Best of our wild blogs: 14 Sep 11

You don't look for hornbills, they find you
from Life's Indulgences

Herons fly past
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Elevating the mangroves with Rick
from wild shores of singapore

How much are seagrasses worth?
from teamseagrass

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Making way for more roads not the solution

Letter from Goh Si Guim Today Online 14 Sep 11;

I REFER to the article "New dual four-lane road in Bukit Brown to ease heavy traffic" (Sept 13). I am dismayed that more land will be mowed down to accommodate the relentless and unsustainable car population growth in Singapore.

Bukit Brown was earmarked as a land bank for future housing development. Unfortunately, an ugly stab will be made into its tranquillity as yet another stretch of land, large enough to provide eight lanes, would be conceded to vehicular traffic.

Many cars on the road end up carrying only one occupant and, hence, are not efficiently utilised. Instead, they take up land space and spew tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

With the expansion of the rail network, it is time to relook the current disincentives to curb car usage. The measures taken to cope with car numbers in recent decades, such as Electronic Road Pricing, are nowhere successful thus far.

More persuasive action is needed to nudge more people to use the rail system, which is touted to be one of the best in the world but has still been found wanting. I hope that when the entire system is operational, the current undesirable conditions would ease.

As we have done in many other areas, let us lead the world in caring for our environment, such as by doing away with cars as much as possible and fully utilising the rail network. In a small dot like Singapore, we can do better when we set a common goal.

Rethink road widening affecting cemetery
Straits Times 16 Sep 11;

I AM shocked by the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) plans for a dual four-lane road along Lornie Road and the Pan-Island Expressway that will cut into the existing Bukit Brown Cemetery, affecting some 5,000 of the estimated 100,000 graves ('New road to ease Lornie Road jams'; Tuesday).

Although the cemetery, with its rich cultural heritage, is reserved housing land, plans for the road extension are premature. There is insufficient research into the area's historical and ecological value for a more informed judgment.

Given the scarcity of space, road widening runs contrary to developing a more sustainable and environmentally friendly transportation system, an issue which previous transport minister Raymond Lim had acknowledged.

He had stated that increasing road capacity and deploying traffic engineering measures would not in themselves guarantee smooth-flowing roads ('Keeping traffic flowing smoothly'; Jan 31, 2008). Additional lanes and new roads would attract more traffic and congestion would soon return.

His remarks apply precisely to Lornie Road. Decades-long efforts of road widening and other civil engineering works resulting in the appearance of a network of viaducts streaming into even Braddell and Upper Thomson Roads have not improved traffic conditions.

These measures will also create more discomfort for residents in the vicinity as they find their surroundings increasingly replaced by noisy and inhospitable vehicle carriageways.

The LTA should consider alternatives first, including Electronic Road Pricing.

With ERP, motorists can be persuaded not to choke the Lornie Road exit and use less congested exits along Bukit Timah Road, Eng Neo Avenue and Jalan Toa Payoh.

If we persist with the short-term solution of road widening, the traffic problem will not be solved. Transport planners must come up with more imaginative, culturally sensitive and environmentally sustainable solutions.

Liew Kai Khiun

More lanes for Lornie criticised
Straits Times 16 Sep 11;

I AM dismayed that more land is being used to accommodate car growth ('New road to ease Lornie Road jams'; Tuesday).

Bukit Brown Cemetery was earmarked as a land bank for future housing development. Unfortunately, an ugly stab has been made at its tranquillity.

Most cars on the road have single occupants. Hence they are not efficiently used and add to the heat-trapping volume of greenhouse gases.

As we have done in many other areas, let us also lead the world in caring for our environment, in deeds like doing away with the cars as much as possible and utilising the rail network.

In a small place like Singapore, we can do better when we set it as our common goal.

Goh Si Guim

Improve our public transport system to reduce reliance on cars
Letter from Jose Raymond Executive Director, Singapore Environment Council
Today Online 20 Sep 11;

WE REFER to the announcement "New dual four-lane road in Bukit Brown to ease heavy traffic" (Sept 13), about the planned construction of a new road by 2016 that will cut across Bukit Brown Cemetery.

According to the Land Transport Authority, there are heavy traffic jams along Lornie Road during morning and evening peak hours, with traffic expected to increase between 20 and 30 per cent by 2020.

To accommodate construction of the road and the proposed residential development, it is obvious the graves at the cemetery, where several Singapore pioneers such as Chew Boon Lay, Gan Eng Seng, Lee Hoon Leong, Lee Choo Neo and Tay Ho Swee, to name a few, will have to be exhumed over time.

The road construction will also put considerable stress on the area's ecosystem. For example, Bukit Brown Cemetery is home to the rare White-Bellied Woodpecker and Spotted Wood Owl, which are listed as threatened species in the Singapore Red Data Book 2008.

If alleviating traffic congestion is the aim of the new road, perhaps the authorities should examine and understand why Singaporeans are increasingly turning to car ownership and usage, leading to a greater demand of road space and, consequently, congestion.

More should be done to improve our public transport system, so that members of the public will be inclined to take public transport as opposed to driving.

While measures such as Electronic Road Pricing and road enhancement remain as options by the authorities, they must be accompanied by viable alternatives to draw people away from car usage.

For this, the public transport operators, bus and rail companies alike, must continue to find ways to improve their systems, networks and service levels so that commuters can get to their destinations quickly and in comfort.

This will encourage more people to trust public transport as a reliable, appealing alternative to driving and, eventually, could lead to a reduction of our national greenhouse gas emissions.

More importantly, green spaces like Bukit Brown Cemetery and its surroundings, which are rare and of historic value, can be saved for future generations to appreciate.

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Our population can't keep rising

Letter from Tham Su-yin Today Online 14 Sep 11;

I REFER to the study reported in "Without migration of some magnitude, Singapore's population will decline, says IPS" (Sept 8). With a low birth rate and longer life expectancy, it is obvious Singapore's population is ageing.

This situation is faced by many developed countries, and it is easy to see that if we can raise the number of young people by migration or by birth, we will have more working people to support the elderly who are living longer due to better medical science.

I am not against immigration, as migrants have made positive contributions to Singapore. However, I am concerned that Singapore views it necessary to have ever more young people to look after the elderly.

This view is ecologically unsustainable, for the ever more young people will eventually grow old and will need yet more people to support them. This benefits only the present generation at the expense of the next.

We cannot increase our population indefinitely. Resources such as food, water and land are finite. Only non-physical things such as respect, spiritual growth, knowledge, health and quality of relationships can increase in a physically finite world.

Our census shows that Singapore's total population has grown from 2.07 million in 1970 to 5.08 million last year.

As world population hits 7 billion this year and possibly 9 billion in time, and people in Singapore already complaining of overcrowding and congestion, I hope our leaders will look at ways to manage a stable population and make ageing affordable instead.

Longer, healthier lives mean we can work longer. With more flexible job arrangements, more jobs can be done by older workers. Given training and support, the fit old can care for the infirm older.

It is unwise to think we can continue adding more people into Singapore and, of course, the world.

As former United States President John F Kennedy's environmental adviser Kenneth Boulding said 45 years ago: "Anyone who believes in indefinite growth of anything physical on a physically finite planet is either a madman or an economist."

Population growth shouldn't outpace housing stock
Straits Times Forum 19 Sep 11;

THE assessment of the housing situation, by Jones Lang LaSalle's head of research for real estate services Chua Yang Liang, worries a first-time buyer like me. ('Housing glut 'won't cause dip in prices''; last Wednesday).

He calculated that demand is likely to stay high, given the way population growth has outpaced the increase in housing stock over the past 10 years, at the average rate of 2.8 per cent population growth and 2.1 per cent increase in completed homes per year. This resulted in a housing stock shortfall of about 87,000 homes last year.

These statistics worry me especially when developers are urging the Government to lift property cooling measures which have been introduced only recently.

What it means for a first-time home buyer looking for a basic roof over my head to start a family is that prices will continue to climb.

For most young families, a home is the costliest purchase they are likely to make, and servicing heavy loans can affect their financial stability in the long-term.

The Government must ensure that population growth does not outpace housing stock as it has - and yes, please introduce more cooling measures.

Nicholas Loh

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200 metre long oil spill found near Pontian, Johor

Jassmine Shadiqe The New Straits Times 13 Sep 11;

PONTIAN: A 200 metre long oil spillage found the past few days at the Johor National Park's coastal areas near here was believed to be caused by illegal disposal of oil wastage by commercial tankers.

The black oily patches about three meters wide and four centimeters thick, was spotted by local fishermen near Tanjung Piai Resort's wave breaker, and also the mangrove area since Friday.

Johor National Parks director Suhairi Hashim said besides lodging a report with the Johor Department of Environment (DOE) , pro-active measures were taken to contain the spillage from spreading.

He said the effort was a collaborative measure taken by several departments and were conducted gotong-royong- styled.

“Maritime Department officers, accompanied by Tanjung Piai village head Rohaizad Hamid, also conducted checks at the areas and upon establishing the ares effected, lodged separate reports with DOE.

“It is believed commercial tanker ships anchored at Tanjung Piai waters are also responsible for illegally disposing oil wastage into the sea,” he said.

“Three DOE officers had conducted checks starting from the coastal areas at the National Park, Tanjung Piai until the Penghujung Benua area,” he added.

Suhairi said the gotong-royong programme was conducted following a meeting with DOE, Tanjung Piai Fire and Rescue Department, Fisheries Department and police.

More than 100 government officers joined the exercise to clean the seashore today.

Also present during the gotong-royong that started at 7am, was Kukup State assemblyman Datuk Md Othman Yusof .

Read more: 200 metre long oil spill found near Pontian

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Singapore ready to help Indonesia tackle haze

Hetty Musfirah, Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 13 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE: Environment Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore is ready to assist Indonesia to cope with the forest fires and tackle the haze.

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a community event Tuesday.

"We have a team on standby to help with putting out fires or even with cloud seeding, as well as technical assistance. But really it depends on whether the Indonesians request or require our assistance. We'll just put ourselves on standby," said Dr Balakrishnan.

Singapore had written to Indonesia as early as last month to register its concerns on the transboundary haze situation arising from land and forest fires in Sumatra.

Dr Balakrishnan wrote to his Indonesian counterpart, Prof Dr Gusti Muhammad Hatta in August 2011 to register the concerns.

Dr Balakrishnan stressed the need for immediate measures to curb the haze.

He also reiterated Singapore's willingness to support Indonesia's efforts to combat the haze problem.

On Tuesday, Singapore Environment Ministry officials also raised concerns on the situation at the 22nd Meeting of ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment, held in Brunei.

Other ASEAN countries similarly affected by the smoke haze, also highlighted concerns and stressed the importance of curbing land and forest fires in the region.

Noting that the hotspots count had remained high in the past weeks, member states were urged to be more vigilant during this dry season to prevent the haze situation from deteriorating further.

In Singapore, the 24-hr PSI at 4pm on Tuesday was 57 as compared to 62 at 4pm on Monday.

The 3-hour PSI at 9pm on Tuesday was 29.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said the improvement was due to a change in the direction of winds over Singapore overnight, from south-southwesterly to southeasterly.

Showers over some parts of southern Sumatra on Monday also helped to mitigate the hotspot situation slightly.

The number of hotspots detected in Sumatra over the past few days has also gone down - from 691 on Friday to 205 on Saturday and 204 on Sunday.

For the rest of this week, the winds are expected to continue blowing from the southeast and this will help keep the haze away from Singapore.

NEA said next week, the winds are forecast to blow mainly from the southeast and occasionally from the southwest.

Generally dry weather conditions can also be expected in Sumatra and Singapore could still be affected by haze for a few days.

Information on the hotspot and haze situation over the region is available here.

While there is no cause for concern, those with existing heart or respiratory ailments should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity.

Persons who feel unwell are also advised to consult their doctors.

NEA will issue the relevant health advisories when air quality reaches unhealthy levels.

More information on health advisories can be found on the NEA website.

- CNA/cc

Singapore has offered to help Indonesia put out fires
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 14 Sep 11;

SINGAPORE has offered its help to Indonesia to put out land and forest fires causing a haze here which took a turn for the better yesterday.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday that his ministry also conveyed its concerns about the fires in Sumatra to its Indonesian counterpart last month.

'Several weeks ago, we knew we were going into the dry season... so I wrote to the Indonesian environment minister to offer our assistance,' he said during the launch of a book by local entertainer Kumar. This includes having a team on standby to help Indonesia put out the fires and to help with cloud-seeding, an artificial way of inducing rain.

'So far, Indonesia has not called on our help... but at this point in time, they seem to be taking whatever action they can on the ground,' Dr Balakrishnan said.

Farmers and logging companies in Indonesia clear land using fire between June and September, the region's dry season.

This has led to Singapore being affected by the haze since the weekend, with the daily average Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hitting 62 on Monday, the highest this year.

Air is unhealthy when the index crosses 100.

Conditions here improved yesterday with the average PSI falling to 57 due to a change in the direction of winds over Singapore, from south-south-westerly to south-easterly.

Showers over some parts of southern Sumatra have also helped.

However, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the haze could return next week due to changes in the wind direction.

Doctors The Straits Times spoke to said more patients with respiratory problems such as asthma have turned up for medical attention in the past two days.

Healthway Medical reported a 20 per cent increase in children with respiratory problems at its paediatric clinics.

Doctors said the elderly and young children, who may be vulnerable to haze-related health issues, should refrain from exercising and seek treatment if they do not feel well.

Environment Ministry officials yesterday raised concerns about the haze problem at the 22nd Meeting of the Asean Senior Officials on the Environment, currently being held in Brunei.

Dr Balakrishnan noted that the haze issue would also be discussed at a meeting next week in Thailand, which will be attended by regional environment ministers.

He said his ministry would continue to work with the Indonesian government to solve the problem.

'We're doing our best to work with the local authorities to identify the hot spots and to persuade people not to burn the forest,' he added.

At least one airport in western Indonesia was shut down because of the haze. Reports said thick smoke forced the authorities to close Sultan Thaha airport in Sumatra's Jambi province.

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Haze in Malaysia: Visibility in haze-hit Kota Baru drops to 2km

New Straits Times 14 Sep 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: Kota Baru appeared the be the worst affected by haze with visibility dropping to just 2km.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department, in its website, said the haze was also causing low visibility in Sitiawan and Bayan Lepas, at 3km, and Alor Star, Butterworth, Petaling Jaya and Subang, at 4km.

The Department of Environment's website said Kuala Selangor recorded the highest Air Pollutant Index (API) of 99. Other badly affected areas were Seri Manjung at 95, Nilai at 94 and Petaling Jaya at 92.

Thirty-five areas recorded moderate readings while 16 areas had good readings.

The Singapore Meteorological Service's website said isolated showers over southern and central Sumatra had helped to reduce hotspot activities.

"However, smoke plumes with moderate smoke haze continued to be observed in Jambi and southern Sumatra."

It was reported that satellite images detected 600 hotspots with high temperatures in Sumatra this year.

The monsoon winds blew the smoke from the forest fires in Sumatra across the Straits of Malacca, resulting in the haze which blanketed the country since last week.

Good API ratings range from 0 to 50, while a moderate API is from 51 to 100. An API level of above 100 is unhealthy.

Malaysia: Moderate air quality in 34 areas
The Star 13 Sep 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Air Pollutant Index (API) reading showed good air quality in 18 areas and moderate in 34 others as at 11am on Tuesday.

The Department of Environment also reported that were no areas with unhealthy API reading.

Five areas with the lowest API readings were Limbang (20), ILP Miri (21), Bintulu (22) and Sarikei (23), all in Sarawak, and Keningau, Sabah (22).

API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good, 51-100 (moderate), 101-200 (unhealthy), 201-300 (very unhealthy) and 301 and above (hazardous).

The DOE said that hazy condition is expected to persist for several more days and members of the public are advised not to carry out open burning, and to cooperate in putting out small fires. - Bernama

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Haze in Indonesia: Smoke Forces Closure of Jambi Airport

Jakarta Globe 13 Sep 11;

Jambi. Officials say smoke from fires set by slash-and-burn farmers has forced the closure of at least one airport in western Indonesia. Parts of neighboring Singapore and Malaysia have also been blanketed in a heavy white haze from the fires.

Airport official Abiyoso said on Tuesday that the smoke was so thick that authorities had no choice but to shut down Sultan Taha airport on Sumatra island.

The dry-season haze is caused by fires set to clear land for agricultural and other development projects across Indonesia. They have plagued Southeast Asia almost every year since the 1990s.

They have stoked regional tensions and put attention on the Indonesian government’s inability to enforce its own laws.

Associated Press

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Last stand in Asia for shy, defenseless anteater

Denis D. Gray Associated Press Yahoo News 13 Sep 11;

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — As the 20 cardboard boxes bound for China rolled through the X-ray machine at Jakarta's airport, Indonesian customs officials suspected what was inside didn't match what was declared. Instead of fresh fish, a closer look revealed the meat and scales of the most illegally trafficked mammal in Asia: the pangolin.

Once widespread, the shy and defenseless anteater is being vacuumed up for sale largely in China, where many believe it can cure an array of ailments and boost sexual prowess. The last stand of the four Asian species has shrunk to Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia, Palawan in the southern Philippines and parts of Malaysia and India.

From fields and forests to Chinese cooking pots and medicine vials, the industrial-scale trade is propelled along similar trafficking routes for tigers, turtles, bears, snakes and other mostly endangered species across Asia, all driven by a seemingly insatiable demand for often dubious medical remedies, tonics and aphrodisiacs.

"We are watching a species just slip away," says Chris Shepard, who has tracked wildlife trafficking in Asia for two decades. He says a 100-fold increase is needed in efforts to save the pangolin, sometimes described as a walking pine cone.

Eight tons of meat and scales, worth $269,000, were found in the boxes at Jakarta airport and at a warehouse raided the following day. Four people were arrested.

"I am trying hard to win the war," says Brig. Gen. Raffles Brotestes Panjaitan, Indonesia's top wildlife police officer, citing the July seizure. But he lists a host of obstacles: poverty, corruption, an inadequate force and weak international cooperation.

Little studied and hardly an iconic species, pangolins are found in Asia and Africa. They are natural pest controllers, gobbling up ants and termites.

Conservationists first took serious notice in the 1990s when massive harvesting in China and its borderlands, driven by skyrocketing prices, was sweeping southwards, decimating the slow-breeding animals in Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. "In many places, hunters tell us they don't even look for them any more," Shepherd says.

By the early 2000s, supplies in Thailand were drying up, as evidenced by the development of an unusual barter trade: Thai smugglers would give insurgents in Indonesia's Aceh province up to five AK-47 rifles in exchange for one pangolin, according to the International Crisis Group, which monitors conflicts globally.

The pangolin trade — banned in 2002 by CITES, the international convention on endangered species — resembles a pyramid.

At the base are poor rural hunters, including workers on Indonesia's vast palm oil plantations. They use dogs or smoke to flush the pangolins out or shake the solitary, nocturnal animals from trees in often protected forests.

"Everything is against them. ... They have no teeth. Their only defense is to roll up in a ball that fits perfectly into a bag," Shepherd says. Under stress, pangolins can develop stomach ulcers and die.

Middlemen set up buying stations in rural areas and deliver the animals through secretive networks to the less than dozen kingpins in Asia suspected of handling the international connections.

Factories in Sumatra butcher the pangolins, slitting their throats, then stripping off and drying the valuable scales.

The smuggling routes almost all end in China, Shepherd says. Other destinations include Vietnam, the top wildlife consuming nation in Southeast Asia, and South Korea.

Pangolins from Indonesia are sent to mainland Southeast Asia, then trucked up the Thai-Malaysian peninsula through Thailand and Laos to southern China. Chinese fishing boats ferry those from the Philippines directly to home ports.

Smugglers in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah ship theirs to Vietnam's seaport of Haiphong or to mainland Malaysia to join the trucking routes. From India, they pass overland through Nepal and Myanmar.

Ground into powder, pangolin scales are believed to cure rheumatism and skin diseases, reduce swellings, promote lactation for breast-feeding mothers and alleviate other medical problems. Even if it works, conservationists say, proven substitutes are available that wouldn't devastate a species.

Preservation efforts focus on strengthening often lackluster law enforcement in the region.

"Everything is now set up to stop this from happening. The laws are good enough to put traders out of business and into jail," Shepherd says. "It boils down to corruption and enforcement agencies not having the will to act. Wildlife trafficking is still generally not taken seriously."

Weighed against the profits, the penalties for trafficking are low. Not long ago, an entire pangolin could be bought in Indonesia for $5 or less. Panjaitan, the Indonesian official, says just the scales from an average-sized animal now go for about $275. The scales fetch up to $750 a kilogram ($340 a pound) in China.

Panjaitan, the director of Investigation and Forest Protection in the Ministry of Forestry, hopes Indonesia will greatly stiffen its jail term this year for major forest encroachment — directly linked to harvesting of pangolins and other wildlife — to a maximum of 20 years.

Although seizures and arrests of low-level smugglers have increased substantially, almost none of the major players have been put behind bars. And as Asian stocks vanish, Africa's three pangolin species have emerged as substitutes — a similar pattern to other traditional Chinese medicines, such as subbing lion bones for those of the now rare tiger.

Still, Steven Galster, executive director of Bangkok-based FREELAND, a group fighting wildlife and human trafficking, points to some progress.

Suspecting that a private zoo was a cover for wildlife trafficking, Thai officials charged Daoruang Kongpitakin in July with illegal possession of two leopards. Her brother and sister had been arrested several times for pangolin smuggling.

Wildlife investigators are also tracking a shadowy company in Southeast Asia, which wields influence with both senior Lao and Vietnamese officials and could be among the region's biggest traffickers.

ASEAN-WEN, a wildlife enforcement network of the 10 Southeast Asian nations, has also notched successes since its 2005 inception.

Such developments across several countries could be a game changer, Galster says. "But will they move fast enough for the species to survive?"


Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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Indonesia: Elephants Claim Another Life in Aceh Village

Jakarta Globe 13 Sep 11;

An Indonesian woman was trampled to death by an enraged herd of wild Sumatran elephants on Tuesday in the latest such fatal attack in the same village in Aceh province.

Linawati, 35, was collecting water from a river near Alue Keujren in Kluet Tengah subdistrict at 7:30 a.m. when a herd of elephants trampled her to death.

“The victim was beyond help and she died instantly,” village head Ali Hanafiah said.

Ali said wild elephants had damaged many hectares of corn, rice and other crops.

“Locals attempted to scare-off the wild elephants using traditional methods, such as throwing fire balls made of coconut shells and lighting fireworks, but to no avail,” he said, adding that villagers had reported the disturbances to the subdistrict officials.

Linawati is not the first person from the village to be killed by elephants.

In July 2010, a farmer named Shalahuddin, 30, was killed by elephants. Shalahuddin’s death followed an attack on another farmer Misbah, 48, who was lucky to escape with only serious injuries.

Alue Keujren, located 80 kilometers from the South Aceh district capital of Tapaktuan, is a remote and isolated village that can only be accessed by a three-hour boat ride.


Wild elephant crushes woman to death
Antara 13 Sep 11;

Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) - A wild elephant is reported to have crushed a woman to death while she was taking water for her household needs at a nearby river.

According to Alue Keujreun community leader, Ali Hanafiah, the 35 years old Lisnawati was found dead after being attacked by the elephant on Tuesday morning at 7.30 am.

"She was found helpless and died on the spot," said Ali.

Residents found that every bone in Lisnawati`s body was crushed and broken by the Sumatran elephant (Elephas Maximus Sumatranus).

Ali said that elephants had been attacking the village in recent months; the huge and wild elephants also destroyed hectares of people`s crops and plantations.

"The local residents have tried to drive away the herd from their village by traditional means such as throwing fireballs made of coconut fiber and firecrackers, but its all useless." he said.

Death caused by the elephants was not the first to be reported, earlier a similar incident was reported at 80 kilometers east of the South Aceh regency capital, Tapaktuan

In late July 2010, a 30 years old farmer Salahuddin was also killed while trying to keep away the elephants from his garden in Gampong Alue Keujreun.

Another farmer, Misbah, was also attacked and now being treated intensively for his injuries at the Yulidin Away General Hospital in Tapaktuan.

Gampong Alue Keujreun is one of remote and isolated villages in Central and Kluet District bordering with Southeast Aceh district. To get to the area of a population of 383 people, the residents must use a boat to cross the Lawe Melang River in 2-3 hours.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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No-plastic bag policy in Taman Negara

New Straits Times 13 Sep 11;

KUANTAN: The state government will consider the proposal to impose a no-plastic bag policy in Taman Negara and create a litter-free zone near the national park in Jerantut to preserve the state's main tourist attraction.

State Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Shafik Fauzan Sharif agreed that such a policy would complement the state government's effort to gazette a 1.5km area from the national park as a buffer zone.

"We are considering the proposal, and the people in the areas must ensure the cleanliness of Taman Negara and the surrounding areas," he said to a supplementary question from Datuk Wan Amizan Wan Abdul Razak (BN-Tahan).

Being the largest and the oldest protected area in the country, the 4,343sq km park attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists every year.

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, Shafik said the Tourism Ministry had also allocated RM200,000 to turn the rumah candu (opium house) in Jerantut into a tourism gallery for the district.

Meanwhile, state Information Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin said various enforcement agencies had raided 106 premises between January last year and July this year to weed out online gambling activities here.

He said 434 people were arrested during the raids, while 16 syndicate members were charged with operating illegal gambling activities.

He said the enforcement agencies had also proposed to the Kuantan Municipal Council to revoke the business licences of 70 premises.

The one-day sitting was later adjourned sine die.

Read more: No-plastic bag policy in Taman Negara

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Australia: Floods having lethal effect on marine life

Matt Wordsworth ABC Net 14 Sep 11;

Animal welfare groups up and down the Queensland coast are reporting record numbers of turtle and dugong deaths in the wake of the state's massive floods earlier this year.

Marine scientists say sea grass beds have been smothered, and the next 12 to 18 months will be crucial for some species.

Fred Nucifora from Townsville's Turtle Hospital says the Great Barrier Reef has already seen a staggering number of turtle deaths this year - 910 compared to 515 at this point last year.

"We're at capacity at this point in time," he said.

"So we've been at capacity before, but we haven't been at capacity for so long. So we're doing all we possibly can to provide the best chance to the turtles we have in our care."

Marine scientists are just as concerned for the endangered dugong.

At the end of August there were 132 deaths recorded, compared to 62 in the same period last year.

Dr Christine Williams, from the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, is not surprised by the numbers.

"The issue of turtle deaths and dugong deaths following flooding is not a unique phenomenon unfortunately," she said.

"It has happened in the past, but in the most recent past this is the biggest event we've ever had recorded in Queensland."
Audio: Experts worried by turtle and dugong deaths (AM)

She says silty water laced with herbicides and pesticides that has flushed from rivers during a flood smothers and kills sea grass, the main food source for turtles and dugongs.

Dr Williams says sea grass off Gladstone was in the worst condition since records began after the floods, and a management strategy is in place.

"We don't believe that this will have a long-term impact as long as the sea grasses recover over the next 12 to 18 months," she said.

"I'm confident we'll find a solution. Some areas have come up with alternative ways of feeding dugongs using cabbages and if the sea grass doesn't work we'll be looking for other ways of trying to keep the dugongs in a healthy state."

But Greens senator Larissa Waters says the State Government is ignoring an important factor.

"The massive dredging projects that they've approved in the Gladstone area, which is in the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area, for the LNG ports," she said.

"There's 46 million tonnes of seabed that they want to dredge from Gladstone Harbour that they've approved, that the Federal Government has also approved.

"All of that sediment from that dredging is smothering the seagrass. So we have been calling on the Federal Minister to suspend that approval for dredging and reconsider whether it's really appropriate given the state of the seagrass after the floods."

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting above-average rainfall in the north and severe thunderstorms in the south-east of the state this summer.

Dr Williams says it is not just householders hoping they are wrong.

"I'm sure the dugong and turtle are also hoping - if they could hope for these things - they'd be hoping for some nice clean water to encourage the sea grasses to recover," she said.

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Floods in Asia exact heavy toll

Fatalities and damage mount as Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan face monsoon onslaught
Straits Times 14 Sep 11;

MONSOON rains continued to wreak havoc across parts of South-east and South Asia, raising the death toll in Thailand alone to 87 over the past two months.

Twenty-one provinces in the world's largest rice exporter remain inundated, the government said.

A total of 48 of the country's 76 provinces have been flooded since July 25, affecting as many as five million people and damaging as much as 588,800ha of agricultural land.

Near the popular beach resort of Pattaya, 100km south-east of Bangkok, Thai teams yesterday hunted dozens of crocodiles that had escaped from a flooded farm, retrieving 22.

The animals had escaped from the Million Year Stone Park and Crocodile Farm after heavy rain triggered a flood that washed through the tourist attraction on Monday.

'We don't know how many are still missing but I'm confident that we can catch them all because these animals aren't used to finding food for themselves,' farm spokesman Suthawudh Temthab said.

The Nation newspaper criticised the government's response to the floods, saying it showed a lack of planning. In an editorial, the newspaper called on the Thai government to install warning sirens to alert people in disaster-prone areas to seek shelter and to plan irrigation or levee systems to prevent future flooding.

Residents of 14 provinces, including Chiang Mai, were yesterday warned to brace themselves for possible flash floods and mudslides.

In Vietnam, meteorological officials warned that water levels in the upper Mekong areas of Dong Thap Muoi and Long Xuyen Quadrilateral might rise by 3cm to 4cm daily in the coming days, Viet Nam News reported.

Local officials in the upper provinces of the Mekong Delta were ordered to inspect dykes and sluice gates to protect people and crops from floods.

In Nghe An province, intense rains over the past four days killed at least two and left two others missing, in addition to inundating 400 houses and submerging thousands of hectares of rice paddies.

In some provinces, farmers are harvesting rice manually because their machines cannot work in the submerged fields.

In Karachi, rains crippled Pakistan's biggest city and commercial hub yesterday, with few people able to make it to work or school, officials said.

Pakistan remains haunted by memories of last year's epic floods, which brought widespread criticism of the government because of its slow response. More than 800,000 families remain without permanent shelter from last year's countrywide floods, aid groups say, and more than a million need food assistance.

Pakistan's already unpopular government now faces another crisis as monsoon rains which have killed 270 people sweep through southern Sindh province.

New flood waters have made about 280,000 homeless, destroyed or damaged 1.2 million houses and flooded 1.8 million hectares since late last month, disaster management officials and Western aid groups say. Chief meteorologist Mohammad Riaz said the figures were a 51-year record, and the rains would continue for the rest of the week.

The 2010 floods killed about 2,000 people and made 11 million homeless in one of Pakistan's worst natural disasters.

Aid workers expressed fears over possible outbreaks of diseases linked to the new floods, especially among children.

Pakistan may also have lost up to two million cotton bales, or about 13 per cent of its estimated crop, due to heavy monsoon rains during harvesting in Sindh, government and industry officials said.

Pakistan called on the world yesterday to speed up relief efforts.


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Rising sea levels could take economic toll on California beaches

A state-commissioned study by San Francisco State says erosion and storm damage by the advancing ocean over the next century could cut into tourism and tax revenue.
Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times 14 Sep 11;

As rising sea levels eat away at the California coastline over the next century, the advancing ocean could cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to beach communities as tourism and tax revenue is swept away, according to a state-commissioned study released Tuesday.

As climate change warms and expands the ocean, increased storm damage and erosion will narrow the state's beaches and diminish their appeal to both tourists and wildlife, economists at San Francisco State predict.

"You need a certain amount of space for people to recreate, and, as beaches erode, you lose beach size and you lose tourism," said study author Phillip King, associate professor of economics at San Francisco State.

The study, commissioned by the California Department of Boating and Waterways, looked at five California beach communities, using sea-level-rise projections to estimate economic losses from flooding and beach erosion.

Venice Beach, for instance, could lose up to $440 million in tourism and tax revenue if the Pacific Ocean rises 55 inches by 2100, as scientists predict.

A drop-off in visitors to an eroded Zuma Beach and Broad Beach in Malibu would cost as much as $500 million in tourism spending and tax revenue, the study found.

The effect of more destructive storm surges and higher tides would reverberate through the local and state economy, researchers said.

The ocean's expansion would be particularly hard on Southern California, where the heavily used shoreline generates big bucks to businesses, which pass some of it on to local governments in taxes.

Elsewhere in the state, homes and roads would be particularly vulnerable.

At San Francisco's Ocean Beach, the increasingly erosive power of storm surges could cause $540 million in damage to land, buildings and infrastructure by century's end, researchers project.

The study also examined beaches at Torrey Pines in San Diego County and Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County.

The research underscores the pressing need for beach communities to adapt to the rising waters by building sea walls, replenishing beach sand or pushing homes and structures away from the shoreline, King said.

"Sea-level rise is here," King said, "and we need to start planning for it."

The ocean has risen about 8 inches in the last century and is expected to swell at an increasing rate with global warming.

But California may have been spared the full strength of the ocean's advance for the last few decades, recent research suggests.

Earlier this year, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego found that while sea levels rose around the globe, they were on hiatus on the U.S. West Coast for the last three decades because of a pattern of cold surface waters.

But that trend may be reversing, the study found, and an era of accelerated sea-level rise could begin this decade.

Rising Seas Expected To Wash Out Key California Beaches
Emmett Berg PlanetArk 16 Sep 11;

Rising seas forecast from climate change will likely wash away some of California's most iconic beaches by century's end, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate, roads and tax revenues, a new study found on Wednesday.

"If beaches disappear, shrink and erode, we are going to have less tourism," said Phillip King, associate professor of economics at San Francisco State University. "We took the best available science, and it's possible the (estimated) costs are still too low."

With a grant from the state Department of Boating and Waterways, university economists spent two years projecting economic losses several coastal California communities could expect from climate change linked to growing concentrations of heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases in the atmosphere.

The five stretches of coastline under scrutiny were San Francisco's Ocean Beach, as well as the Southern California beach communities of Carpinteria, Malibu, Venice and Torrey Pines State Reserve near San Diego.

Based on forecasts calling for sea levels to rise between 1 and 2 meters by the year 2100, researchers devised models predicting which properties, infrastructure, wildlife habitat and open space would be flooded or eroded, and the value of those losses.

They also surveyed existing reports to determine how costly it would be to protect or replace those coastal resources.

Venice Beach stands to be the hardest hit of the five shorelines studied, with a 2-meter rise in sea level over the next 90 years resulting in $96 million in identified losses, according to the report. A 1-meter increase over the same period would trigger $31.6 million in losses there.

Factoring in additional damage from erosion of areas just inland from the coastline, the study predicted total economic losses by century's end ranging from nearly $600 million to $1 billion or more for the five areas combined.

A more comprehensive 2009 study by the Pacific Institute, an environmental think tank, concluded that nearly 500,000 people and $100 billion worth of property along California's entire coast were at risk of facing severe flooding from rising sea levels this century unless new safeguards were put in place.

That report also found that large tracts of the picturesque Pacific coast would be lost to accelerated erosion.

It suggested that the heightened flood risk could be minimized by investing about $14 billion in a system of newly built or upgraded sea walls, levees and offshore breakwaters to reinforce some 1,100 miles of coast.

The San Francisco State University researchers make no explicit recommendations but said their findings could guide policymakers when they consider future shorefront development, King said.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)

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