Best of our wild blogs: 4 Apr 11

Free walk on 9th April 2011 - Chek Jawa Boardwalk
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Life History of the Common Imperial
from Butterflies of Singapore

March wild facts updates: fishies, nem, slug and more
by wild shores of singapore

Pink-necked Green Pigeon: A case of failed nesting
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Fruit of the forest
from The annotated budak and Speak to the claw

Javan Myna
from Monday Morgue

Read more!

Vietnam hauls in beloved turtle for medical treatment

BBC News 3 Apr 11;

An ailing giant turtle revered as a symbol of Vietnam's independence has been captured for medical treatment.

Thousands of people crowded around a lake in the capital Hanoi as about 50 rescuers swam and used boats to pull nets around it.

The turtle, which is believed to be more than 100 years old, has open sores on its neck and legs.

Its plight has made headlines in Vietnam for several months but it evaded earlier rescue attempts.

It is feared that rubbish and pollution in Lake Hoan Kiem may have caused its wounds.

Another theory is that the sacred reptile, which weighs about 200kg (440 pounds), has been injured by fishermen's hooks and other smaller turtles over the course of several years.
'Fine and stable'

Three nets of varying sizes were used to finally bring the turtle under control.

Some rescuers swam with the netted reptile, leading it into a cage which was escorted by two boats to an island where the turtle's condition is to be assessed.

"Generally, the turtle is fine and stable," said turtle expert Ha Dinh Duc.

Official Vietnamese media have said the turtle, known reverentially as "the great grandfather", may be as much as 300 years old, although experts estimate it is more likely 80-100 years old.

"You could say it is a representative of the country so bringing the turtle up for treatment is a necessity," said Luu Tien Xuan, 78, a Hanoi resident.

"The people are concerned. The leaders are concerned... It would be sad if Ho Guom [another name for the lake] didn't have the turtle in it anymore."

Thousands cheer capture of revered Vietnam turtle
Tran Thi Minh Ha Yahoo News 3 Apr 11;

HANOI (AFP) – Thousands of onlookers cheered in central Hanoi on Sunday when rescuers captured for treatment an endangered and ailing giant turtle revered as a symbol of Vietnam's centuries-old independence struggle.

On the first attempt to snare it in polluted Hoan Kiem Lake one month ago the feisty old animal broke free from a net.

This time about 50 rescuers took about two hours --- and three nets of varying sizes -- to finally bring the turtle under control.

Some of the workers swam with the netted reptile, leading it into a cage which was escorted by two boats to an islet where its condition is to be assessed.

"This is one of the most endangered animals in the world and there's very little known about it," said Tim McCormack of the Asian Turtle Programme, a Hanoi-based conservation and research group.

Local media reported that the critically endangered soft-shell turtle, which weighs about 200 kilograms (440 pounds), had been injured by fish hooks and small red-eared turtles which have appeared in the lake in recent years.

The animal's status in Vietnam stems from its history and its home in Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword), rather than its rarity.

"It's very important culturally here," said McCormack.

In a story that is taught to all Vietnamese school children, the 15th century rebel leader Le Loi used a magical sword to drive out Chinese invaders and founded the dynasty named after him.

Le Loi later became emperor and one day went boating on the lake. A turtle appeared, took his sacred sword and dived to the bottom, keeping the weapon safe for the next time Vietnam may have to defend its freedom, the story says.

The turtle has generally surfaced only rarely -- its sightings deemed auspicious -- but has been seen more often in recent months as concern mounted over its health.

Its plight caught the attention of Hanoi's city government, which created a "Turtle Treatment Council" of experts led by a senior veterinarian in the agriculture department, Vietnam News Agency said.

McCormack said the animal, which is likely more than 100 years old, is one of only four Rafetus swinhoei turtles known to be in existence. Two are in China and one lives in another Hanoi-area lake, he said.

Vietnamese refer to Hoan Kiem's legendary resident as "great grandfather turtle", but its sex is unknown.

The islet where it was to be examined holds a small temple-like structure called "Turtle Tower" that is commonly featured in tourist pictures. It will be held in a special tank with filtered water instead of soupy-green contaminated lake water.

"A lot of people have been saying the pollution in the lake has been a serious factor in the animal's health," said McCormack, whose organisation was among the experts advising authorities on how to help the creature.

Spectators hoped the treatment will succeed.

Nguyen Le Hoai, 31, said she spent all day lakeside waiting for the turtle's capture because it "is the symbol of the country, and the symbol of this lake".

Hanoi searches for the second ancient turtle
Vietnam Net 5 Apr 11;

VietNamNet Bridge – The group of workers and underwater commandos who caught the Hoan Kiem turtle on April 3 is searching for the possible second turtle in the lake after discovering big bubbles on the surface.

The group leader, Nguyen Ngoc Khoi, who is also director of the KAT Group, which has bread turtles for many years, said that workers saw many big bubbles on the surface after the Hoan Kiem turtle was driven to the Turtle isle for treatment.

“This morning (April 4), workers of KAT Group traveled around the lake with a big net to search for the second turtle. They discovered big bubbles that might be made by the second turtle near Hang Trong street,” Khoi said.

Dr. Nguyen Viet Vinh, a member of the council for treatment of Hoan Kiem turtle, said that on April 3 while the observing group detected bubbles of a big turtle near the Ngoc Son Temple, workers found a very big turtle near Hang Trong street.

“At that time we decided to catch the turtle that was nearest to the net. At that time, the net was near the Ngoc Son temple,” Vinh said.

Khoi said that once the first turtle is cured, workers will catch the second turtle for treatment.

However, Dr. Ha Dinh Duc, who has researched the Hoan Kiem turtle for 20 years, confirmed that there is only one Hoan Kiem turtle in the lake, which is now being treated on the Turtle isle.

Related to this turtle, experts said that its wounds are not so serious. The treatment process is scheduled for two weeks only. After that, the turtle will be moved to a big tank near Dinh Tien Hoang road for convalescence.

“The wounds on the ancient turtle are not as serious as many people thought. He is very strong. he lost some claws because he is very old. There are some wounds on his neck but are not ulcerating much,” said Khoi.

During the treatment process, scientists will make DNA tests of the turtle to define its sex.

Read more!

Phuket experts treating sick dolphin

Phuket Gazette 3 Apr 11;

PHUKET: Experts at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) are nursing a sick bottlenose dolphin back to health after it was found floating in the polluted shallows of Klong Tha Cheen in Rassada yesterday.

The dolphin, fully grown at around two metres long, is being looked after by the Marine Endangered Species Unit at the PMBC, located at Cape Panwa.

Kongkiat Kittiwatthanawong, chief of the unit, said the dolphin was discovered by fishermen around 12pm yesterday. It was found close to where a huge leatherback turtle was found dead earlier this year from ingesting plastic bags.

Fishermen told Mr Konkiat they had encountered a pod of eight or nine dolphins the previous night around 25 nautical miles off the coast, near Koh Maithon in Rawai subdistrict.

The sick dolphin probably followed them back to Phuket, they said.

When officials examined the bottlenose they found it was bleeding and had scrape marks along its body. This probably came from the animal being thrown against the rocks by waves as it lay in the shallows.

The dolphin is able to swim well, but can only dive for short periods. Biologists think it has a problem with its respiratory and digestive systems.

It is excreting a runny green pus, which leads them to suspect bacterial infection.

They are observing the dolphin's condition closely and will take a blood sample to establish the cause prior to treating it with drugs.

They expect to be able to release the animal back into the wild in one to two weeks, after which time they hope it will return to its pod in Phang Nga Bay.

Read more!

New Bali Reef  Handbook Highlights Biodiversity

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 3 Apr 11;

Bali’s local government and an environmental group on Friday launched a handbook to raise awareness of biodiversity conservation efforts in the Nusa Penida marine park.

The Nusa Penida Profile Book, launched in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, highlights the biodiversity of the 20,000-hectare marine conservation area established in 2010.

The area supports a diverse array of species, including 296 types of coral and 576 species of fish, five of them newly discovered while carrying out research for the handbook.

The Nusa Penida conservation area also supports 1,419 hectares of coral reefs, 203 hectares of mangrove forests and 108 hectares of sea grass.

Riyanto Basuki, the book’s author and head of regional conservation at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said the starting point for conservation was to first identify the area’s assets.

“Its three main assets are coral reefs, sea life and sea grass, and mangroves,” Riyanto said, adding these would the main focus of conservation efforts.

He added that authorities would refer to the book to determine where the core zone of the conservation area could lie, where no fishing or other forms of exploitation would be permitted.

Ideally, Riyanto said, 10 percent of the total conservation area should be made the core zone.

Marthen Welly, the TNC project leader for Nusa Penida, said the term “conservation area” was commonly misunderstood by people who believed it meant “off-limits.”

“That’s a misconception,” he said. “Conservation areas are still accessible and fishermen can still fish there, but they must not use devices that damage the environment.”

He added that TNC was working with villagers to discuss the boundaries for the core zone.

“We need to completely involve the local people on this issue,” he said.

Nusa Penida is home to manta rays, dolphins and the iconic Mola-Mola, or ocean sunfish, which can be spotted in the area between July and September.

“With all that potential, marine tourism in Nusa Penida is expected to increase,” Klungkung district deputy head Cokorda Gde Agung said at the book launch.

“It’s also why we need to work with other parties to develop the various zones within the area.”

The conservation area is part of the Coral Triangle, considered the world’s richest underwater wilderness which stretches across six nations between the Indian and Pacific oceans, running through Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

The Coral Triangle Initiative, which was established in 2007, calls for stronger international cooperation to combat illegal fishing and environmental destruction in the underwater area half the size of the United States and home to half the world’s coral reefs.

Read more!

Declining mangroves shield against global warming

Yahoo News 3 Apr 11;

PARIS (AFP) – Mangroves, which have declined by up to half over the last 50 years, are an important bulkhead against climate change, a study released on Sunday has shown for the first time.

Destruction of these tropical coastal woodlands accounts for about 10 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation, the second largest source of CO2 after fossil fuel combustion, the study found.

Fewer trees not only mean less CO2 absorbed from the air, but also the release of carbon stocks that have been accumulating in shallow-water sediment over millennia.

Mangroves -- whose twisted, exposed roots grace coastlines in more than 100 countries -- confer many benefits on humans living in their midst.

The brackish tidal waters in which the trees thrive are a natural nursery for dozens of species of fish and shrimp essential to commercial fisheries around the world.

Another major "ecosystem service," in the jargon of environmental science, is protection from hurricanes and storm surges.

Cyclone Nargis, which killed 138,000 people in Myanmar in 2008, would have been less deadly, experts say, if half the country's mangroves had not been ripped up for wood or to make way for shrimp farms.

Daniel Donato of the US Department of Agriculture's Forest Service in Hilo, Hawaii and an international team of researchers examined the carbon content in 25 mangroves scattered across the Indo-Pacific region.

The trees stored atmospheric CO2 just as well as land-based tropical forests, they found. Below the water line, they were even more efficient, hoarding five times more carbon over the same surface area.

"Mangroves are among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics," Donato and his colleagues said in the study, published in Nature Geoscience.

"Our data show that discussion of the key role of tropical wetland forests in climate change could be broadened significantly to include mangroves."

In a companion commentary, Steven Bouillon from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium said the carbon inventory uncovered by the study "provides a strong incentive to consider mangrove ecosystems as priority areas for conservation."

Study: Mangroves are vital carbon store
UPI 4 Apr 11;

HILO, Hawaii, April 4 (UPI) -- The world's coastal mangrove forests are capable of storing more carbon than almost any other forest on Earth, U.S. government scientist say.

Researchers from the U.S. Forestry Service research stations, along with scientists from the University of Helsinki in Finland and the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia, analyzed the carbon content of 25 mangrove forests across the Indo-Pacific region and found that mangrove forests store up to four times more carbon per acre than most other tropical forests around the world, a USFS release said Monday.

"Mangroves have long been known as extremely productive ecosystems that cycle carbon quickly, but until now there had been no estimate of how much carbon resides in these systems," Daniel Donato, a research ecologist at the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station in Hilo, Hawaii, said.

"That's essential information because when land-use change occurs, much of that standing carbon stock can be released to the atmosphere," he said.

The mangrove forest's ability to store such large amounts of carbon can be attributed, in part, to the deep organic-rich soils in which the trees thrive, researchers said, and in fact mangroves have more carbon in their soil alone than most tropical forests have in all their biomass and soil combined.

"When we did the math, we were surprised to see just how much carbon is likely being released from mangrove clearing," Donato said, suggesting mangroves should be strong candidates for programs aiming to mitigate climate change by reducing deforestation rates.

Mangroves among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics
Coastal trees key to lowering greenhouse gases
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station EurekAlert 4 Apr 11;

HILO, Hawaii— Coastal mangrove forests store more carbon than almost any other forest on Earth, according to a study conducted by a team of U.S. Forest Service and university scientists. Their findings are published online in the journal Nature Geoscience. (

A research team from the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest and Northern research stations, University of Helsinki and the Center for International Forestry Research examined the carbon content of 25 mangrove forests across the Indo-Pacific region and found that per hectare mangrove forests store up to four times more carbon than most other tropical forests around the world.

"Mangroves have long been known as extremely productive ecosystems that cycle carbon quickly, but until now there had been no estimate of how much carbon resides in these systems. That's essential information because when land-use change occurs, much of that standing carbon stock can be released to the atmosphere," says Daniel Donato, a postdoctoral research ecologist at the Pacific Southwest Research Station in Hilo, Hawaii.

The mangrove forest's ability to store such large amounts of carbon can be attributed, in part, to the deep organic-rich soils in which it thrives. Mangrove-sediment carbon stores were on average five times larger than those typically observed in temperate, boreal and tropical terrestrial forests, on a per-unit-area basis. The mangrove forest's complex root systems, which anchor the plants into underwater sediment, slow down incoming tidal waters allowing organic and inorganic material to settle into the sediment surface. Low oxygen conditions slow decay rates, resulting in much of the carbon accumulating in the soil. In fact, mangroves have more carbon in their soil alone than most tropical forests have in all their biomass and soil combined.

This high-carbon storage suggests mangroves may play an important role in climate change management. Aside from the main greenhouse gas contributor of fossil-fuel burning, the forestry sector can play a part—especially carbon-rich forests that are being cleared rapidly on a global scale, such as mangroves.

"When we did the math, we were surprised to see just how much carbon is likely being released from mangrove clearing," says Donato. This suggests, says Donato, that where consistent with local management objectives, mangroves may be strong candidates for programs aiming to mitigate climate change by reducing deforestation rates.

Recently, mangroves have experienced rapid deforestation worldwide—a 30 percent decline in the past 50 years. Mangrove deforestation generates greenhouse gas emissions of 0.02.12 petagrams of carbon per year, which is equivalent to up to 10 percent of carbon emissions from global deforestation, according to the research team's findings.


The Pacific Southwest Research is headquartered in Albany, Calif. The station develops and communicates science needed to sustain forest ecosystems and other benefits to society. It has laboratories and research centers in California, Hawaii and the United States-affiliated Pacific Islands. For more information, visit

Read more!

Australia: Expert warns of reef climate change deadline

Kirsty Nancarrow ABC News 4 Apr 11;

A Queensland climate change scientist says the world has only another decade to reduce greenhouse gasses to save the Great Barrier Reef.

The director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Professor Ove Hoegh Guldberg, is addressing a climate change conference in Cairns in the far north today.

Professor Hoegh says coral bleaching events are becoming more frequent because of rising sea temperatures and levels.

He says good management and the low population along the Great Barrier Reef have helped it bounce back in the past, but it could be gone in 40 years if carbon emissions are not reduced.

"If we actually act today we can save the Great Barrier Reef and reefs around the world," he said.

"What it'll take is a very concerted global effort to remove these dangerous gasses from the atmosphere."

He says climate modelling shows sea temperatures and ocean acidification will soon rise to levels that cannot sustain coral reefs.

"We're really right at the crossroads right now," he said.

"If we go another 10 years of pumping two parts per million or more CO2 into the atmosphere, we'll pass a point at which we won't be able to constrain further temperature increases and greenhouse gas concentrations that will allow reefs to persist."

10 year window to save reef: expert
AAP Sydney Morning Herald 4 Apr 11;

The Great Barrier Reef will be lost unless there's dramatic action to cut greenhouse gasses over the next 10 years, a climate change scientist warns.

Professor Ove Hoegh Guldberg issued the warning ahead of an address to a major climate change conference starting in Cairns on Monday.

The director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland says coral bleaching events are becoming more frequent due to rising sea temperatures and levels.
Advertisement: Story continues below

He says the Great Barrier Reef could be gone within four decades unless carbon emissions are cut.

"If we actually act today we can save the Great Barrier Reef and reefs around the world," he told the ABC.

But he said it would take a concerted, global effort, with climate modelling showing sea temperatures and ocean acidification would soon rise to levels that could not sustain coral reefs.

"If we go another 10 years of pumping two parts per million or more CO2 into the atmosphere, we'll pass a point at which we won't be able to constrain further temperature increases and greenhouse gas concentrations that will allow reefs to persist," he said.

The Greenhouse 2011 conference will also see the launch of a CSIRO book to help business, government and the community respond to climate change.

The book, which draws on Australian and international research, details climate change impacts that are already apparent in Australia.

It will be launched by CSIRO chief executive Dr Megan Clark.

Reef rescue: We need to change our ways - and fast
Daniel Strudwick The Cairns Post 5 Apr 11;

A LEADING climate change scientist has warned urgent action must be taken this year to protect the Great Barrier Reef from extinction in the next few decades.

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said the country must switch to cleaner energy sources between now and 2015, after which carbon reduction goals would be out of reach.

The most dire effects wrought by carbon emissions on the Reef were increased water temperature and acidification, resulting in coral bleaching and reduced coral coverage, he said.

“The stuff that we have on the shelf today like wind power and solar energy can be deployed in Queensland at a relatively low cost compared to the cost of doing nothing,” Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said.

“We need to go down this path and we need to go down it quickly.”

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg told the gathering of about 500 scientists and industry personnel that not engaging in international solutions would “hasten the death of something really loved and depended on.”

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg’s presentation at the sixth Greenhouse conference identified the Reef’s irreplaceable contribution to the region’s economy.

And Far North Queensland’s economy – which depends on tourism spending generated largely by the Reef – would bear the worst of the Reef’s extinction.

“It’s the second largest employer in Queensland – that’s about 65,000 jobs and $6.5 billion per year,” Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said.

“The income in Queensland is sustainable but it depends on the Reef.

“And if you kill the Reef, people are going to have less reason to come here.”

He said Australia had fallen behind countries that have already adopted greener energy sources, with coal providing about 85 per cent of the country’s electricity production.

“The rest of the world is starting to do this, and if we get left behind with fossil fuel then it will cost us.

“Fifteen years from now, it will be a no-brainer because fossil fuels will be expensive, renewable energy will be cheap and countries that don’t have it will be stuck with infrastructure burning fossil fuels.

“We can’t continue to be the obstacle that we’ve been in the past.”

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said ongoing protection would also become more important in the coming decade as the Reef becomes more fragile.

“We need to increase the way we protect our Reef by having a strong park authority and strong fishing regulations.”

But he said those measures would be useless unless atmospheric CO2 was limited to 450ppm – only about 60ppm higher than the current CO2 saturation level.

Read more!

Floods From Sumatra to Papua Displace Thousands

Aidi Yursal, Nurdin Hasan, Nurfika Osman & Antara Jakarta Globe 2 Apr 11;

Floods resulting from days of high-intensity rains have wreaked havoc in Sumatra, Java and Papua, forcing thousands of residents from their homes.

In Medan, North Sumatra, waters from the rain-swollen Babura, Deli, Bederah and Denai rivers had inundated thousands of houses since early Friday, residents there said.

The floods, which also affected some parts of neighboring Deliserdang district, followed heavy rains since Thursday afternoon.

Acin, a guardian at the Gunung Timu Buddhist temple some 300 meters east of the North Sumatra governor’s residence, said that water levels in the temple reached a depth of two meters.

Medan officials said that 4,000 residents were affected by the flooding. “We are deploying teams in rubber boats to evacuate residents affected by the flood,” said Hadi Tugiman, head of the North Sumatra Search and Rescue Agency.

Hendra Suwarta, of the North Sumatra Meteorology office, blamed the flooding on unrelenting heavy rains.

In West Aceh, the overflowing Woyla and Pante rivers have forced some 3,500 people to evacuate to higher ground, an Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) official said on Friday. Rains have continued to fall in the region in the past week and the floods reached more than one meter deep in at least two subdistricts in West Woyla and Pante Ceureumen, said Iskandar, head of the West Aceh PMI.

“The flood has not yet receded,” Iskandar told the Jakarta Globe, adding that unless the rain halted, more subdistricts may be hit with floods.

PMI, he said, had begun distributing food to evacuees but added that distribution as well as evacuation efforts were restricted because of the small number of boats available.

Temporary tent shelters have been erected at two locations in West Woyla while in Pante Ceureumen the evacuees were sheltering at a local mosque and smaller houses of worship

In Papua’s Paniai district, which has been flooded for about three weeks, four bodies were recovered on Friday, a week after the speed boat they were traveling in was overturned by a strong wave in the rain-swollen Paniai lake. On Wednesday, the bodies of six people killed in that flood-related accident were recovered.

Paniai district chief Naftali Yogi said the ceaseless flooding of the past three weeks was attributable to heavy rains in the region over the last three months that swelled Paniai lake to bursting.

So far, the town of Enarotali and 10 subdistricts have been inundated, seven of which are under water as deep as two meters.

More than 100 meters of runway at the Paniai airport were also under water, according to Yogi. He added that the airport was still functioning. The boat jetty in Paniai lake, however, was destroyed by the floods.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), said on Friday that the institution has donated Rp 500 million ($57,500) for the Papua flood victims.

“The Paniai local government also has distributed humanitarian aid to some 6,000 evacuees in the district,” Sutopo said, adding that a team made up of BNPB, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Social Affairs officials was already at the site.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, East Java Governor Soekarwo declared eight subdistricts in Gresik as disaster areas due to heavy flooding that occurred there after the Lamong River burst its banks.

Soekarwo said that provincial authories had earmarked Rp 167 billion in funds to widen and dredge the Lamong river between 2011 and 2013.

Part of the funds would also be used to build two dams, embankments and water catchment areas, he added.

Read more!

Thailand: Two million hit by floods in South

The Nation/Asia News Network Asia One 3 Apr 11;

THAILAND - Out of the 39 flood deaths confirmed yesterday, 17 were in Nakhon Si Thammarat, nine in Surat Thani, seven in Krabi and two each in Phatthalung, Chumphon and Trang.

The department said a total of 558,308 households or 1,959,897 people, were severely affected by floods and mudslides, while 17 houses were totally destroyed and 848 houses were partially damaged. As for the public infrastructure, 2,520 roads, 218 drainage pipes, 46 dikes, 236 bridges, 320 temples and schools as well as 76 state offices were damaged.

The Highway Department reported that as of Friday evening, 24 roads were impassable to vehicles and the Nakhon Si Thammarat airport remained closed due to heavy flooding. Southbound train services from the capital stop at Surat Thani's Tha Chana station, while ferry services in the province have resumed as normal. The Provincial Electricity Authority said 473,262 out of 539,295 affected power users had now received power supplies as normal while the rest remained in the dark due to heavy flooding, impassable roads and fallen power poles.

While 917,739 rai of farmland were damaged, it was reported that, among them, less than 50,000 rai of rubber plantation were damaged. A total of 51,705 livestock farmers with some 2.6 million farm animals and 10,816 fishery people with 10,042 ponds and 1,373 floating baskets were affected.

Meanwhile, National Flood Relief Coordination Centre deputy director Vittayen Muttamara said the areas to watch out for landslides were: Nakhon Si Thammarat's Ron Phibun, Lan Saka, Chulabhorn and Thung Song districts; Phatthalung's Pa Phayom; Trang's Na Yong and Surat Thani's Ban Na San and Kanchanadit districts.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat, where at least four helicopters were on standby for evacuation, some 400 marooned residents of tambon Krung Ching in Nopphitam district were evacuated by helicopter yesterday, while food supplies and electricity generators were sent to help those who remained in Nopphitam. Hundreds of villagers there were in need of evacuation as a one-kilometre-long crack was found in the Ban Khao Lek mountainous area, posing a threat of landslide. The body of a 12-year-old girl, Saowalak Waroros, who was swept away in Nopphitam on Thursday, was found in Tha Sala district yesterday afternoon.

In Sichon district, where 50 landslide spots were reported, two helicopters were also dispatched to evacuate some at-risk residents and one helicopter also transported the dead body of tambon Ban Khao Noi resident Eiumporn Sangwong, who was killed in a flood on March 25 for a funeral at tambon Theparat.

In Surat Thani, although rains in some areas had stopped, many parts, especially all roads, were flooded. There was shortage of drinking water and fresh food.

A tour bus carrying 35 passengers overturned while braving through high flood waters yesterday in tambon Khlong Noi of Muang Surat Thani district but no deaths or serious injuries were reported. The body of village headman Channa Mai-in, who went missing in flood waters since March 28 in Chaiya district's tambon Pak Mak was found yesterday.

As the Chaiya-Phunphin road was impassable for all vehicles, causing heavy traffic jams for three consecutive days, motorists heading to Bangkok or the South shifted to the Phetchkasem 4 Highway (Chumphon-Ranong-Takua Pa) instead, despite it being a detour of several hundreds of kilometres.

In Krabi, the Friday evening flash flood and landslide from Phanom Benja Mountain, which hit Chong Mai Dam Ville of Ao Luek district's tambon Khlong Hin and totally damaged four houses and partially damaged seven houses there, prompted officials to evacuate 700 at-risk residents to a safer place yesterday. While the death toll of Phanom district's tambon Na Khao landslide was yesterday confirmed to be six deaths and five missing persons.

In Chumphon's Sawi district, a house in tambon Khao Khai was totally destroyed by falling large rocks but no deaths of injuries were reported, Sawi district chief Chanchai Kulmongkol said yesterday. But authorities evacuated some 20 at-risk people to a safer place.

Meanwhile, Tourism Authority of Thailand's Trang Office said the past week flooding had caused a 70-80 per cent drop of tourists and room bookings. Losses were estimated at about Bt2 million per day.

-The Nation/Asia News Network

Read more!

Indonesia: massive refinery fire in Java

Java fire destroys 3 of 4 oil storage tanks
Today Online 4 Apr 11;

Police said a massive fire on Saturday had destroyed three of the four storage tanks at Indonesia's largest oil refinery.

The local police chief, Lieutenant-Colonel Rudy Darmoko, said no injuries have been reported in the fire at the Pertamina national oil company refinery in Cilacap, West Java.

The National Police said yesterday that it would need three days to extinguish the fire, reported the Jakarta Post.

The government, meanwhile, assured the nation that the fire will not disrupt fuel supply. Agencies

Inferno engulfs Pertamina refinery
Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post 4 Apr 11;

Huge explosions and subsequent fire at a refinery run by state oil and gas firm PT Pertamina in Cilacap, Central Java, caused panic among locals on Saturday.

As of Saturday evening the fire was still not extinguished, forcing people in the neighborhood to flee their homes over fears of further

No fatalities were reported in the incident because the explosion occurred on a non-working day.

Despite the extensive damage, refinery officials said the fire would not affect production at the plant.

“We have not identified the cause of the explosion. We are still investigating it and our main focus is on cooling the area around the burning unit to prevent the fire from expanding to other units,” refinery public relations head Kurdi Susanto said.

He added that the blast occurred at 4:55 a.m. at the tank 3102 container that held 60,000 kiloliters of light oil HOMC (high-octane mogas component). The container is located in the company’s office compound and would not affect the production of fuels, Kurdi said.

“There is no need to panic. The explosion will not affect the country’s fuel supply because production will continue to run,” he said.

He said firefighters continued to cool other containers in the compound although they were already equipped with automatic cooling systems that could operate during such incidents.

“The additional cooling will ensure maximum protection,” Kurdi said.

Witnesses said they heard a loud explosion that shook the walls and windows of their houses.

“It felt like an earthquake,” said Yuniati, whose house is located 100 meters from the blast site.

She said she heard the blast just after the call to morning prayers call from neighborhood mosques.

“After that the fire began rising high into the sky and there was thick smoke,” she said.

Susi, who lives across the street from the Pertamina building, echoed Yuniati’s statements. “I was so shocked because the explosion was very loud, like a bomb. We immediately left the house and fled,” she said.

As of 9 p.m. on Saturday, strong winds had fanned the fire to the nearby tank 3103.

Refinery workers had attempted to empty tank 3103 but the fire spread quickly.

Firefighters were busy extinguishing the fire while Pertamina security officers, police and soldiers secured the premises. They blocked access to the refinery that processes 400,000 barrels of oil daily.

Pertamina officials could not say how long the fire would burn.

The fire is predicted to be able to burn for the next few days as firefighters plan to continue sending trucks to the location until Monday.

“We will continue fighting the fire until Monday,” Pertamina secretary Hary Karyulianto said Saturday.

He added that strong easterly winds continued to fan the flames, forcing Pertamina to bring in foam to cool other tanks close to the blaze.

“We flew in five tons of foam to Tunggulwulung airport in Cilacap,” he was quoted as saying by news portal

However, Pertamina still needs 35 tons of foam to deal with the situation.

“The remaining 35 tons will come in tonight,” he said, adding that refinery operations were still at normal levels.

Central Java Police chief Ins. Gen. Edward Aritonang said police would escort the shipment of foam to the refinery.

“Our forensic laboratory staff are on standby as well,” he added.

Read more!

Rethink unlikely to derail nuclear plans in Asia

Clean nuclear energy, safer design, efficient way to meet higher energy demand cited as favourable factors
Nisha Ramchandani Business Times 4 Apr 11;

(SINGAPORE) The nuclear crisis in Japan - the result of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami ravaging the nation - is now held out as a cautionary tale for countries keen to build up their nuclear power capabilities. But countries in the region are unlikely to pull the plug on their nuclear plans just yet.

According to a February report by the World Nuclear Association, there are over 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries, providing about 14 per cent of the world's electricity.

More than 60 countries are currently considering nuclear power plans, of which 10-25 are planning to have their first nuclear power stations built by 2030, though it remains to be seen if these numbers will be adversely impacted by the disaster in Japan.

Since the crippling of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by the earthquake and tsunami, there has been a lot of soul searching. A slew of countries - from Germany to the United States - have initiated checks on their existing nuclear reactors, while Italy has deferred its nuclear programme for a year.

France (which gets three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power) has called for international standards on nuclear safety by end-2011, and is pushing for G-20 (the Group of 20) countries to hold nuclear safety talks in May.

'There will be increasing calls to abandon nuclear power and promote alternative energy sources,' said a Frost & Sullivan report.

Still, there are countries such as Russia, China and Indonesia (no strangers to earthquakes) that remain committed to their nuclear plans. Indonesia, for one, is preparing to forge ahead with a nuclear programme that could cost up to US$4 billion, with a three-year feasibility study kicking off in end-April.

China - whose 28 nuclear reactors under development reportedly account for 40 per cent of reactors under construction globally - too is unlikely to be deterred by the recent events in Japan. China is also said to be making headway with clean nuclear energy, having announced plans to develop a thorium-fuelled molten-salt nuclear reactor. While most nuclear reactors are fuelled by uranium, thorium is touted to be safer, cleaner as well as abundant.

India, which currently has 20 reactors in six power plants, is targeting to have 25 per cent of electricity generated from nuclear power by 2050.

The government plans to grant greater autonomy to its Atomic Energy Regulatory Board to ensure a more transparent decision- making process for its nuclear power programme.

Malaysia is reviewing earlier plans to build two nuclear power plants, with the first initially slated to come onstream in 2021.

Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said that it is in the midst of a pre-feasibility study on nuclear energy with safety being a very important consideration. It will be 'a long time' before any decision is made, it added.

With confidence in nuclear energy shaken, shares of companies in the sector have taken quite a beating in recent weeks. This includes Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc, operator of the damaged Fukushima plant, which has seen its share price lose nearly 80 per cent of its value since the earthquake hit. Similarly, shares of Australian uranium producer Energy Resources have also been hit.

'Nuclear energy was making a comeback after taking a backseat in the last 4-5 years. (But now) there's a lot of concern globally on whether it is safe,' says Ravi Krishnaswamy, vice- president of energy and power practice (Asia Pacific) at Frost & Sullivan.

According to the latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy, oil accounts for 34.8 per cent of total global energy needs, while coal constitutes 29.3 per cent, with natural gas at 23.8 per cent, hydro power at 6.6 per cent and nuclear energy, 5.5 per cent.

But countries also should not overreact, notes Hooman Peimani, principal fellow at the NUS Energy Studies Institute. With 440 nuclear plants worldwide, major nuclear incidents have been few and far between.

'That's like saying if you cut your finger with a knife, you should stop using a knife,' he says, pointing out that a better move would be to learn how to use it properly.

Dr Peimani does not foresee a dent in the long- term demand for nuclear energy in the region since countries such as China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all need nuclear power to meet their energy needs.

There is also the advent of third-generation reactors with features such as passive cooling - which allows the reactor to cool the core even if there is no electricity - reducing the risk of a meltdown.

Fukushima's reactors, with the oldest about 40 years old, are among the oldest in operation today. 'With today's technology, it is quite possible to have nuclear reactors which can withstand earthquakes, tsunamis and everything else,' Dr Peimani says, adding that the nuclear reactor as well as the plant can be constructed to meet specific safety requirements.

Read more!

Activists call for renewable energy at UN meeting

Denis D. Gray Associated Press Yahoo News 3 Apr 11;

BANGKOK – Citing the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, environmental activists at a U.N. meeting Sunday urged bolder steps to tap renewable energy so the world doesn't have to choose between the dangers of nuclear power and the ravages of climate change.

The call came at the opening of the six-day meeting aimed at implementing resolutions tabled at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, in December.

Senior officials from governments and international organizations will already be playing some catch-up as deadlines — including one for the formation of a multibillion fund to help developing nations obtain clean-energy technology — have been missed along a roadmap leading to another climate summit at the end of the year in Durban, South Africa.

Before the Bangkok meeting, the U.N.'s top climate change official warned that a very significant global effort would be required to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.8 F) above preindustrial levels — an agreement reached in Cancun between 193 countries, most of which are represented here.

Pledges to reduce emissions made by countries so far equal only 60 percent of what scientists say is required by 2020 to stay below the two-degrees threshold, Christiana Figueres said.

"We did the easy thing at Cancun and left the difficult ones for Durban. And the politics are getting more difficult this year than last," said Artur Runge-Metzger, a European Union climate change official, pointing to efforts by Republicans to block some of President Barack Obama's efforts to reduce emissions.

"We need to see big strides forward before we get to Durban. We have to speed up the pace of work," Runge-Metzger said.

One of the issues taken up in Bangkok will be the formation of the Green Climate Fund, which is to aid developing nations obtain clean-energy technology. Governments have agreed to mobilize $100 billion a year, starting in 2020, but a "transition committee" to design the fund, which was to have been formed last month, is still being discussed along with exactly how the money will be raised.

Technology committees and other institutions to implement resolutions are still on negotiating tables, and it was unclear how much the delegates could accomplish in Bangkok.

The World Wide Fund for Nature said the Bangkok talks needed to build on the "fragile compromise" at Cancun and "boost the overall ambition levels of the talks if we are to avert the worst consequences of climate change."

Greenpeace, another non-governmental organization, said that in light of the Japan disaster, governments represented in Bangkok were obliged to speed up changes in their energy sectors and promote green technologies.

"The world does not have to choose between climate disasters and disasters caused by dangerous energy like nuclear. We can choose a safe future where our societies are powered by renewable energy," it said.

As the conference began, activists from Asian and African countries began a weeklong protest outside the United Nations building, carrying an effigy of Uncle Sam to symbolize the role of the industrialized world in climate change. They said rich nations owed a huge climate debt to be repaid to developing ones by funding and technology transfer.

The global effort to avert climate change began with a 1992 U.N. treaty, when the world's nations promised to do their best to rein in carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases emitted by industry, transportation and agriculture.

Progress, however, has been slow and many scientists warn that dramatic reductions in emissions will be needed to substantially slow the melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers, the rise of sea levels and other consequences of global warming.

Japan nuclear crisis to affect climate battle: EU
Yahoo News 3 Apr 11;

BANGKOK (AFP) – Japan's nuclear crisis will have a clear impact on global efforts to fight climate change, the chief EU negotiator said Sunday as the latest round of UN talks got under way.

"Nuclear is one of those energy options that has very, very low greenhouse gas emissions," Artur Runge-Metzger said at a news conference on the sidelines of the meeting in Bangkok.

"If you look at the energy mix countries were planning to have in the future, nuclear plays an important role."

But since an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 sparked an emergency at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, in many of those countries doubts have now emerged about the nuclear option, he added.

"I think there will be a lot of political considerations," Runge-Metzger said. "Certainly, this is something that has an impact on climate negotiations."

Several developing countries, whose greenhouse gas emissions have risen sharply in recent years owing to their rapid economic growth, have shown interest in nuclear power to meet their soaring energy demand.

Workers at the Japanese plant at the centre of the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl have been battling to prevent a major disaster after the quake and tsunami damaged the plant and knocked out the cooling system.

Contamination has been found in the air, tap water, farm produce and sea near the stricken plant, adding to worries about public safety.

But the crisis must not lead to reduced ambitions about tackling climate change, with renewable energy an alternative option, Runge-Metzger said, while indicating that the EU might re-examine its own energy roadmap.

Negotiators at the first UN climate talks of the year are looking to hammer out the details of an accord reached in the Mexican resort of Cancun in December last year that brought cautious optimism to the difficult process.

The six days of discussions, which begin Sunday with informal workshops, are being held as the world's energy problems are in sharp focus amid the Japanese troubles and with oil prices hovering near record highs.

In Cancun, more than 190 countries called for "urgent action" to keep temperatures from rising no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, pledging "deep cuts" in greenhouse gas emissions.

But after US President Barack Obama's setback in the November midterm elections, "the politics are looking much more difficult this year," Runge-Metzger said.

Read more!

Tweaking the climate to save it: Who decides?

Charles J. Hanley Associated Press Yahoo News 3 Apr 11;

CHICHELEY, England – To the quiet green solitude of an English country estate they retreated, to think the unthinkable.

Scientists of earth, sea and sky, scholars of law, politics and philosophy: In three intense days cloistered behind Chicheley Hall's old brick walls, four dozen thinkers pondered the planet's fate as it grows warmer, weighed the idea of reflecting the sun to cool the atmosphere and debated the question of who would make the decision to interfere with nature to try to save the planet.

The unknown risks of "geoengineering" — in this case, tweaking Earth's climate by dimming the skies — left many uneasy.

"If we could experiment with the atmosphere and literally play God, it's very tempting to a scientist," said Kenyan earth scientist Richard Odingo. "But I worry."

Arrayed against that worry is the worry that global warming — in 20 years? 50 years? — may abruptly upend the world we know, by melting much of Greenland into the sea, by shifting India's life-giving monsoon, by killing off marine life.

If climate engineering research isn't done now, climatologists say, the world will face grim choices in an emergency. "If we don't understand the implications and we reach a crisis point and deploy geoengineering with only a modicum of information, we really will be playing Russian roulette," said Steven Hamburg, a U.S. Environmental Defense Fund scientist.

The question's urgency has grown as nations have failed, in years of talks, to agree on a binding long-term deal to rein in their carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N.-sponsored science network, foresees temperatures rising as much as 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, swelling the seas and disrupting the climate patterns that nurtured human civilization.

Science committees of the British Parliament and the U.S. Congress urged their governments last year to look at immediately undertaking climate engineering research — to have a "Plan B" ready, as the British panel put it, in case the diplomatic logjam persists.

Britain's national science academy, the Royal Society, subsequently organized the Chicheley Hall conference with Hamburg's EDF and the association of developing-world science academies. From six continents, they invited a blue-ribbon cross-section of atmospheric physicists, oceanographers, geochemists, environmentalists, international lawyers, psychologists, policy experts and others, to discuss how the world should oversee such unprecedented — and unsettling — research.

An Associated Press reporter was invited to sit in on their discussions, generally off the record, as they met in large and small groups in plush wood-paneled rooms, in conference halls, or outdoors among the manicured trees and formal gardens of this 300-year-old Royal Society property 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of London, a secluded spot where Britain's Special Operations Executive trained for secret missions in World War II.

Provoking and parrying each other over questions never before raised in human history, the conferees were sensitive to how the outside world might react.

"There's the `slippery slope' view that as soon as you start to do this research, you say it's OK to think about things you shouldn't be thinking about," said Steve Rayner, co-director of Oxford University's geoengineering program. Many geoengineering techniques they have thought about look either impractical or ineffective.

Painting rooftops white to reflect the sun's heat is a feeble gesture. Blanketing deserts with a reflective material is logistically challenging and a likely environmental threat. Launching giant mirrors into space orbit is exorbitantly expensive.

On the other hand, fertilizing the ocean with iron to grow CO2-eating plankton has shown some workability, and Massachusetts' prestigious Woods Hole research center is planning the biggest such experiment. Marine clouds are another route: Scientists at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado are designing a test of brightening ocean clouds with sea-salt particles to reflect the sun.

Those techniques are necessarily limited in scale, however, and unable to alter planet-wide warming. Only one idea has emerged with that potential.

"By most accounts, the leading contender is stratospheric aerosol particles," said climatologist John Shepherd of Britain's Southampton University.

The particles would be sun-reflecting sulfates spewed into the lower stratosphere from aircraft, balloons or other devices — much like the sulfur dioxide emitted by the eruption of the Philippines' Mount Pinatubo in 1991, estimated to have cooled the world by 0.5 degrees C (0.9 degrees F) for a year or so.

Engineers from the University of Bristol, England, plan to test the feasibility of feeding sulfates into the atmosphere via a kilometers-long (miles-long) hose attached to a tethered balloon.

Shepherd and others stressed that any sun-blocking "SRM" technique — for solar radiation management — would have to be accompanied by sharp reductions in carbon dioxide emissions on the ground and some form of carbon dioxide removal, preferably via a chemical-mechanical process not yet perfected, to suck the gas out of the air and neutralize it.

Otherwise, they point out, the stratospheric sulfate layer would have to be built up indefinitely, to counter the growing greenhouse effect of accumulating carbon dioxide. And if that SRM operation shut down for any reason, temperatures on Earth would shoot upward.

The technique has other downsides: The sulfates would likely damage the ozone layer shielding Earth from damaging ultraviolet rays; they don't stop atmospheric carbon dioxide from acidifying the oceans; and sudden cooling of the Earth would itself alter climate patterns in unknown ways.

"These scenarios create winners and losers," said Shepherd, lead author of a pivotal 2009 Royal Society study of geoengineering. "Who is going to decide?"

Many here worried that someone, some group, some government would decide on its own to conduct large-scale atmospheric experiments, raising global concerns — and resentment if it's the U.S. that acts, since it has done the least among industrial nations to cut greenhouse emissions. They fear some in America might push for going straight to "Plan B," rather than doing the hard work of emissions reductions.

In addition, "one of the challenges is identifying intentions, one of which could be offensive military use," said Indian development specialist Arunabha Ghosh.

Experts point out, for example, that cloud experimentation or localized solar "dimming" could — intentionally or unintentionally — cause droughts or floods in neighboring areas, arousing suspicions and international disputes.

"In some plausible but unfortunate future you could have shooting wars between your country and mine over proposals on what to do on climate change,' said the University of Michigan's Ted Parson, an environmental policy expert.

The conferees worried, too, that a "geoengineering industrial complex" might emerge, pushing to profit from deployment of its technology. And Australian economist-ethicist Clive Hamilton saw other go-it-alone threats — "cowboys" and "scientific heroes."

"I'm queasy about some billionaire with a messiah complex having a major role in geoengineering research," Hamilton said.

All discussions led to the central theme of how to oversee research.

Many environmentalists categorically oppose intentional fiddling with Earth's atmosphere, or at least insist that such important decisions rest in the hands of the U.N., since every nation on Earth has a stake in the skies above.

But at the meeting in March, Chicheley Hall experts largely assumed that a coalition of scientifically capable nations, led by the U.S. and Britain, would arise to organize "sunshade" or other engineering research, perhaps inviting China, India, Brazil and others to join in a G20-style "club" of major powers.

Then, the conferees said, an independent panel of experts would have to be formed to review the risks of proposed experiments, and give go-aheads — for research, not deployment, which would be a step awaiting fateful debates down the road.

Like Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, John Shepherd is a fellow of the venerable Royal Society, but one facing a world those scientific pioneers could not have imagined.

"I am not enthusiastic about these ideas," Shepherd told his Chicheley Hall colleagues. But like many here he felt the world has no choice but to investigate. "You would have a risk-risk calculation to make."

Some are also making a political calculation.

If research shows the stratospheric pollutants would reverse global warming, unhappy people "would realize the alternative to reducing emissions is blocking out the sun," Hamilton observed. "We might never see blue sky again."

If, on the other hand, the results are negative, or the risks too high, and global warming's impact becomes increasingly obvious, people will see "you have no Plan B," said EDF's Hamburg — no alternative to slashing use of fossil fuels.

Either way, popular support should grow for cutting emissions.

At least that's the hope. But hope wasn't the order of the day in Chicheley Hall as Shepherd wrapped up his briefing and a troubled Odingo silenced the room.

"We have a lot of thinking to do," the Kenyan told the others. "I don't know how many of us can sleep well tonight."

Read more!