Best of our wild blogs: 25 Mar 11

A Bob Couple @ Toa Payoh Town Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Living reefs at Terumbu Raya
from wild shores of singapore

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Green boost for Singapore skyline

NParks launches subsidy scheme to help develop more greenery on local skyscrapers
Jessica Cheam Straits Times 25 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE'S tall buildings are going green.

The National Parks Board (NParks) will subsidise up to half the cost of sprucing up these structures with plants - on rooftops or vertically on walls.

The scheme, which applies only to existing buildings, was announced yesterday by Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State for National Development.

She said there was 'strong support from developers to integrate greenery with their skyrise developments', adding: 'Skyrise greenery not only enhances the buildings aesthetically, but also brings about many other tangible benefits.'

Such greenery helps to reduce the urban heat island effect - where a built-up metropolitan area is significantly warmer than its surrounding area - and enhances Singapore's biodiversity, she said.

In 2009, the Government set a target for Singapore to have an extra 50ha of skyrise greenery by 2030. It launched the Green Roof Incentive Scheme to encourage developing green roofs on existing buildings. It has helped 14 organisations since.

The scheme is now being upgraded to the new Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme, which will help existing buildings across Singapore set up green roofs as well as green walls.

Installing a green wall typically costs between $1,000 and $1,500 per sq m.

Ms Fu was speaking yesterday at the opening of the Central Business District's (CBD) first indoor roof garden at Six Battery Road. The 2,000 sq ft vertical garden, which cost $750,000 to build and contains 120 plant species, was designed by award-winning French botanist Patrick Blanc.

The building is the first existing office building in the CBD to win the Green Mark Platinum Award. The Green Mark award is Singapore's green building rating system.

Ms Lynette Leong, chief executive of the firm which manages Six Battery Road's owner CapitaCommercial Trust, said yesterday that the building also features energy-saving light fittings and efficient chiller plants. It is also piloting a renewable energy project using a vertical wind turbine.

These measures will help cut its energy consumption by a quarter.

NParks said yesterday that it is raising the value of the prizes for the annual Skyrise Greenery Awards, now into their fourth year and jointly organised with the Singapore Institute of Architects.

The changes include increasing the prize money for the top gong from US$5,000 (S$6,300) to US$8,000. Entries opened yesterday.

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Singapore switched on for Earth Hour

Lynda Hong Ee Lyn Today Online 25 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE - It is touted as the best invention ever, especially for humid Singapore.

But the air-conditioner consumes a lot of energy and Golden Village (GV) Yishun said that, after adjusting its air-conditioner temperatures to between 23°C and 24°C - from between 20°C and 21°C - its energy usage has dipped by a third.

Leading GV's green efforts, Mr Roger Lim, its chief information officer, said it is easier to justify the temperature hike at its Yishun multiplex, which is now certified green after being awarded a BCA Green Mark Gold Award when its three-month refurbishment ended in November.

Air-conditioner temperatures will remain at between 20°C and 21°C at its other eight multiplexes. Mr Lim, who is overseeing GV's technology and facilities operations, said this is because "... people are very used to having it cold in the cinema halls".

"In GV Yishun, we position ourselves as a green cinema, so it's easy to convey the message across to patrons that we are adjusting the temperature."

Some patrons like 18-year-old Samuel Tee are uncomfortable with the change at Golden Village Yishun. "I sweat like mad," he said.

But Mr Daniel Ng, 21, welcomed the warmer temperatures. "It was quite cold before the refurbishment, I had to bring a jacket."

His view echoed that of the 52 per cent of 462 respondents in a poll who found cinemas to be the coldest, followed by offices and schools.

The poll was conducted in a lead-up to Earth Hour in Singapore by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which is advocating a one-hour light switch-off on March 26 at 8.30pm in addition to raising temperatures to 24°C or above.

Another major cinema operator, Cathay, has yet to confirm it will increase air-con temperatures to 24°C or above during Earth Hour.

The two integrated resorts - Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa - have also pledged their support by increasing the air-conditioning temperature to 24°C.

Offices, too, are doing their part. Today, 70 per cent of CDL tenants in 13 buildings will support their landlord's call to turn off the air-conditioning during lunchtime from 1pm to 1.30pm. Temperatures average about 24°C in CDL buildings.

CapitaLand will raise temperatures from 24°C to 25°C in over 30 properties.

Earth Hour's main event will be held at The Promontory @ Marina Bay tomorrow, from 5.30pm to 10pm.

Changi Airport goes green
Besides switching off decorative lights and dimming non-critical operational lights, Changi Airport will also do its part to raise awareness about the significance of the global sustainability movement.

Exhibition panels were set up yesterday at the Terminal 2 Departure Hall, which aim to educate passengers and visitors about Earth Hour and also "provide green tips on what individuals can do beyond Earth Hour", says Changi Airport Group (CAG) executive vice-president (Corporate) Tan Lye Teck.

Mr Tan added that CAG's ongoing "Changi Goes Green" programme includes initiatives such as the installation of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the Budget Terminal and motion sensors to conserve electricity, as well as the use of Newater for irrigation.

Stretching Earth Hour beyond a mere 60 minutes
Local groups are doing more for green effort besides turning off lights
Yuen Sin Straits Times 25 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE is not in the dark about Earth Hour's global push to go 'beyond the hour' this year.

Businesses, retailers and even religious institutions are rolling out more green initiatives in addition to turning off the lights to support the movement.

The event, which will be officially observed from 8.30pm to 9.30pm tomorrow, began in Sydney as a one-city initiative in 2007 to raise awareness about energy conservation.

This is the third year that Earth Hour will be marked in Singapore, along with a record 130 other countries and territories.

A plus sign has been added to the bold logo imprinted with the world map this year. It now reads '60+'.

Among the notable landmarks that will dim their facades and non-essential lights are the Merlion, Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore Flyer, Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, Suntec Singapore and The Fullerton Heritage properties.

Though scepticism over Earth Day being merely symbolic persists, observers see it as a launch pad for long-term change.

Mr Howard Shaw, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council, said: 'Earth Hour demonstrates that one small action from an individual multiplied across the collective can make a significant impact. The plus sign in the logo this year urges you to think about what you can do outside of the 60 minutes.'

Some organisations are extending their lights-out hours, with 34 properties under CapitaLand switching off their lights from 8.30pm tomorrow till 6.30am the next day. The lights at Evangel Family Church will be turned off one hour earlier, at 7.30pm.

The cafeteria in the Wearnes Group headquarters will operate without electrical lighting from 11.30am to 2pm today. From next Monday, CB Richard Ellis' Singapore staff will be encouraged to 'Turn Off at Lunch' - alluding to the dousing of corridor lights and computer monitors while employees are away at lunch.

Corporations and ordinary Singaporeans are also being urged to turn up their air-conditioning to 24 deg C and above.

City Developments will not only support this call, but will also turn off the air-conditioning of 70 per cent of tenants in its 13 buildings from 1pm to 1.30pm today.

Public educational efforts will also be stepped up. Exhibition panels will be set up by Changi Airport at Terminal 2's Departure Hall to educate passengers and visitors about Earth Hour and provide tips on what individuals can do to protect the environment. The campaign will run from tomorrow until next Friday.

In the run-up to the event, sponsor Credit Suisse has a voluntary personal tree-adoption programme that has seen some 1,300 trees being adopted by 500 staff since last September.

Individuals at events across the island will be spurred to pledge their commitment towards adopting an eco-conscious lifestyle. From 3pm to 9.30pm tomorrow, the public will be invited to sign on a giant Earth Hour banner outside Hall 5 at the Singapore Expo.

They can also choose to light a tealight from 8pm onwards at the Celebrate Earth Hour@Orchard Road event, and pledge to use public transport, turn off electrical appliances when they are not in use and turn up their air-conditioners. Ten thousand of these tealights will adorn the shopping strip as more than 100 establishments along the stretch dim down at 8.30pm.

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Energy-saving tips just a click away for schools

Lester Kok Straits Times 25 Mar 11;
insert link

ENERGY-EFFICIENT measures and practices are now just a mouse click away for schools wanting to go green.

Titled 'South West Energy Efficiency 'Cool' Guide for Schools', the Internet guide details the methods that helped 47 schools save up to 300,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in six months.

The energy saved is enough to power 1,000 three-room HDB flats for a month.

Yesterday, these schools in the South West District were recognised by Mayor Amy Khor for promoting energy conservation efforts among their students.

A total of 47 primary, secondary and pre-tertiary institutions had joined the South West Community Development Council's 'Green Schools' programme last year.

Dr Khor, who is Minister of State in the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources, presented the awards to them at the annual Mayor's Dialogue with Schools and Institutions held at Nan Hua High School.

Some of these schools' best practices include appointing a representative for every class to make sure all electrical appliances and lights are switched off during recess and after classes.

'I am encouraged to see the strong and continued support from our schools and institutions to help promote eco-friendly habits and lifestyle among our young,' said Dr Khor.

This year, 56 schools in the South West District pledged to do their part for the environment by joining the programme.

Apart from the 'green schools', 10 primary school pupils also got awards for their efforts in community services and volunteer work.

Known as the Youth Excellence Award in the Heartlands (YEAH!) Junior, the programme aims to instill the community spirit among children aged 10 to 12.

During the dialogue, Dr Khor was given feedback by both students and teachers, among which was a suggestion to hold an event in the heartland to showcase student talents from schools in the South West District.

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Keeping energy usage sustainable is a challenge

Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 25 Mar 11;

SINGAPORE : A blanket of darkness is set to hit cities around the world this Saturday as hundreds of millions of people around the world switch off their lights to take part in the "Earth Hour" climate campaign.

The event this year assumes particular significance as it follows the earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan. Experts at the World Bank said the risks of such natural disasters in East Asia are on the rise as individuals and businesses in the region ramp up their energy consumption.

East Asia is home to 59 per cent of the world's natural disasters. Eighty-five percent of all people affected by disasters since 1997 have been from this region.

A recent report released by the World Bank said East Asia's exposure to natural disasters is likely to double by 2050.

While climate change had nothing to do with the Japan earthquake, the risk of other types of natural disasters is nonetheless increasing because of rampant use of fossil fuels.

But keeping energy usage sustainable while maintaining East Asia's high rate of economic expansion is a challenge.

Andrew Steer, special envoy to climate change, The World Bank, said: "The solution is already well underway, so for very simple pollutions like particulates in the air - already we are seeing rapid progress and decline in pollution - for others like sulphur dioxide we are starting to see they are still rising but just starting to peak and coming down.

"Now the question will be for carbon dioxide - it will cost almost one per cent of GDP to deal with the issue. The gains of dealing with the issue over time will be greater than that, so will pay for itself - but again it requires a long term approach.

"So a number of East Asian countries are adopting some pretty imaginative measures - for example, they almost all have measures with regard to renewable energy ... some are starting to work, so the jury is out - we feel there is a sort of inflection point at the moment."

The World Bank said there are no silver bullets and a portfolio of solutions is required.

For example, one set of solutions calls for a four-fold increase in the share of low-carbon technologies in power generation to 50 per cent by 2030 from the current 17 per cent, as well as a greater focus on energy-efficient technologies.

This will, however, require support from the international investment community.

Mr Steer said: "By improving energy efficiency ... by bringing in low cost renewable energy, it turns out that you could peak the total emissions of CO2 from the developing countries of East Asia by 2025 - and half of that could be done by energy efficiency.

"The energy efficiency part would cost US$80 billion a year - that's a lot of money - but it would all pay for itself over time because there are investments that regardless of carbon dioxide, it's still a good idea to do.

"In addition to that, it would cost about $35 billion extra per year on the renewable energy side, but because you have done the energy efficiency side you will have to build a lot less power plants so you will save a lot of that back.

"So if you do the maths, you'll find that you need investment - (about) 80 billion dollars a year extra - but it will all pay for itself in the longer term."

The World Bank estimates that roughly US$25 billion would be required from the international investment community.

- CNA/al

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Indonesia: Fishermen Go Green Just Keeping the Fishing Good

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 25 Mar 11;

Saharuddin Usmi, a fisherman from Wakatobi district in South Sulawesi, appears to reflect the spirit of the age by spending his days worrying about conserving fish habitats. But his worry owes less to an environmental conscience than his desire to ensure adequate future catches.

“A few years ago, it was hard for us to find fish,” he said on Thursday. “So we tried to identify the areas where the fish spawned. Now we preserve the coral reefs there and we fish outside those areas. As a result, the fish population has increased. Now we can catch at least a bucketful of them, worth around Rp 80,000 [$9] a day.”

The fishermen were not concerned about conservation when they mapped out the spawning grounds back in 2007, Saharuddin said. They were simply acting on pragmatic concerns about decreasing catches. “We’re not saying you shouldn’t fish in those areas, there’s no such rule,” he said.

“But because our community depends on those fishes, they leave those areas alone. It’s because they need it in their daily lives. It’s that simple.”

Saharuddin is a member of Komunto, an independent community group set up by local fishermen in 2006 to help improve their welfare.

Komunto also serves as a cooperative to fund education, health care and women’s empowerment programs. The money comes from the subscriptions that the fishermen pay, as low as Rp 5,000 a month per member.

“We set up this organization without any funding from donors or NGOs, and it turned out well,” Saharuddin said.

“In my area, Tau-Tau, we have 40 members and we’ve managed to save up Rp 78 million.”

For its work, Komunto received the Equator Prize in September from the United Nations Development Program, awarded every two years to outstanding local and indigenous efforts to reduce poverty through conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The group was among 300 nominees from 66 countries, but Saharuddin is not letting the achievement go to his head.

“We’re proud of it, but I don’t think our work should be receiving awards just yet. It’s still too early.”

Another Indonesian recipient of the Equator Prize was Yayasan Mitra Tani, a farmers’ cooperative in North Timur Tengah district, East Nusa Tenggara.

Vinsensius Nurak, a farmer and director of the cooperative, said the group had managed to help farmers boost their productivity in this notoriously barren area.

“Their productivity increased from 1.7 tons of corn per hectare per year to 2.3 tons,” he said.

“Peanut yields have also gone up from 0.9 tons per hectare per year to 2.3 tons. These numbers are quite shocking for others because NTT has long been considered barren, so to even reach two tons per hectare is just amazing.”

He also said Yayasan Mitra Tani had encouraged farmers to diversify their crops from the basic staple of corn, and to adopt terrace farming methods to make the most of the limited water in the region.

As a result, the area’s food security — measured in the length of time the community could survive on stored produce alone — went from eight months to 11, and the farmers saw an average 40 percent increase in income.

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Indonesia: Elephant habitat in Bengkulu shrinking

Antara 24 Mar 11;

Bengkulu (ANTARA News) - The habitat of wild elephants in Bengkulu province is shrinking because encroachments into limited production forests in the region continue to happen freely, a nature conservation official said.

Wild elephant habitats threatened by continuing encroachments were located in the Pasar Seblat area, North Bengkulu district, Amon Zamora, head of Bengklu`s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), said here Thursday.

The limited production forests that serve as the habitat of wild elephants were now hemmed in by commercial plantations and a residential area. In the east there was the plantation area of PT Agricinal, in the north, plantations of PT Alno and in the south Sukamerindu village.

In the west was the Lebong Kandis limited production forest which was projected to be a corridor but still inhabited by around 500 families.

In addition, a habitat of wild elephants was also to be found in the Pasar Seblat forest as well in the Elephant Training Center (PLG) area, which covers approximately 6,800 hectares.

If the two regions of the limited production forest and Seblat elephant training center were not made ​​a corridor forest to Kerinci Seblat National Park (TKNS) forest area, it was feared that in the next few years the human-elephant conflict will occur.

"We have proposed the forest status increasing of the elephant training center forest, from specialized production into nature reserve conservation and corridor forest areas," said Amon.

The forest area proposed to be upgraded reaches 18,503 hectares, consisting of 6,800 hectares of elephant training center region and the remaining of forest corridors to Kerinci Seblat National Park, he noted.

Meanwhile, the administrative head of conservation and natural resources agency, Supartono said, the area as a habitat for Sumatran elephants to be maintained by law, because if it was allowed to go, on the next few years these endangered animals would become extinct.

To overcome these problems the agency is trying to unite the Lebong Kandis region become a part of the Seblat elephant training center, in addition to increase the status to be natural tourism park with a function as wildlife conservation.

Besides that, the agency has proposed expanding Seblat elephant training center to the ministry of forestry from 6,800 hectares to around 18,305 hectares therefore it will make the protected wildlife`s cruise area lines increase.

"It should be one area of ​​roaming elephants require about 400 hectares, so that if the number of elephants in the area is 80, the land needed at least 32 thousand hectares," Supartono added.

The increasingly desperate elephant habitat due to illegal encroachment and expansion of plantations cause the level of conflict between humans and elephants continue to rise.

Supartono explained, the conflict between elephants and humans in 2007 and 2009 as many as 21 cases each year, while losses due to the conflict was estimated at 500 million more per year, namely the damage of huts, palm trees, rubber plantations as well as local people`s plantations.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Indonesia: WWF asks Riau to stop conflict between humans and elephants

Antara 25 Mar 11;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The Riau World Wide Fund for Nature is trying to put an end to the conflict between humans and elephants (elephas maximus) by rehabilitating and restoring their habitats at the Balai Raja fauna reserve, Bengkalis district, a conservationist said.

"We keep encouraging the government to rehabilitate the habitats of the wild elephants at Balai Raja," Syamsidar, WWF-Riau media relations officer, said here on Thursday.

Syamsidar said that Balai Raja in 1990 covered 16,000 hectares when it was run as a fauna reserve but now it has been much reduced to 120 hectares of secondary forested land.

He also said that even with the remaining area, it was still converted into human settlements and palm oil plantations causing the elephants to become marginalized creating conflicts with human beings.

In a latest incident last week, she said, a wild female elephant and her baby had been made paralyzed by poisoning near a human settlement. Those elephants were in weak condition.

Head of Region III of Riau Nature Resource Agency (BKSDA)B. Hutomo said that that the location where the two elephants had been paralyzed was also a passage of the beasts for a long time.

As more people came to live near the area, the beasts might feel disturbed and fought the human beings from time to time, he added. In last week`s incident, the elephants could become dehydrated as humans kept them away from water sources.

Hutomo said that the agency was trying to cure elephants, and drive them back to their habitats.(*)

Editor: Ruslan Burhani

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Indonesian Government to Issue Long Overdue Forests Decree

Camelia Pasandaran & Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 25 Mar 11;

A much delayed presidential decree to enforce a moratorium on new forest concessions will be issued next month, an official said on Thursday.

The two-year moratorium on granting concessions in peatland and primary forests is part of a bilateral agreement with Norway, in exchange for which Indonesia will receive $1 billion in funding for Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD-plus) activities.

In order for the moratorium to be legally binding from its Jan. 1 start date, it must be backed by a presidential decree, which will be issued in April, according to Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam.

“It is still being processed, hopefully early next month,” he said on Thursday.

Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta confirmed he expected the decree to be signed next week.

“It’s now being finalized,” he said. “The president said the decree would be issued soon. Once it’s been signed, we can implement the moratorium and there will be no more permits issued for clearing primary forest.”

He added that despite the lack of a decree, the moratorium had been in effect all year.

“We’ve banned clearing of peatland and primary forests since the start of the year,” Gusti said. “We’ve already stopped issuing permits. The decree is only to provide legal certainty.”

Deforestation is one of the primary sources greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming. Indonesia, the world’s third-largest emitter, has one of the fastest rates of forest clearing.

Though much delayed, environmental activists have welcomed the promised signing of the decree.

Teguh Surya, head of climate justice at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said it was important for the contents of the presidential instruction to be made public.

“It’s not just a matter of when the decree will be signed, but also what it says,” he said.

“The government should have and is supposed to make the contents publicly available first because of the implications for the people and other stakeholders.”

The latest draft of the decree, obtained by the Jakarta Globe, states that the moratorium applies to forests and peatlands and calls for improving the management of these areas.

It defines the affected areas as being located in conservation forests, protected forests, production forest and other types of forests.

The decree states the moratorium will not apply for permits for strategic national development, including geothermal and oil and gas exploration, power plants and large-scale rice and sugar plantations.

Oil palm plantations are expected to be hit hardest by the moratorium.

On Thursday, industry executives met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discus the impact of the moratorium on their businesses.

“As businesspeople, we support the signing of the [agreement with Norway],” Joefly J. Bachroeny, chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki), said after the meeting. “But we’re concerned that the moratorium may be misunderstood by some parties,” he added.

Joefly said the moratorium would hamper the development of oil palm plantations. Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of crude palm oil, and is set to expand production this year.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the expansion was possible. “They have seven million hectares of abandoned land to use,” he said.

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Malaysia: Sarawak is open to forest verification

Peter Sibon Borneo Post 25 Mar 11;

KUCHING: Sarawak is prepared to invite independent and international inspection teams to visit the state to verify and document the fact that more than 70 per cent of its rainforest remain intact, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said.In a clear response to British and other international environmental critics who have alleged in recent weeks that logging in Sarawak had led to massive deforestation of the rain forests, he said that state officials would provide full cooperation and assistance to inspectors from any certified international industry or environmental organisation that wished “to make a serious study.”

“I know that there are exaggerated claims that 90 per cent of Sarawak’s forests have been destroyed by logging,” Taib was quoted by Sarawak Report here recently.

The chief minister noted that in addition to the 70 per cent of virgin rain forest which remains intact in Sarawak, another 14 per cent of its secondary jungle has been replanted and is undergoing plans for replanting.

“This is the simple fact and if people want to verify it, then they are welcome to visit Sarawak,” said Taib.

In recent weeks the sister-in-law of British former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has teamed up with opposition critics in Malaysia to make a series of harsh accusations against Sarawak and against the chief minister himself.

At the heart of this campaign in the British online and print media, launched by Clare Rewcastle Brown, has been the repeated claim, based on reports by an environmental NGO that logging in Sarawak will have wiped out 90 per cent of all rainforests by 2020.

It is alleged that Gordon Brown himself had endorsed these claims in a recent article in The Independent.

Taib’s interview with marks the first time he has spoken out on the allegations being made by Brown’s sister-in-law, who together with the former British prime minister, was herself at the centre of a British scandal over the abuse of personal expense claims in 2009.

Taib who is also the Minister of Planning and Resource Management had focused on the issue of sustainable development in the state and to rebut claims of deforestation being made in London and elsewhere.

“People can make many claims, but my government has been very deeply committed to sustainable management of our forest,” he stressed.

He pointed out that Sarawak has always been committed to practicing sustainable management of its forests.

“In our traditional forest, we practice what is called ‘fill-in planting’, where there is a bald area, where we see this, we plant trees.

“On top of that, we want to make sure that the timber industry will not be touching the traditional trees by illegal logging,” he said.

“So we have converted some areas to be planted with quick growing species and the timber industries which are still expanding must also add to the greenness of our forest. I would expect that one million hectares can be planted within the next ten years.” Taib added.

In announcing plans to invite independent inspection by qualified experts, the chief minister said the government and forestry officials would provide full cooperation.

He stressed that all he wanted was seeing the truth being documented to avoid misunderstanding and distortions. “I have the greatest respect for the people of Britain or anywhere else in the world who care about the issue of deforestation, as I myself do.

“And because of that I am ready and willing to open up the country for independent and international inspection. They will see that we still have much more rainforest than people give us credit for, to be preserved for the next generations,” he explained.

When asked his opinion on why a few critics in London and cheered on by opposition politicians in Malaysia, have been gunning for Sarawak on the logging issue, and whether this might be related to the fact that DUN has been dissolved and state elections would be held soon, Taib declined to speculate on the motivations, and repeated his announcement of Sarawak being open to international inspectors.

“The truth is that we have nothing to hide,” he added.

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New international co-operation to tackle marine debris

UNEP 25 Mar 11;

Honolulu (USA) / Nairobi, 25 March 2011 - Government representatives, major industries and leading marine researchers have come together to make a new set of commitments to tackle the widespread problem of debris in the world's seas and oceans.

Despite decades of efforts to prevent and reduce marine debris, such as discarded plastic, abandoned fishing nets and industrial waste, there is evidence that the problem continues to grow. A lack of co-ordination between global and regional programmes, deficiencies in the enforcement of existing regulations and unsustainable consumption and production patterns have aggravated the problem.

By bringing together experts from some 35 countries, governments, research bodies, corporations including the Coca-Cola Company, and trade associations such as Plastics Europe, the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference resulted in new commitments and partnerships to address the issue of marine debris at global, national and local levels.

A key outcome of the conference, which was co-organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and held in Honolulu, Hawaii from 20 to 25 March 2011, the Honolulu Commitment marks a new, cross-sectoral approach to help reduce the occurrence of marine debris, as well as the extensive damage it causes to marine habitats, the global economy, biodiversity and the risks posed to human health.

The Commitment encourages sharing of technical, legal and market-based solutions to reduce marine debris, improving local and regional understanding of the scale and impact of the problem and advocating the improvement of waste management worldwide.

"Marine debris - trash in our oceans - is a symptom of our throw-away society and our approach to how we use our natural resources. It affects every country and every ocean, and shows us in highly visible terms the urgency of shifting towards a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy as nations prepare for Rio+20 in 2012," said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a message to conference delegates. "The impact of marine debris today on flora and fauna in the oceans is one that we must now address with greater speed," added Mr. Steiner

"However, one community or one country acting in isolation will not be the answer. We need to address marine debris collectively across national boundaries and with the private sector, which has a critical role to play both in reducing the kinds of wastes that can end up in the world's oceans, and through research into new materials. It is by bringing all these players together that we can truly make a difference," said Mr. Steiner.

The Commitment marks the first step in the development of a comprehensive global platform for the prevention, reduction and management of marine debris, to be known as the Honolulu Strategy.

This document - currently being developed by conference delegates, UNEP, NOAA and international marine debris experts - will aim to provide a strategic framework for co-ordinated action plans to prevent, reduce and manage sources of marine debris. The Strategy will be finalised following the conference.

"This conference comes at a critical time for our world" said Monica Medina, NOAA's Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere. "The oceans and coasts are facing a multitude of stressors, including marine debris, that lead to consequences that have both ecosystem and economic impacts. It is vitally important to bring together people committed to these issues to share ideas, develop partnerships and move us all a step closer to the changes that are badly needed for our oceans and coasts."

Marine debris: risks to livelihoods, wildlife and human health

The impacts of marine debris are far-reaching, with serious consequences for marine habitats, biodiversity, human health and the global economy.

At least 267 marine species worldwide are affected by entanglement in or ingestion of marine debris, including 86 percent of all sea turtles species, 44 percent of all seabird species and 43 percent of all marine mammal species.

There is growing concern over the potential impact on human health of toxic substances released by plastic waste in the ocean. Small particles (known as 'microplastics') made up of disintegrating plastic items or lost plastic pellets used by industry, may accumulate contaminants linked to cancer, reproductive problems and other health risks. Scientists are studying whether these contaminants can enter the food chain when microplastics are ingested by marine animals.

Accumulated debris on beaches and shorelines can have a serious economic impact on communities that are dependent on tourism.

Marine debris may house communities of invasive species which can disrupt marine habitats and ecosystems. Heavy items of marine debris can damage habitats such as coral reefs and affect the foraging and feeding habits of marine animals.

Surfing for Solutions in Hawaii

One of the key themes to emerge from the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference was the need to improve global waste management.

The Honolulu Strategy will outline several approaches for the reduction of marine debris, including prevention at land- and sea-based sources, and the need to see waste as a resource to be managed. It will also call for public awareness campaigns on the negative impacts of improper waste disposal on our seas and oceans - targeting street litter, illegal dumping of rubbish and poorly-managed waste dumps.

Improving national waste management programmes not only helps reduce the volume of waste in the world's seas and oceans and subsequent damage to the marine environment, but can also bring real economic benefits.

In the Republic of Korea, for example, a policy of Extended Producer Responsibility has been enforced on packaging (paper, glass, iron, aluminium and plastic) and specific products (batteries, tyres, lubricating oil) since 2003. This initiative has resulted in the recycling of 6 million metric tonnes of waste between 2003 and 2007, increasing the country's recycling rate by 14 percent and creating economic benefits equivalent to US$1.6 billion.

Waste management is one of ten economic sectors highlighted in UNEP's Green Economy Report, launched in February 2011. The report highlights enormous opportunities for turning land-based waste - the major contributor to marine debris - into a more economically valuable resource. The value of the waste-to-energy market, for example, which was estimated at US$20 billion in 2008 is projected to grow by 30 percent by 2014.

The scaling-up of a transition to a low carbon, more resource-efficient Green Economy is one of two key pillars of the United Nations Sustainable Development conference to be held in Brazil next year. Also known as Rio+20, the conference aims to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development and address new and emerging challenges - twenty years after the landmark Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Notes to Editors

The Honolulu Commitment can be viewed at:

For more information on UNEP's work on marine debris, please visit:

Information on NOAA's Marine Debris Program can be found at

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Study: Ocean dolphin groups don't mix

UPI 24 Mar 11;

WASHINGTON, March 24 (UPI) -- Conservationists say groups of dolphins in the Indian Ocean do not mix freely with one another, apparently kept apart by currents and other invisible factors.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the American Museum of Natural History say genetically distinct populations of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin may be formed in part by currents, surface temperature differences and other environmental barriers, a WCS release reported Thursday.

Scientists made the discovery using both genetic data from dolphins and environmental information from remote-sensing satellites.

The study is one of the first examinations of how environmental factors in marine environments may influence population structure in marine species and can potentially provide an understanding of how environmental factors may drive the evolution of new species, the researchers said.

"Examining how environmental factors affect the population structure of marine species is a complex task. Doing this over entire regions is a challenge," Martin Mendez of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History said.

"Unlike studies of terrestrial species in easily observable environments, marine species are difficult to follow and the barriers they encounter are often invisible to us."

Against the tide: Currents keep dolphins apart
Study by Wildlife Conservation Society, AMNH, on dolphins finds invisible oceanographic factors that keep populations separate
Wildlife Conservation Society EurekAlert 24 Mar 11;

Conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and other conservation and research groups have discovered that groups of dolphins in the western Indian Ocean do not mix freely with one another. In fact, dolphin populations are kept separate by currents and other unseen factors.

Specifically, the researchers have found that genetically distinct populations of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin may be formed in part by currents, surface temperature differences, and other environmental barriers, a finding made possible by using both genetic data from dolphins and environmental information from remote-sensing satellites.

The study appears in the advance online version of the journal Heredity. The study authors are: Martin Mendez of the American Museum of Natural History and the Wildlife Conservation Society; Ajit Subramaniam of Columbia University; Tim Collins of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Environment Society of Oman; Gianna Minton of the Environment Society of Oman and the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation, University Malaysia Sarawak; Robert Baldwin of the Environment Society of Oman; Per Berggren of Newcastle University; Anna Särnblad of Stockholm University; Omar A. Amir of the Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Dar es Salaam; Victor M. Peddemors of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre; Leszek Karczmarski of the University of Hong Kong; Almeida Guissamulo of Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Museu de História Natural; and Howard C. Rosenbaum of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The study represents a breakthrough in high-tech research on marine wildlife and a foundation for ensuring sound future management decisions on the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, a distant relative of the more familiar bottlenose dolphin. It is one of the first examinations of how environmental factors in marine environments can influence population structure in marine species, and can potentially enhance an understanding about the environmental factors that may drive the evolution of new species.

"Examining how environmental factors affect the population structure of marine species is a complex task. Doing this over entire regions is a challenge," said lead author Dr. Martin Mendez of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History. "Unlike studies of terrestrial species in easily observable environments, marine species are difficult to follow and the barriers they encounter are often invisible to us. Molecular technologies and remote sensing data can be combined to shed light on these mysteries."

The team started its examination of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin populations using genetics, analyzing mitochondrial DNA data from more than 90 individual dolphins from the coastal areas of Oman, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, and South Africa. The scientists used this "genetic marker" to statistically measure gene flow between dolphin groups at different locations.

The researchers then compared their molecular findings with 13 years of data from NASA's satellites on environmental factors such as currents, temperature, turbidity, levels of chlorophyll, and dissolved organic matter.

Dr. Mendez and his co-authors have succeeded in finding support for the hypothesis that environmental differences between regions could influence the population structure of marine species. Specifically, they found correlations between regional environmental differences and measurable genetic breaks between populations of dolphins from Mozambique and Tanzania in Africa, and Oman on the Saudi Arabian peninsula.

On the largest regional scale, data on currents seem to correlate with genetic distinctiveness between certain populations. In particular, the South Equatorial Current—which runs west across the Indian Ocean before diverging north and south as it meets the African continent—seems to represent a barrier between genetically distinct populations of Mozambique and Tanzania; the current may play a role in creating them. Seasonal monsoons also potentially contribute to what researchers found was a lack of southbound migration (or detectable gene flow) along the African coast.

The researchers also found agreement on smaller spatial scales. Differences in temperature, chlorophyll, turbidity, and dissolved organic matter between regions also coincided with genetic differences between dolphin populations in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Oman. The two coastal regions without detectable genetic distinctiveness between dolphin populations—Mozambique and South Africa—also lacked significant environmental differentiation between them, a finding in agreement with the correlation of both genetic and environmental differences detected in other areas.

"With increasing development and potential threats to coastal habitats, understanding the population structure of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin in conjunction with environmental factors is an important step in formulating management recommendations and protection measures for the species," said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Ocean Giants Program.


Named for a distinctive hump under the dorsal fin of some individuals, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin grows up to 10 feet in length and ranges from dark gray to pink and/or white in color. The species generally inhabits coastal waters, deltas, estuaries, and occurs throughout the Indian Ocean basin to the coasts of Australia. The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin is listed as "Near Threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is threatened by habitat loss, disruption, and fishing activity.

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Africa’s rhinos face worst poaching crisis in decades

IUCN 25 Mar 11;

Well-equipped, sophisticated organized crime syndicates have killed more than 800 African rhinos in the past three years - just for their horns. With the most serious poaching upsurge in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, Africa’s top rhino experts recently met in South Africa to assess the status of rhinos across the continent and to identify strategies to combat the poaching crisis.

“Although good biological management and anti-poaching efforts have led to modest population gains for both species of African rhino, we are still very concerned about the increasing involvement of organized criminal poaching networks, and that, unless the rapid escalation in poaching in recent years can be halted, continental rhino numbers could once again start to decline,” says Dr. Richard Emslie, scientific officer for the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s (SSC) African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG).

South Africa alone lost 333 rhinos last year and so far this year has lost more than 70. Most rhino horns leaving Africa are destined for Southeast Asian medicinal markets that are believed to be driving the poaching epidemic. In particular, Vietnamese nationals have been repeatedly implicated in rhino crimes in South Africa.

Black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) currently number 4,840 (up from 4,240 in 2007), whilst white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) are more numerous, with a population of 20,150 (up from 17,500 in 2007). Population numbers are increasing, however, with the rise in poaching, there is still cause for concern due to inadequate funding to combat well-resourced organized criminals.

Rhino experts urged greater cooperation between wildlife investigators, police and prosecutors; magistrates and judges to be more sensitive to rhino issues; and assistance in developing new tools and technologies to detect and intercept rhino poachers and horn traffickers. While the number of arrests has increased there is an urgent need for improved conviction rates and increased penalties for rhino-related crimes in some countries.

The AfRSG commended recent initiatives to combat poaching. These include the establishment of a National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit in South Africa, increasing protection throughout the rhinos’ range, DNA fingerprinting of rhino horn, regional information sharing and engaging with the authorities in Vietnam. In addition, wildlife agencies are working closely with private and community rhino custodians, as well as support organizations, to protect rhinos.

“In South Africa, a large number of rhinos live on private land. Rhino management, including control of rhino horn stockpiles and security, needs to be improved and coordinated among rhino holders,” says Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “This is essential if we are going to face the poaching crisis head on.”

In some countries, White Rhinos are still hunted as trophies. The group noted that some professional hunters have demonstrated questionable and unethical behaviour, adding that improved management of the allocation and monitoring of hunting permit applications, especially in some South African provinces, needs urgent attention.

Notes to editors

The US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Rhino & Tiger Conservation Fund, WWF’s African Rhino Programme, International Rhino Foundation, Save the Rhino International and South African National Parks sponsored this meeting of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), biologists and wildlife managers, as well as government representatives from Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Africa rhinos face 'worst poaching crisis for decades'
Mark Kinver BBC News 25 Mar 11;

Rhino populations in Africa are facing the "worst poaching crisis for decades," say conservationists.

Over the past three years, gangs are said to have killed more than 800 rhinos for their horns, which can fetch £22,000 per kilo on the black market.

Experts fear the rise in poaching could undermine recent efforts to stabilise black and white rhino populations.

They called for greater co-operation between conservationists and law enforcement agencies.

"Although good biological management and anti-poaching efforts have led to modest population gains for both species of African rhino, we are still very concerned," said Richard Emslie, a scientific officer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Dr Emslie, a member of the IUCN's Species Survival Commission's (SSC) African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), said the main threat was from the "increasing involvement of organised criminal poaching networks".

"Unless the rapid escalation in poaching in recent years can be halted, continental rhino numbers could once again start to decline," he warned.

Growing demand

The Critically Endangered black rhino (Diceros bicornis), which is made up of four sub-species, currently has a population of 4,840 (up from 4,240 in 2007) spread across southern African nations.

The two sub-species of white rhino (Ceratotherium simum), which has a similar distribution as the black rhino, has a population in the region of 20,000 (up from 17,500 in 2007).

Despite the high numbers, the white rhino is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. This is a direct result of the high level of poaching, especially in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

It is estimated that 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone last year, with a further 70 being shot dead so far this year.

Conservationists suspect that most of the illegally harvested rhino horn are destined for the traditional medicine markets of South-East Asia, and the growing demand and high prices are fuelling the sharp rise in poaching.

They called for greater co-operation between the various parties involved in projecting the large mammals, including wildlife investigators and law enforcement agencies.

Some initiatives, such as the establishment of a National Wildlife Crime Reduction Unit in South Africa, are bearing fruit in the shape of more arrests. But IUCN SSC chairman Simon Stuart said it was important for wildlife agencies to work closely with private and community [land owners].

"In South Africa, a large number of rhinos live on private land," Dr Stuart observed.

"Rhino management, including control of rhino horn stockpiles and security, needs to be improved and co-ordinated among rhino holders.

"This is essential if we are going to face the poaching crisis [head-on]."

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India: Sudden flooding a phenomenon called meteo-tsunami

Paul Fernandes Times of India 25 Mar 11;

PANAJI: The unusual flooding of Morjim and Baga beaches showed signs of respite on Thursday, but a tsunami expert said it may have been caused by a meteo-tsunami on the lines of a similar phenomenon in Kerala during the past decade.

"There were no strange meteorological disturbances seen on the state's coastline," the source said. There was no depression in atmospheric pressure nor was the wind abnormally strong, though it blew in gusts and may have contributed partly to the flooding.

"It appears that a wave from a storm far in the sea travelled a long distance to the state's coast," the source said. A similar phenomenon, which local people in Kerala mistakenly thought was a tsunami, had hit the southern state's Poonthura coast in May 2005, April 2007 and February 2008.

Referred to as 'kallakkadal' (literally sea surges in unnoticed like a thief) by Kerala fishermen, the flooding of the coast that followed has been documented in international journals, sources said.

The impact of flooding is more intense when it occurs on supermoon spring tides. "The case of Baga and Morjim was one such, and it was caused by wave set up" the source said. The sea water level rise showed signs of receding in Baga on Thursday.

"The water level rose seven metres on Tuesday, five metres on Wednesday but only three metres on Thursday," shack owner Mario D'Souza said.

"We had never seen anything like this earlier," Morjim shack owner Jenny Madeira told TOI.

Though the impact and destruction caused by geophysical tsunamis has evoked fear globally, the impact of meteo-tsunamis is lesser known, yet they can cause havoc on a smaller scale in fewer locations.

"The event in Baga and Morjim, unlike Kerala, may be a new event," the source said.

The flooding events and detailed accounts of meteotsunamis in the world has been provided by NIO scientist Anthony Joseph in his book, "Tsunamis: Detection, monitoring and early-warning technologies", published in February 2011.

Huge sea waves on the coast or meteorological tsunamis are caused by atmospheric gravity waves, atmospheric pressure jumps, wind waves and other factors, but may result in less impact.

"Other mechanisms that may result in a meteo-tsunami include tide-generated internal waves, wave superposition, wind-current interaction, wave-current interaction and atmospheric shockwaves (say, from volcanic activity)," the source added.

The atmospherically generated ocean waves, whose origin remains shrouded in mystery, have been observed in recent sea-level records from coasts, among others, of the Adriatic Sea, English Channel, and Washington (USA) and notoriously in several locations in the Mediterranean Sea.

"Meteo-tsunamis some times closely resemble rogue waves, freak waves, or giant waves," the source said. The sea enters land without any meteorological disturbances and no warning signs.

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Talks On UN "Green Fund" Set For Late April

Patrick Rucker PlanetArk 25 Mar 11;

Delegates from 40 nations tasked with designing a "green fund" to help poor countries cope with climate change will hold their first meeting in late April, U.N. officials said on Thursday.

The meeting to start developing the Green Climate Fund, which had been postponed over disagreements about who should attend, will be held in Mexico City on April 28-29.

Climate talks in December committed rich countries to finance $100 billion a year in climate aid for poor countries from 2020.

That was one of the modest goals achieved during that last major climate summit, which failed to end in a binding deal to limit greenhouses gasses like tailpipe exhaust and industrial smog.

Since that event, held in the Mexican resort city of Cancun, delegates from the 40 nations that will help govern the fund had not been able fix a meeting date.

The fund was part of a package that included steps to protect tropical forests and share clean technologies.

Rising aid is meant to help developing nations curb their greenhouse gas emissions by shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energies and to help them adapt to effects of heat waves, droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

UN climate chief says time for work on Cancun deal
Yahoo News 24 Mar 11;

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – The UN's climate chief on Thursday urged countries to flesh out last December's worldwide deal in Cancun, including details of a fund to help poor countries badly exposed to the impacts of global warming.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said a meeting in Bangkok from April 3-8 had to pave the way to "the next big climate step" in Durban, South Africa, at year's end.

"The world was at a crossroads in Cancun and took a step forward towards a climate-safe world," Figueres said in a press statement, released at a meeting in Mexico City of more than three dozen countries.

"Now governments must move purposefully down the path they have set."

The Bangkok meeting had to set up a "clear work plan" for 2011 to follow up Cancun, she said.

"This includes work on making the institutions for climate funding, technology cooperation and adaptation fully functional within the deadlines agreed in Cancun," said Figueres.

The so-called Green Climate Fund established in Cancun will potentially channel hundreds of billions of dollars in aid for poor climate-vulnerable countries.

But its key architecture -- notably where the funds should be spent and how they should be accounted for -- has still to be drawn up. A transitional committee that will propose the design is to hold a maiden meeting in Mexico City on Monday and Tuesday, Figueres said.

Two other institutions agreed in Cancun are a "technology mechanism" for promoting clean technologies and an "adaptation framework" to boost international cooperation for poor countries in the fight against worsening drought, flood and rising seas.

Ministers or senior officials from around 40 countries attended the meeting in Mexico City, billed as a "stakeholders' dialogue" to assess the state of play since Cancun, a UNFCCC official said.

After Bangkok, the forum meets in Bonn from June 6-17 at senior level and in Durban, South Africa, from November 28-December 9, ending at ministerial level.

The talks in Cancun last November 28-December 11 also yielded a rallying call to cap warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) but split badly over the future of the UNFCCC's Kyoto Protocol, whose first round of emissions-cutting pledges expires at the end of next year.

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