Best of our wild blogs: 4 Oct 11

Pulau Ubin October 2011
from Ubin.sgkopi

Grey Heron feeding
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Learning about Mandai mangroves from Dr Yong
from wild shores of singapore

Two driftnets at Sisters Island (2 Oct 2011)
from Project Driftnet Singapore

A Congregation of the Next Generation
from Raffles Museum News

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Preparation work caused Bukom fire: MOM probe

Straits Times 4 Oct 11;
A FIRE that lasted 32 hours at Shell's refinery on Pulau Bukom was caused by preparation work for maintenance, which involved draining residual oil in a pipeline using a suction truck.

These are the findings thus far from investigations by the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, released last night in a statement by the ministry.

Although the statement did not explicitly say so, The Straits Times understands that in trying to clear the area of oil before maintenance work started, the truck could have caused a spark that ignited the oil.

A ministry spokesman said the fire 'subsequently spread and escalated into a major fire within the pump house area'.

A pump house is an open area within the refinery consisting of pumps and inter-connecting pipelines for fuel distribution.

MOM said investigations are ongoing, with its inspectorate starting work last Friday after the blaze had been put out.

The fire at Shell's biggest refinery worldwide started last Wednesday and was extinguished the next night.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi yesterday led a team of MOM investigators to the incident site, together with Mr Ho Siong Hin, the ministry's workplace safety and health commissioner.

Mr Hawazi, who was briefed on the progress of investigations, said his ministry would work closely with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) to determine the cause of the fire.

'This is an unfortunate incident and, thankfully, no lives were lost. MOM is reviewing Shell's safety framework to prevent a recurrence of such an incident,' he added.

He urged both employers and workers to make safety a priority in their workplace. 'A comprehensive safety framework minimises risks and ensures every stakeholder is accountable for workplace safety and health,' he said.

Shell confirmed on Sunday that it had declared force majeure on some customers, which frees the oil giant from fulfilling its contractual obligations to them.

Force majeure, which means 'greater power' in French, is a common clause in contracts that frees both parties from liability when an event beyond their control occurs.

Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore confirmed yesterday that it was one of the customers affected, and that Shell had declared force majeure on naphtha supplies for delivery this month to the corporation.

The SCDF began a phased withdrawal of its fire-fighting team from Pulau Bukom on Sunday, but said it would retain about 50 firemen and 18 vehicles there until the situation is fully stable.


Bukom fire happened during preparation work for maintenance: MOM
Hetty Musfirah Channel NewsAsia 3 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: Preliminary findings have shown the fire which broke out at the Shell oil refinery at Pulau Bukom last Wednesday took place during preparation work for maintenance.

In a statement, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said part of the preparation work involved the draining of residual oil in a pipeline and removing it by means of a suction truck.

The fire subsequently spread and escalated into a major fire within the pump house area.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi visited the scene at Pulau Bukom on Monday.

Mr Hawazi was briefed on the progress of MOM's investigations.

"This is an unfortunate incident and thankfully, no lives was lost," Mr Hawazi said.

"MOM has commenced investigations and we will work closely with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) to uncover the cause of the fire.

"MOM is also reviewing Shell's safety framework to prevent a recurrence of such an incident.

"We urge employers and workers to make safety a priority in their workplace. A comprehensive safety framework minimises risks and ensures every stakeholder is accountable for workplace safety and health."

Investigations by MOM's Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate (OSHI) commenced last Friday after the fire, which lasted 32 hours, was put out.

- CNA/wk/de

Shell fire broke out during preparation for maintenance work
Today Online 4 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE - Last Wednesday's fire on Shell's Pulau Bukom refinery broke out during preparation work for maintenance, which included the draining of residual oil in a pipeline.

Giving an update on the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) ongoing probe into the fire, a spokesperson said yesterday: "Preliminary findings from the investigation showed that the fire broke out at a pump house during preparation work for maintenance.

"Part of the preparation work involved the draining of residual oil in a pipeline and removing it by means of a suction truck. The fire had subsequently spread and escalated into a major fire within the pump house area."

The fire at the refinery - Shell's largest in the world - took about 32 hours to be brought under control and led to a shutdown of the facility.

Yesterday, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi, along with the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health, Mr Ho Siong Hin, led a team of MOM investigators to the scene of the fire. Mr Hawazi was later briefed on the progress of MOM's investigation into the incident.

During their visit, the MOM team wore respirators due to residual fuel vapour at the site.

Mr Hawazi said: "This is an unfortunate incident and thankfully no lives were lost. MOM has commenced investigations and we will work closely with the Singapore Civil Defence Force to uncover the cause of the fire. MOM is also reviewing Shell's safety framework to prevent a recurrence of such an incident."

He also urged employers and workers to make safety a priority in their workplace.

"A comprehensive safety framework minimises risks and ensures every stakeholder is accountable for workplace safety and health," Mr Hawazi added.

Shell taking no chances in restart of Bukom units
Govt says fire had broken out during preparation work for maintenance
Ronnie Lim Business Times 4 Oct 11;

(SINGAPORE) Shell does not expect to restart any of its Bukom units - shut down following a major fire - until a thorough investigation has been done and it is safe to do so. This is despite damage being limited to just the vicinity of a pumphouse, with other facilities and units unaffected, a Shell spokesman said.

She was responding to a BT query on Bukom's 'progressive shutdown' and whether the entire facility had now stopped running, and also when it expected Bukom to resume operations given industry speculation that it may be out of action for at least a month.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower yesterday said that preliminary investigations indicate that the fire broke out at a pumphouse during preparation work for maintenance. Part of the preparation work involved the draining of residual oil in a pipeline, and removing it by means of a suction truck.

The fire then spread and escalated within the pumphouse area, the ministry said, adding that investigations are still ongoing.

Industry sources said that refining margins have shot up by about 40 per cent, with product prices also rising some 10-15 per cent.

On Sunday, Shell Singapore chairman Lee Tzu Yang confirmed that the company had started declaring force majeure (FM) on some of its customers. It was in discussions with others to 'address their supply of product needs'.

Asked if this affected, for instance, feedstock supplies to Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore (in which Shell has a stake) on Jurong Island, the Shell spokesman said: 'We are not able to comment further as this is commercially sensitive information.'

An oil trader remarked that, in the interim, 'the market dynamics have changed, as Shell, usually a seller, turns buyer in the swaps market here'.

He added that 'Shell is probably assessing what percentage of its customer needs to buy from the market, and what percentage they have to declare FM on'.

'They will probably try to maximise their requirements by buying from the market as long as price increases don't go beyond 10-15 per cent.

'At the moment, the fire has impacted mainly middle distillates like kerosene and diesel produced by the hydrocracker plant, which was among the first which Shell shut down. Gasoline is likely to be next, if the catalytic cracker is also brought down.'

Shell had earlier said that it was progressively shutting down its entire facility, starting from the hydrocracker to its three crude distillation units which have a combined processing capacity of 500,000 barrels a day. Up next will be its catalytic cracker and ethylene cracker.

A refinery source said that 'Singapore refinery complex margins have meanwhile shot up to US$7-8 a barrel from around US$5 a barrel'.

'Regional refining margins are also up,' he said, explaining that 'oil is like a global swimming pool, where an incident in one area affects another'.

'So far, middle distillates have been affected (by Bukom's disruption), gasoline is still strong and fuel oil cracks are also up,' he added.

Most industry observers say that the complication in Shell's case arises because the fire, which started last Wednesday, occurred at a pumphouse area where there is a complex network of oil pipelines connected to tankage and plants.

Up till Sunday, traces of fuel vapour could still be detected in the affected area.

'This being the case, Shell can't commit as yet to how long the shutdown is likely to be, so as not to create panic,' an industry source said.

Added another industry observer: 'Refineries these days are very complex, and are operated by fully computerised process controls, so these have to be absolutely fail-proof before Shell wants to resume operations.'

Limited impact seen in refinery shutdown
Conrad Tan Business Times 4 Oct 11;

(SINGAPORE) The shutdown of the Shell refinery on Pulau Bukom will put further pressure on the Singapore economy but its impact is likely to be limited, analysts said yesterday.

A rough estimate puts the direct impact at no more than 0.2 percentage points of Singapore's economic output, OCBC economist Selena Ling said, though she stressed that this was based on coarse assumptions about Shell's market share and the duration of the shutdown.

'It's hard to quantify, but it looks like it's not going to be that significant,' she said. 'It depends on how long the shutdown is and whether there is a feed-through to downstream players.'

Manufacturing contributes about one-quarter of Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP). Within the manufacturing sector, the petroleum and petrochemical industries have a combined weight of 5.7 per cent, so a month-long shutdown of both industries would shave about 0.12 per cent off Singapore's full-year GDP, Citigroup economist Kit Wei Zheng said.

'If you further assume that Shell contributes one-third of this, the direct dent to full-year GDP growth is in the order of 0.04 percentage point, or 0.12 percentage point for Q4 GDP.

'This may not include indirect spillovers on other sectors tied to petroleum or petrochemicals - transport comes to mind - but the numbers just discussed suggest a small dent to full-year growth.'

Still, given that growth in other parts of the economy outside the biomedical sector is also slowing, the shutdown in the Bukom refinery would exacerbate the weakness in overall growth, said Wu Kun Lung, an economist at Credit Suisse here.

'The impact would depend on how long the refinery is closed. Usually, in disasters like this, production should resume in a few months' time, so any impact on exports or growth is likely to be temporary.'

Shell declared force majeure on some of its customers after the blaze last week at its Bukom refinery, the oil firm said on Sunday. Declaring force majeure allows a party with contracts that include such a clause to nullify its obligations, due to events that are beyond its control, such as war or flooding.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force began a phased withdrawal of its fire-fighting team from the refinery on Sunday, but will maintain a small presence on Bukom to support Shell and will fully withdraw once the situation is stable, Shell said.

The Bukom refinery, Shell's biggest processing plant worldwide with a capacity of 500,000 barrels a day, is expected to be shut for at least a month, according to a Reuters report over the weekend, which cited industry sources.

Shell also plans to shut its naphtha cracker at Bukom, Bloomberg reported yesterday, citing a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Shell's force majeure declaration unnerves industry
Stella Lee Channel NewsAsia 3 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: Shell's recent announcement that it will halt supply to customers is likely to cause even more anxiety.

While there is no indication yet of what the costs will be to Shell's customers, market observers said the move does not bode well for the petrochemicals sector.

Following the blaze at its refinery last Wednesday, Shell has declared force majeure - a legal clause which exempts Shell from fulfilling its obligations to some of its customers.

The cause of the fire has not been determined yet.

Generally, force majeure is declared over natural disasters or political upheavals.

Marcus Gordon, head of dispute resolution (Oil & Gas) at Watson, Farley & William LLP, said: "Companies do frequently insure themselves against force majeure claims, for example, war, adverse weather, lightning... not contracted negligence."

Also, while the clause may protect Shell against damage claims from the refinery's direct customers, it is less clear for other players downstream.

Mr Gordon said: "One problem you see is that there are frequently inconsistent force majeure clauses in chains of contracts. For example, at the top of the chain you have got a very well drafted force majeure provision, but further down the chain there isn't such a well drafted provision... The company at the top of the chain will be well protected but company at the bottom will not. "

The refinery shutdown adds more downward pressure on the already troubled petrochemical industry, which shrank by more than 26 per cent in the month of August in Singapore.

Alvin Liew, economist at UOB said: "It provides a lot of the downstream products. That would have implications on supply issues to these companies. Given that it is still unclear on the situation, we could see a short-term disruption."

Experts said the Pulau Bukom refinery could stay shut for at least a month.

However, no damage has been reported to have occurred within the processing unit.

- CNA/cc

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Dolphin activist fails to meet RWS management

Ric O'Barry had hoped to appeal in person for release of 25 mammals
Straits Times 4 Oct 11;

A FEW months ago, a well-known American dolphin activist wrote to Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) appealing to the integrated resort to free the 25 dolphins it plans to showcase at its upcoming Marine Life Park.

Yesterday, Mr Ric O'Barry visited RWS, hoping to make the appeal in person to its chief executive Tan Hee Teck.

When he arrived, he was told that neither Mr Tan nor any of the senior management staff was available to meet him.

A disappointed Mr O'Barry, 72, who shot to fame with his movie, The Cove, on the killing of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, repeated his call to RWS to show that it is a 'true steward of the environment' and 'a responsible company sensitive to the harm captivity inflicts on dolphins'.

He is giving a public talk tonight organised by Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), which has also lobbied RWS to free the dolphins caught in waters off the Solomon Islands, near Papua New Guinea.

The marine mammal specialist had offered his help to rehabilitate and release the dolphins back to their native habitat.

Yesterday, Mr O'Barry said the offer still stands, adding: 'The dolphins can adapt to their home range where they were born much easier than the concrete, steel and glass tanks at the Marine Life Park. If Resorts World frees the dolphins, it will be a massive windfall of good publicity for them.'

The activist, who investigated dolphin hunts in the Solomon Islands for a television documentary last year, said he hopes, through his public talk, to inform Singaporeans on how dolphins are caught in the wild and why it is cruel to keep them in captivity.

'The dolphins are corralled into a cove by the villagers. The healthy ones are caught to be sold to aquariums but the others are speared, clubbed and stabbed to death.'

RWS has never revealed how much it paid for the 27 bottlenose dolphins bought from Canadian dolphin trader Chris Porter in 2008 and 2009. Two of them died from a water-borne bacterial infection in Langkawi, Malaysia, in October last year.

The remaining 25 are being housed at Ocean Adventure in Subic Bay in the Philippines.

The original plan to exhibit them along with whale sharks drew flak from environmental groups and animal lovers here. In May 2009, RWS scrapped that plan, saying it might not be able to care for whale sharks, which can grow to more than 12m and weigh 15 tonnes.

When asked why RWS management declined to meet the activist, its spokesman Krist Boo said they had 'no reason to meet Mr O'Barry, whose agenda is to seek the release of the dolphins'.

She added that the dolphins have been in the resort's care for three years and, since the track record of releasing dolphins back into the wild is patchy, RWS will be 'gravely irresponsible' to consider such an act.

She said the dolphins will not be used for spa therapy or shows at the Marine Life Park, which will open next year.

Instead, RWS will create a 'marine-mammal encounter programme' that will allow the dolphins and guests to interact in a safe and controlled environment.

'Guests will observe, feel and learn about the dolphins up close and personal, while learning about the biological behaviour and protection of these charismatic and intelligent animals.'

She added that RWS is preparing to set up a breeding programme as well as a rescue and rehabilitation one for the dolphins.

Dolphin rescue and rehabilitation expert Robin Friday from Miami in the United States, who spent one month helping to care for Winter, the dolphin star in the recently released movie, Dolphin Tale, is acting as consultant for RWS' rescue and rehabilitation programme.

But Mr O'Barry said catching and confining these animals, and training them to become something they are not, cannot possibly contribute towards constructive education on marine life and environmental issues.

Through the media, he had invited Mr Friday to attend his dialogue at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel to debate the issue.

But Mr Friday has turned down the invitation, saying he has no interest in debating him.

Controversy continues

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) bought 27 bottlenose dolphins from a Canadian trader in 2008 and 2009.

Nine were kept at a holding unit in Langkawi, Malaysia, while the rest were housed at Ocean Adventure in Subic Bay in the Philippines.

Two dolphins died from a bacterial infection in Langkawi last October. A few months later, the remaining seven were transferred to the Philippines.

RWS' original plan was to exhibit the dolphins along with whale sharks in its 8ha Marine Life Park, which will be ready next year. But the plan drew criticism from environmental groups and animal lovers.

In May 2009, RWS scrapped the plan to exhibit whale sharks but said it would go ahead with its plan to use the dolphins.

Recently, more animal lovers both here and abroad have come out to oppose RWS' moves. Two US-based online activist groups, Avaaz and, have gathered nearly 800,000 signatures from members worldwide, including Singaporeans.

No debate on dolphins
Esther Ng Today Online 4 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE - There was drama yesterday at the Resorts World Sentosa's corporate office after dolphin activist Ric O'Barry, 72, and representatives from animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) turned up unannounced.

The group wanted to meet RWS chief executive Tan Hee Teck - having had two requests in the last week turned down - to hand him a petition to release and rehabilitate 25 dolphins which the integrated resort has bought for its Marine Life Park.

With Mr Tan unavailable, the petition was passed to an RWS employee.

But the group subsequently got wind that Ocean Embassy founder Robin Friday - who has been engaged by RWS as a consultant for its Marine Life Park - was turning up for an interview with this newspaper. They then decided to wait for Mr Friday, in order to "challenge him to a public debate", in the words of Mr O'Barry.

The debate did not materialise: Mr Friday, who is in his 60s, did not turn up at the office and opted for a phone interview with this reporter later in the day (see box).

In response to Today's queries, a Marine Life Park spokesperson reiterated: "We welcome dialogue with ACRES and perhaps this can be arranged at a mutually-agreeable time. While we have differing views about the dolphins in our care, we respect the mission of animal groups concerned about the welfare of animals. On this we are on common ground."

The spokesperson added: "As for Mr O'Barry, whose agenda is to release the dolphins, we haven't seen any reason to meet. We have long said that we believe that our dolphins will play a significant and meaningful role for marine conservation. Bottlenose dolphins have thrived and propagated in human care. They contribute immense knowledge and experience to marine mammal specialists, whom are using all that today to help dolphins both in the wild and in facilities."

Mr O'Barry pointed out that he has released several dolphins after years of captivity to positive results. He said: "You want to swim with the dolphins, but what about how they feel? The key solving all our environmental problems is to control our desires."

In response, the RWS spokesperson noted that the dolphins under its care for the past three years are "doing well".

The spokesperson added: "The track record of dolphin reintroductions is patchy at best, and we will be gravelly irresponsible to even consider that."

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RWS to have the best facilities in its marine life park

Esther Ng Today Online 4 Oct 11;

Winter, the six-year-old dolphin which lost its tail in a crab trap, and the subject of the movie, Dolphin's Tale, would not have had the care or received a prosthetic tail without the "good programmes" of oceanariums and marine life parks.

This was a point made yesterday by Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) consultant Robin Friday, who is in town for a week.

Mr Friday, who is in his 60s, is the chief executive officer of Ocean Embassy, a organisation that engages in marine life education and display. The American spent a month with Winter earlier this year, when the dolphin was based at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida.

According to RWS, Mr Friday's role was to maintain the "continuity of Winter's behavioural learning and development programme" - while covering the duty of a Clearwater staff - after the dolphin developed a "withdrawal syndrome" following the completion of the movie shoot.

In the region to conduct a "peer review" of RWS' Marine Life Park rescue and rehabilitation programme, Mr Friday told Today he was "thoroughly impressed" with the park's rehabilitation facilities.

RWS reiterated yesterday that it has "always been part of the Marine Life Park plan to set up a Rescue and Rehabilitation programme, so as to reach out to other marine mammals such as Winter in future".

Asked what he thought about the well-being of 25 dolphins destined for the park, Mr Friday, who recently visited Ocean Adventure park in The Philippines where they are kept, said: "They have the best acclimation and seapen facilities."

The eight-hectare Marine Life park is scheduled to open next year. ESTHER NG

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'Rogue' balloons are environment-unfriendly

Straits Times 4 Oct 11;

MY FAMILY and I took part in the Pink Ribbon Walk last Saturday. The event was well managed and enjoyable.

The weather was fine and breezy and children were treated to balloons at the start of the walk.

A number of these balloons, however, were released into the air for fun by the innocent children while some others slipped away from their fingers. By the time we came to the finishing point, the balloons were no longer flying high. They had dropped into the Marina Reservoir a distance away.

Balloons are non-biodegradable and may contain toxic material that are damaging to the life that the water holds.

I hope the relevant authorities will look into this matter and regulate the giving out of free balloons at mass events. Participants should also be advised not to release the balloons indiscriminately.

Littering is bad, and this is environmentally damaging.

Michael Loy

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Flood of ideas for railway land use

Grace Chua Straits Times 4 Oct 11;

FROM transforming disused train carriages into eateries to setting up community farms, ideas have been pouring in about what to do with the former Malaysian railway land.

Other suggestions include using the 26km stretch from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar as a bicycle highway and creating a nature reserve in the Mandai mangrove swamp.

Some of the 400 or so ideas by interest groups, designers, and architecture and landscaping students went on show yesterday to generate feedback from the public.

'What you can see is how Singaporeans are coming on board, being interested,' Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin said at the opening of the free exhibition.

He added that the displays would encourage people to become curious about the Rail Corridor project and understand it from a design, heritage and ecological perspective.

The narrow strip of land was returned to Singapore three months ago after being used as a railway for about 80 years, most recently by Malaysian operator Keretapi Tanah Melayu.

Civic interest groups are keen to preserve it because of its heritage and environmental value.

The station in Tanjong Pagar has already been designated as a national monument, while the smaller one in Bukit Timah is a conserved building.

Brigadier-General (NS) Tan said the wide range of ideas would have to be combined into a coherent plan.

He added that a 'narrative' was likely to be put together next year, with a draft development plan unveiled in 2013.

The Re-imagining the Rail Corridor exhibition is being held at the URA Centre Gallery in Maxwell Road until Oct28.

Walk down KTM memory lane at Rail Corridor
Channel NewsAsia 3 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE: An exhibition that explores several ideas on how different pockets of space at the former Malaysian railway land can be used was held on Monday.

The initiative is part of a series of events dedicated to increasing public awareness of the tract of KTM railway land returned to Singapore.

Called "Re-Imagining the Rail Corridor" the exhibition showcased some preliminary ideas from architecture and landscape students as well as design professionals.

Minister of State for National Development Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin, who chairs the Rail Corridor Consultation Group, said he hopes the final design will incorporate all ideas that the Urban Redevelopment Authority has been receiving.

Members of the public can give feedback on development plans for the railway land at URA's website

By early next year, a design competition will be held on how the land space can used.

And in 2013, a draft masterplan will be unveiled.

The exhibition centered around themes of ecology, heritage, recreation, transport, education and community gardening.

Some ideas in the exhibition included a bridge that turns into a giant see-saw, a skate park in Queensway and an epicentre for cyclists in Tanjong Pagar.

Colin Seah, director of design at Ministry of Design, said: " We believe that (the) culture of cycling, feeling of wanting to be outdoors, love for nature - these are things that Singaporeans enjoy. The railway line allows us to explore that even further."

Steve Huang, architecture student at the National University of Singapore, said: "We found that near to Queensway, there is a culture that is very gritty. We saw a lot of graffiti along the way there. We think it's possible to have a culture for these skateboarders."

The exhibition will be held at The URA Cente Atrium from 3 to 28 October 2011.

BG (NS) Tan also announced at the exhibition that the former railway land will be named Rail Corridor.

He said the working name for the former railway land by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) was one of the top three most suggested project names received via a website inviting suggestions from members of the public.

The other two were Rail Trail and Green Corridor.

He said the Rail Corridor Consultation Group met to discuss the suggestions and arrived at a consensus on 'Rail Corridor'.

Blogger Jerome Lim, who is a member of the group, said the name "reflects the history and heritage of the land".

- CNA/ck

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New UN biodiversity forum opens with call to action

UN Press Release 3 Oct 11;

3 October 2011 – The new United Nations body aimed at reversing the planet’s unprecedented loss of species and ecosystems met today for its first session as the UN environment chief called for the ideas behind it to be converted into action.

Set up by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) convened in Nairobi as delegates gathered to agree upon the protocols necessary for establishing the body’s operational platform.

In his address to the meeting, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner urged delegates to hasten IPBES into action, determine how it will be run and where it will be located.

“This platform needs to work. It needs to make a difference,” he said. “And to do that it needs to be operationalized in a manner where the best science can be brought to bear on informing policy-making at the global, regional and national levels.”

Mr. Steiner pointed to four banners set up around the assembly hall in Nairobi, each bearing the words defining IPBES’ four overarching functions – “knowledge generation”, “assessment”, “policy support” and “capacity building”. He urged delegates to bear the four functions in mind in order to deliver “the highest standards possible.”

“Ensuring that IPBES is set up in a way which strengthens the scientific underpinning that addresses the ongoing and increasing declines in global biodiversity and the continuing degradation of ecosystem services will be vital,” he told those gathered.

IPBES, which aims to reflect the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that has helped to catalyze government action on global warming, will foster the search for government action needed to reverse the accelerating degradation of the natural world and its species, which some experts put at 1,000 times the natural progression.

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Indonesia: Anti-oil palm industry campaigns must be countered

Antara 3 Oct 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Industry Minister MS Hidayat said black campaigns against the oil palm industry must be countered because in reality they had been fueled by business interests.

The oil palm industry was being accused of destroying the environment and killing orangutans, the minister said here over the weekend.

He said he had never received a report on oil palm plantation companies being involved in orangutan killings, he said.

Even if there was an orangutan killing in Kutai, East Kalimantan, it would not be as extreme as one imagined, he said.

"So, we must not believe the accusations made by foreign NGOs on environmental destruction, because they have mostly been inspired by business rivalry," he said.

His ministry was applying high standard environmental preservation procedures to the oil palm industry, Hidayat said.

Investors were interested in investing in Indonesia because the country was applying good environmental management, he said.

Two companies respectively from the Netherlands and Germany planned to invest in Semangke, North Sumatra, with investments worth Rp1.1 trillion.

The oil palm industry is the largest contributor to the country`s non-oil/non-gas exports.

From January to June 2011, the value of oil palm exports reached US$11.13 billion, a significant increase from US$6.12 billion in the same period last year.

The Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) recently reported that the NGO and the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) had evacuated at least four orangutans from Muara Kaman sub-district, Kutai Kartanegara district, East Kalimantan, around the concession of PT. Khaleda, a subsidiary of Metro Kajang Holdings Berhad Malaysia and PT. Anugerah Urea Sakti.

The Center of Orangutan Protection urged the society and the government to be proactive in enforcing the law toward trading in preserved animals and bones of endangered species to stop the Orangutan skull trade.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Indonesia: Fires raze 200 hectares of forest area in Central Java

Antara 3 Oct 11;

Semarang, Central Java (ANTARA News) - Fires have razed a total of 200 hectares of forest area in the current dry season in Central Java, a provincial forestry official said.

"The fires have gutted forests inside the national park and those managed by state forestry company Perhutani," Sri Puryono, the head of the Central Java provincial forestry office, said here recently.

The affected forests include those in Mount Lawu, Sumbing, and Guci.

Material losses inflicted by the fires are estimated to reach about Rp800 million.

"The value is relatively small, but the real loss concerns the ecology due to the forest damage," he said.

One of the main causes of the fires were related to the human factor, he said.

The prolonged drought had also triggered the fires. Most of the fires occurred in locations which were difficult to reach, he stated.

The forestry office and Perhutani will soon deploy a team supported by military and police personnel to extinguish the fires.

Forest fire hot spots have been detected in around 10 provinces in Indonesia during the present dry season which has also triggered water crisis especially on Java Island.

The forestry ministry`s data obtained from NOAA Satellite 18, showed that there were 22,120 hot spots throughout Indonesia from January to September 12, 2011.

The hot spots have been found among others in West Kalimantan (4,105 hot spots), Riau (3,208), South Sumatra (3,340), Central Kalimantan (2,778), Jambi (1,305), and North Sumatra (795).

Last year, there were a total of 9,880 hot spots in Indonesia, including 1,785 hot spots in West Kalimantan, 1,707 in Riau, 1,481 in South Sumatra, 831 Central Kalimantan, 603 in Jambi, and 530 in North Sumatra.

In dry season, which usually begins in July until October, some parts of Indonesia are prone to forest and peatlands fires.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Vast shark sanctuary created in Pacific

Richard Black BBC News 3 Oct 11;

The Marshall Islands government has created the world's largest shark sanctuary, covering nearly two million sq km (750,000 sq miles) of ocean.

The Pacific republic will ban trade in shark products and commercial shark fishing throughout its waters.

Tourism, including diving, is a staple of the Marshall Islands archipelago, which is home to just 68,000 people.

Sharks and their near relatives such as rays are seriously threatened by issues such as habitat loss and fishing.

About a third of ocean-going sharks are on the internationally-recognised Red List of Threatened Species.

"In passing this [shark protection] bill, there is no greater statement we can make about the importance of sharks to our culture, environment and economy," said Senator Tony deBrum, who co-sponsored the bill through the Marshallese parliament.

"Ours may be a small island nation, but our waters are now the biggest place sharks are protected."

To put the sanctuary in context, it covers roughly the same area as Indonesia, Mexico or Saudi Arabia, and is about eight times bigger than the UK.

The move will extend the area of ocean in which sharks are protected from about 2.7 million sq km to 4.6 million sq km (1.0 to 1.8 million sq miles).
Global network

Under the bill, commercial shark fishing and any trade in shark products will be banned, and any of the fish accidentally caught must be released alive.

Certain designs of fishing gear will be banned from Marshallese waters; and violators of all these measures face fines of up to £200,000.

The Marshallese government has worked on the plan with advisors from the Pew Environment Group, the US-based organisation that identified archipelago nations as providing big marine conservation "wins" because of the vast scale of their territorial waters.

"We salute the Republic of the Marshall Islands for enacting the strongest legislation to protect sharks that we have seen," said Matt Rand, Pew's director of global shark conservation.

"As leaders recognise the importance of healthy shark populations to our oceans, the momentum for protecting these animals continues to spread across the globe."

The Marshall Islands follows the lead taken by Palau two years ago, whose sanctuary was then the world's biggest. Other nations including the Bahamas have since followed suit.

Last month, a group of eight countries including Mexico, Honduras, the Maldives and Northern Mariana Islands signed a declaration announcing they would push for more shark protection across the world.

Because they grow and reproduce relatively slowly, sharks are especially vulnerable to factors such as accidental or targeted fishing.

Shark protection measures are also likely to help marine biodiversity overall, as they restrict the rights of fishing vessels and require greater scrutiny of landings.

However, with the Marshall Islands as with Palau and some other countries, there are questions over the capacity of authorities to monitor fully such huge expanses of ocean.

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As world goes urban, new focus on role of trees in cities

More attention needed to maximize benefits of urban forests
FAO 3 Oct 11;

3 October 2011, Rome - Focused policies and investments aimed at protecting and managing forest and trees in and around cities are needed to strengthen urban livelihoods and improve city environments, as the world becomes increasingly urbanized. This was the message offered today on the occasion of World Habitat Day by the international Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), of which FAO is a member.

As an increasing share of the world's population now lives in cities and their surroundings, the CPF called on countries to pay more attention to managing and protecting urban and peri-urban forests.

In addition to improving the quality of urban environments, forests in cities can also mitigate severe weather impacts by shielding buildings from strong winds and flooding and can help cities save energy by acting as a buffer from hot weather.

"The accelerating rate of natural disturbances affecting cities such as storms, droughts, floods and landslides reminds us that resilience to disasters is of critical importance and that trees play an important role in protecting city environments," said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales. "Good practices in urban and peri-urban forestry can contribute to building a resilient city in terms of mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate change."

Urban forests also improve the well-being and health conditions of citizens by cooling the environment, particularly in arid zones.

Ecosystem services

"Trees and forests in cities provide urban dwellers with much needed recreational and ecological values, and during the International Year of Forests we have seen many examples of community activities in cities from tree plantings to nature hikes," said Ms. Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat. "These ‘green belts' also serve as valuable habitats for birds and small animals and create an oasis of biological diversity in urban environments."

Additionally, urban trees afford vital ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and carbon storage, and can serve as a source of alternative energy.

Benefits for food security, environmental education

Urban agriculture and agroforestry, home gardens, and the harvesting of non-wood forest products like mushrooms can supplement household food supplies, but are not common practices, globally.

Urban forests can also serve as a living laboratory for environmental education in urban settings helping to bridge the gap between urbanized populations and forests.

First ever guidelines on urban forestry

FAO is helping develop guidelines for policy and decision-makers on urban and peri-urban forestry to promote sound policies and highlight good practices.

"Often unclear responsibilities for different parts of the urban forests, lack of policies and legislation, as well as lack of comprehensive information, hamper successful integrated approaches to urban forestry," said Cecil Konijnendijk, Deputy Coordinator of a research group on urban forestry initiated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). "Initiatives such as FAO's guidelines for urban forest policy and management are of great importance."

The guidelines, which set to be published in July 2012, will give a comprehensive review of good practices and highlight significant initiatives taken around the world in order to contribute to improved policy development and decision making.

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