerated damage to the reefs, with a crisis being triggered in April and May last year by the bleaching phenomenon.

The monsoons arrived late, leaving the reefs without cloud cover. As a result, large areas of reefs, especially those in shallow waters, have been damaged and will take years to recover.

Bans have been imposed on some popular dive sites in an effort to speed the return to health of the reefs and tighter controls are envisaged over dive boats.

Phuket's most notable attempt at constructing an appealing artificial reef from old aircraft and helicopters failed in 2008 when tides and fishing trawlers were blamed for breaking up the fuselages.

Artificial reefs sunk off Phuket’s west coast
Phuket Gazette 24 Feb 11;

PHUKET: About 200 concrete cubes were sunk in Bang Tao Bay, on Phuket’s west coast, today as the ongoing artificial reef project resumed.

The current four-day installment, costing 7.9 million baht, aims is to sink 1,630 concrete cubes by sunset on Monday.

The ongoing project is funded by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (PPAO) and being carried out by the Phuket Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Office (MCRC).

“There are 20 sites in Bang Tao Bay and Kamala Bay, all about three kilometers offshore,” MCRC Director Pitul Panchaiyaphum told the Phuket Gazette.

“The sites are not more the 20 meters underwater to ensure divers have good visibility of the reefs [to grow],” he explained.

The artificial reefs are expected to attract fish and other sea creatures within about one month, and to start growing corals after about three years, he said.

In addition to becoming attractions for divers, the reefs will be a boon for local fishermen. Artificial reefs established years ago are now havens for growing numbers of fish, providing local fisherman in some areas with record catches, Mr Pitul said.

The concrete cubes are also expected to deter illegal fishermen from entering the areas.

Measuring 1.5 meters along each side and weighing about one ton apiece, it is hoped the cubes snag large nets used by illegal fishermen.

The cubes are being placed in clusters of 80 to 100 cubes, with each cluster 500 meters to a kilometer apart. “If they were placed separately, they would not be very effective in stopping vessels from illegally fishing in the area,” said Director Pitul.

“We chose Bang Tao and Kamala bays because the areas are critical – there has been much illegal fishing in these waters,” he added.

The next bays to benefit from the ongoing project will be Kata, Karon and Nai Harn.

“We already have the budget from the PPAO. Now we are in the process of getting permission from the Marine Department,” he explained.

Looking ahead, Mr Pitul said he expected more resistance to installing artificial reefs on the east coast.

Before launching the project there, the MCRC must first conduct a survey to determine whether local ecosystems there would benefit from artificial reefs.

Public hearings would also need to be held to gain feedback from local fishermen, tour and boat operators.

“We still have to determine whether any reefs [installed there] would affect local fisheries,” he said.

“And we have to consider not only the local residents, but also business operators such as tourist boat operators and hotels because this project is to benefit everyone,” Director Pitul said.

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Malaysia: Captured elephant ‘persuaded’ to leave forest

Sarban Singh The Star 25 Feb 11;

SEREMBAN: It needed the “persuasive” skills of three female elephants and the experience of their mahouts to get a four-tonne wild male pachyderm out of the Gapau forest reserve here.

The male elephant, nicknamed Buyong by villagers and believed to be in his 40s, had initially refused to budge despite being shot with a tranquilliser by National Wildlife and Parks Department (Perhilitan) officers yesterday.

The three female elephants – Chek Mek in her 50s, Timor and Kala (both in their mid-30s) – had been brought in from the National Elephant Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah, Pahang, and were taken to the place where Buyong had been tied since his capture on Sunday.

They were then brought together to allow the rangers to secure them with chains.

The Asian elephant (elephas maximus), which has an estimated population of 1,200 in Peninsular Malay­sia, is usually found in the jungles of Johor, Pahang, Kelantan, Tereng­ganu, Perak and Kedah.

Perhilitan’s elephant management unit head Nasharuddin Othman said despite having lived in the wild, Buyong was not as aggressive as initially thought.

“We had to bring in the experienced Chek Mek, who has been helping us relocate wild elephants since 1979.

“She does not need to be ‘told’ much,” he said, adding that she had been used to relocate some 500 wild elephants.

He said Timor and Kala had been trained for similar rescue efforts over the past year and seemed to be frightened of Buyong initially.

“But Chek Mek was around to calm them down,” he said.

Nasharuddin said Buyong, which was bigger than the three female elephants, would be relocated to the Tasik Kenyir section of Taman Negara in Terengganu.

State Perhilitan director Mohd Zaide Mohd Zain said the last time a wild elephant was caught in the state was in the early 1990s.

He said 25 officers were involved in yesterday’s relocation exercise.

Villagers in Kampung Gagu contacted his officers on Feb 15 after spotting Buyong in the area.

Wild elephant lured out of forest reserve
New Straits Times 25 Feb 11;

KUALA KLAWANG: Buyung Gagu, a wild male elephant named after Kampung Gagu, near here, was successfully lured out of the Gapau forest reserve by National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan) officers yesterday.

The capture of the 30-year-old elephant comes as a relief to villagers whose crops have been destroyed by the four tonne Asian elephant.

The capture was made possible with the help of Perhilitan's gajah denak, or elephant guides -- Che Mek, Kala and Timur.

The operation to remove the elephant, which will be released in Taman Negara Tasik Kenyir in Terengganu, began at 9.30am and involved 20 staff from the state Perhilitian and the National Elephant Conservation Centre (NECC), from Kuala Gandah, Pahang.

NECC deputy director Nasharuddin Othman said the wild elephant was shot with a tranquiliser gun to ensure the safety of the elephant, rescue members and a smooth operation.

"It went smoothly and the elephant was not aggressive though it was chained and was coaxed by Che Mek, Kala and Timur into a lorry," he said after the four hour operation was completed.

Also present were state Housing and Local Government, New Villages and Public Transport Committee chairman Datuk Siow Chen Pin and state Perhilitan director Mohd Zaide Mohamed Zin.

"The last time an elephant was captured here was in the 1990s in Gemencheh. I believe this elephant was separated from that group and found its way to Jelebu.

"The construction of the Sungai Teriang dam and the hilly jungle terrain is not suitable for the species to forage for food," said Zaide.

Meanwhile, Siow said the elephant had been damaging crops and uprooting trees in the village for the past two years and was last sighted by villagers on Feb 15.

"The company which is building the dam near the village also helped in the operation by making an accessible road for the team to go into the jungle and capture the animal."

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Malaysia: Duo caught trying to smuggle 135 pangolins

The Star 25 Feb 11;

GEORGE TOWN: Two men have been caught trying to smuggle 135 live pangolins worth RM100,000 to neighbouring countries.

The two – buyer and seller respectively – were caught red-handed moving the pangolins in cages into two modified cars outside a store in Sungai Dua, Butterworth at 2.15am yesterday.

The two, aged 23 and 40, were arrested by a state Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhi­litan) enforcement team who had been monitoring their activities for more than three months.

State Perhilitan director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said the seizure was the biggest in Penang since 2009.

He said the men, believed to be members of an illegal wildlife trade syndicate, faced a fine of up to RM350,000 or 14 years in jail each for committing offences related to wildlife.

Also seized were two modified Proton Iswara meant to transport the scaly anteaters across the border.

“We have handed them over to the police for further action,” Jamalun said at the Perhilitan office in Jalan Gurdwara yesterday. Also present was enforcement officer Khairul Nizam Yahaya. Jamalun said initial investigation showed the store was a transit point where pangolins were brought in from other states.

He believed the endangered animals were smuggled out by land whenever there was an order from neighbouring countries.

He added that there was a huge demand for the animals in these countries.

Jamalun said each pangolin, weighing between 5kg and 7kg, could fetch up to RM200 per kg. Even the scales could fetch a high price for their medicinal properties.

He said the rescued pangolins would be released in Taman Negara in Teluk Bahang.

Pangolin meals spoiled
Tan Sin Chow The Star 25 Feb 11;

TWO men have been nabbed trying to smuggle out 135 live pangolins worth RM100,000 that were destined for the dinner table in neighbouring countries.

The two — the buyer and the seller — were caught red-handed moving the pangolins in cages into two modified cars outside a store in Sungai Dua, Butterworth, at 2.15am yesterday.

The two were arrested by a state Wildlife and National Parks Department enforcement team who had been watching their activities for more than three months.

State Wildlife and National Parks Department director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said the seizure was the biggest in the state since 2009.

He said the men, aged 23 and 40, were believed to be members of an illegal wildlife trade syndicate and they faced up to RM350,000 in maximum fine or 14 years in jail each for committing offences related to wildlife.

Also seized were two modified Proton Iswara meant to transport the scaly anteaters across the border.

“We have handed them over to the police for further action,” he said during a press conference at the office in Jalan Gurdwara yesterday.

Also present was enforcement officer Khairul Nizam Yahaya.

Jamalun said initial investigation showed the store was a transit point where all the pangolins were brought in from other states.

He believed the endangered animals were smuggled out on land whenever there was an order from neighbouring countries.

He added that there was a huge demand for the animals which would be skinned and later eaten in these countries.

Jamalun said each pangolin, weighing between 5kg and 7kg, could fetch up to RM200 per kg. Even the scales could fetch a high price for their medicinal properties.

He said the rescued pangolins would be released at Taman Negara in Teluk Bahang.

Department releases pangolins into the wild
The Star 27 Feb 11;

GEORGE TOWN: The 135 pangolins saved from the cooking pot by the Penang Wildlife and National Parks Depart­ment have been released into the wild.

State director Jamalun Nasir Ibrahim said the scaly anteaters were released at an undisclosed location here on Friday night.

“We took DNA samples from the pangolins for record purposes,” he said yesterday.

The department obtained a court order on Friday to release the pangolins that were recently seized.

Jamalun added that department personnel were monitoring the area to deter poachers.

The animals, worth about RM100,000, were seized on Thurs-day morning in Sungai Dua, Butter­worth.

Two men were caught moving the animals in cages into two modified cars, which were believed to be headed to a neighbouring country.

It is learnt that the meat of the pangolins, weighing between 5kg and 7kg each, could fetch up to RM200 per kilo.

The mammals are said to be prized for their meat, which is believed to be an aphrodisiac.

The tough, overlapping scales of the pangolin are said to be able to quell fevers.

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Riau forest fires discussed at ASEAN meeting

Antara 24 Feb 11;

Dumai, Riau (ANTARA News) - Representatives of five ASEAN member countries recently met in Singapore for talks about joint efforts to overcome forest and bush fires in Riau province.

Head of Bengkalis district`s environmental agency, Husaini, said here Thursday that the 11th meeting was attended by representatives of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The frequent forest and bush fires in Bengkalis district became part of the meeting`s agenda, he said.

"The meeting in Singapore has put the forest and bush fires in Riau province, including those in Bengkalis district, into the meeting`s agenda. This is actually a classical matter," he said.

After the Singapore meeting, the Bengkalis district government was invited by Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta to participate in a follow-up meeting, he said.

"At the meeting, the minister paid a special attention to the fires in Bukit Batu subdistrict`s areas," Husaini said.

Forest and bush fires in certain parts of Sumatra island, including Riau province, have frequently occurred over the past years.

In October 2010, Singapore had even offered to help extinguish forest and bush fires in Sumatra because the disaster had also affected the city state.

At that time, as a result of the ongoing hot spots in Sumatra Island, haze had blanketed the sky over Singapore for a few days.

The border crossing smoke was not regarded by Singapore as "a small problem".

Therefore, Singapore was willing to offer help to Indonesia to work together to handle forest and bush fires as the cause of the haze.

The frequent forest and bush fires on Sumatra Island have not only affected the lives of residents and economic activities of the affected provinces and Singapore but also Malaysia.

The smoke of Sumatran forest and bush fires has, sometimes, even disrupted flights in affected provinces and two neighboring countries.(*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli

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Malaysia To Use Tube Wells To Suppress Peat Land Fires

Bernama 24 Feb 11;

PASIR GUDANG, Feb 24 (Bernama) - The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry will be using deep tube wells to suppress fires on peat land throughout the country under the Peat Land Management Programme.

Its minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said to date, eight tube wells had been operational in Selangor (two), Pahang (three), Johor (two) and one in Sarawak.

Another eight are under construction in Pahang (two), Sarawak (four) and two in Sabah.

"We are now in the midst of finalising our plan to extend the use of tube wells to other peat fire-prone states in the country," Uggah said.

He was speaking to reporters after opening an environment seminar organised by the Pasir Gudang Municipal Council in collaboration with the Johor Skills Development Centre, Department of Environment and Pasir Gudang Emergency Mutual Aid (Pagema) at Tanjung Puteri Golf Resort, here, Thursday.

Uggah said the use of tube wells was a ministry effort to achieve sustainability in peat fire-prevention throughout the country.

The method involves the drilling and extraction of ground water that will be channelled to maintain minimum water level in the peat land areas and each tube well can cater water for an area of up to 404.6 hectares.

He said check dams were also being used to maintain the minimum water level in peat land areas where 64 were operational in Selangor, Pahang, Johor and Sarawak, while 22 other dams were still under construction in these states and Sabah.

Uggah dismissed claims that deforestation had caused floods to occur in Johor recently, saying it was due to extreme climate change that also occurred in other parts of the world.

"The normal rainfall level during the monsoon period is about 200mm, but Johor recorded about 700mm in just three days, hence the flood," he said.


Tube well system 'a big help'
Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 25 Feb 11;

PASIR GUDANG: A tube well watering system has helped to check the outbreak of peat fires in the country since last year.

The system, developed by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, was installed in at least eight locations in the country.

The tube wells, costing RM200,000 each, are bored 30m into the ground to pump water to control moisture levels on peat soil, thus avoiding severe dry conditions that could lead to fires.

Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said more tube wells would be installed this year to further enhance the system, which also includes watch towers and check dams.

"The tube wells pump up water and raise the water levels so the area does not catch fire easily.

"Last year, there were fewer fire outbreaks (on peat soil)," said Douglas, who did not provide any specific statistics on the reduction of peat fires.

He was speaking after opening a seminar titled "Environment First, Harmony Prioritised" in the Tanjung Puteri Golf Resort here yesterday.

Douglas said the tube well water pumps were able to "flood" 1,000 acres of land within two days, and had proven to be useful in preventing fires.

The current eight tube wells are in Johor's Pengerang and Sedili, Pahang's Kuantan and Pekan, two in Sarawak's Miri and two near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Selangor's Sepang.

On another issue, Douglas said the ministry would seek better solutions to expedite flood-mitigation projects following a call by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to deepen and straighten Johor's Sungai Muar.

Following the previous big flood in Johor in 2006, river-deepening projects were conducted in Kota Tinggi, Plentong near Johor Baru, and Batu Pahat. The outbreak of floods in Johor on Jan 30 affected the districts of Segamat, Muar, Kluang, Kota Tinggi, Kulaijaya and Johor Baru.

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