Best of our wild blogs: 1 Nov 11

Looking Like a Tree Stump.... Spider
from Macro Photography in Singapore

from The annotated budak

Slugs galore at Pulau Sekudu
from wonderful creation

flourescing white spiral fan worm @ sekudu - Oct2011
from sgbeachbum

Gardening for birds: 5. Shrubs
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Halloween Crabs!
from Mangrove Action Squad

Read more!

Singapore says major floods unlikely, taking precautions

AFP AsiaOne 1 Oct 11;

SINGAPORE – Major floods such as those affecting Thailand are unlikely to occur in Singapore, but the city-state is taking additional precautions because of the dangers posed by climate change, Singapore’s top environment official said.

The island nation of 5.1 million people, the Asian base for many banks and multinational firms, is vulnerable to rising sea levels and a further increase in the intensity of tropical downpours.

“There are still people who do not believe in climate change. But I think the increasing weight of evidence suggests that something is going on and the only rational thing is to review all assumptions and norms,” Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Reuters in an interview.

Singapore, he said, has embarked on several initiatives to better protect itself against floods, including raising the height of reclaimed land by an additional 1 metre above sea level, widening and deepening drains and canals and getting building owners to improve their flood defences.

“It will be more expensive, more upfront cost, but you are buying insurance for the future,” he said.

Singapore is among a number of cities that face a high risk from rising sea levels, risk analysis firm Maplecroft said in a report last week.

While Singapore last experienced flooding that required authorities to evacuate people from their homes back in the 1970s, the city-state has become prone to flash floods that have damaged basement shops and carparks over the past two years.

On the morning of his interview with Reuters, roads in parts of the city-state’s financial district were partially submerged and people had to walk in ankle-deep water for a period of 10-15 minutes because the drains could not cope with the heavy downpour.

Balakrishnan said Singapore had embarked on large projects in the past 20 years to divert water from low-lying areas to reduce the risk of a major flood.

For example, the new Marina Barrage at the mouth of the Singapore River allows authorities to control water levels at Marina Bay, which is surrounded by offices, hotels and a multi-billion-dollar casino-resort.


“You are not going to get areas, like in Thailand, that are seriously inundated for weeks or months. That is extremely unlikely in Singapore,” he said.

He conceded, however, that authorities needed to improve the city-state’s defences against flash floods and said technological advances in wireless communications and the use of sensors would help shorten response time.

Looking ahead, Balakrishnan said the next round of climate talks in Durban, South Africa, starting later this month would not yield a broader, legally binding climate pact because of deep differences between rich and poor nations on how to share the burden of cuts in greenhouse gas pollution.

But he said it was essential the existing U.N. pact, the Kyoto Protocol, be extended into a second period. Failure to do so risked catastrophic collapse of the marathon talks aimed at ramping up efforts to fight climate change.

He expected the talks in Durban to yield agreement on boosting transparency of individual country pledges to curb emissions that scientists say are heating up the planet.

More broadly, he said incremental progress could be made so long as there is continued improvement in the global ambition to reduce emissions, that there is a proper system to audit those pledges and if rich nations continued to share cash and clean-energy technology with poorer states.

“One difference between the world in 1992 and the world of today is that young people all over the world are far more environmentally conscious,” he said, referring to the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where nations adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol is part of the convention.

“I am actually hopeful that added pressure at the people sector level ... will give the final impetus to the political negotiations and end up hopefully in an agreement but this is not going to happen in December,” he said.

Massive floods unlikely here, says minister
Straits Times 2 Nov 11;

MASSIVE floods of the kind hitting Thailand are unlikely to happen here, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said.

In an interview with wire agency Reuters, published yesterday, he said Singapore has made moves, such as raising the height of reclaimed land by a metre above sea level and deepening drains and canals, to protect itself against floods likely caused by worsening climate change.

It has also encouraged building owners to improve their flood defences.

'It'll be more expensive, (and involve) more upfront cost, but you are buying insurance for the future,' he said.

He added: 'You're not going to get areas, like in Thailand, that are seriously inundated for weeks or months. That is extremely unlikely in Singapore.'

Singapore has been experiencing heavy rain recently, with flash floods occurring in various parts of the island, sometimes causing damage running into millions of dollars.

Among the steps taken by the Government is the setting up of a panel of local and international experts to look into the issue.

Dr Balakrishnan acknowledged that the Government needed to improve the city state's defences against flash floods, and added that technological advances in wireless communications and the use of sensors would shorten response time when these occur.

He noted that Singapore has developed large projects in the last two decades to divert water from low-lying areas to reduce the risk of a major flood.

One is the Marina Barrage at the mouth of the Singapore River, which enables the water level in Marina Bay to be controlled.

He told Reuters: 'There are still people who do not believe in climate change. But I think the increasing weight of evidence suggests that something is going on and the only rational thing is to review all assumptions and norms.'

Vivian sees no deal at climate talks
He cites lack of political will, financial resources
Business Times 2 Nov 11;

THE United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa at the end of November will not result in a global, legally binding agreement, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

'There isn't the political will and there isn't the financial resources to make such a deal stay,' he said at the ongoing Clean Energy Expo Asia yesterday.

The world's biggest economies and greenhouse-gas emitters are 'too busy with their own problems . . . to arrive at a collective position and make common sacrifices in order for us to act properly.'

In the absence of a global pact, progress on tackling climate change measures has occurred at the state-level, particularly in Asia.

Dr Balakrishnan revealed that half of 194 gigawatts of new electric capacity in Asia added in 2010 was renewable energy.

He stressed that the technology a country chooses to generate energy today will affect sustainable development, carbon emissions, and fossil fuel use for the next 30-50 years.

What would also matter in the long-run are government policies. Governments must be mindful that subsidies given to foster more clean energy development do not create 'perverse outcomes'.

'The issue of pricing (the fuel) must also take into account externalities,' he said.

Read more!

Flash floods in north, central Singapore

Straits Times 1 Nov 11;

FLASH floods hit central and northern parts of Singapore yesterday afternoon, bringing traffic to a standstill in some areas. The water was knee-high along Woodlands Road, near the junction with Mandai Road, from about 3.15pm.

The area is near the coast, and water agency PUB said a combination of 'intense rainfall, high tide and debris brought on by the storm' caused the flood.

When The Straits Times visited the area, PUB staff and contractors were clearing the drains of leaves and twigs.

The flood waters took 45 minutes to subside, causing a major traffic jam.

Businessman Thomas Tan, 46, was driving along this stretch when the water flooded the engine of his truck. He said it will cost more than $500 to repair the engine.

Mr Tan said he was caught in a flood in the same area last week: 'There are a lot of leaves and rubbish clogging the drains here.'

There were two bursts of intense rainfall over the Mandai area yesterday afternoon, coinciding with a high tide of 3.3m.At the Kranji Expressway slip road towards Woodlands Road, the water took an hour to clear. In other flood-hit areas - including some sections of Dunearn Road, Bukit Timah Road and Stevens Close - it took 10 to 20 minutes to subside.

The National Environment Agency issued a heavy rain warning yesterday, and a spokesman said that for the next three days, moderate to heavy showers with thunder can be expected in the afternoon.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic students walk through flash flood
Straits Times 1 Nov 11;

Flash floods were reported in the northern and western regions of Singapore following heavy rains on Monday afternoon.

A contributor named Ilovemaggie on citizen journalism website Stomp reported that students at Ngee Ann Polytechnic took off their shoes and rolled up their pants to walk through ankle-high waters.

Flash floods were also reported in Senja Way and the area near Marsiling MRT station.

Flash flood due to rain
Today Online 1 Nov 11;

SINGAPORE - A Kranji Expressway slip road towards Woodlands Road has been affected by flash floods today afternoon.

National water agency PUB had began posting updates to water levels in the many canals and waterways around Singapore from 1.07pm on its official twitter feed, with warnings on flood risks.

Flash floods also affected two other areas but the water has since subsided,reported PUB via its twitter feed.

Underground pathways were not spared the deluge of rain, as twitter users posted that the underpass linking the Orchard MRT to Tangs was "flooded".

"Underpass below tangs is flooded! They had to put metal slabs on the floor fr ppl to walk! (sic)," said twitter user @facesbysarah.

A Tangs Plaza spokesperson said there was a 'little water, about 1-2cm deep' caused by the rain, and that Tangs was not affected. WITH REPORTS FROM CHANNEL NEWSASIA

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Malaysian government prepares for huge floods

Farrah Naz Karim, Sean Augustin, Adib Povera and Nadia Badarudin New Straits Times 31 Oct 11;

SEPANG: Several agencies will meet to finalise logistics and contingency plans in the event of huge floods, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said this was necessary even though the country had placed measures to deal with any eventuality.

The National Security Council would meet the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and other parties soon to finalise the issues, he said.

"We are monitoring the situation closely. We have taken note of the feedback from the Meteorological Department, which said the rain the country would face would be different from usual.

"We are ready to take drastic measures and we are making early preparations for the possibility of huge floods."

He said this after a gathering here to send off Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor to perform the haj.

Muhyiddin said Malaysia, which had sent US$1 million (RM3.1 million) in aid to Thailand, which is facing its worst floods in two decades, would extend aid to other neighbouring countries hit by severe floods.

On Sunday, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Southeast Asia Disaster Research Institute director Ibrahim Komoo said the monsoon season would bring about 40 per cent more rain (880mm) than last year.

He said Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis, Kedah, eastern Sarawak and Sabah would be worst hit, especially during the transitional period of the northeastern monsoon this month.

The Meteorological Department had reported that heavy rain would hit eastern Kelantan and Terengganu this month, followed by Pahang and Johor from January.

In Kedah, the 100-odd residents of Kampung Titi Gajah in Anak Bukit, near Alor Star, are praying hard that the floods won't strike again.

It was a year ago today that the villagers were forced to abandon their homes and seek shelter on higher grounds for almost a week after their village was submerged by floodwaters of up to 3m.

Village elder Abdul Razak Osman, 85, said: "Besides the regular cleaning by the local authorities, we are also conducting frequent checks on drains and canals.

"We don't want to go through what we did last year when our village and a few others nearby were struck by the floods, the first in our lives."

More than 30,000 people in many parts of Kedah had to evacuate their homes at the peak of the floods last year.

Kedah National Security Council secretary Abu Bakar Sudin said it had identified about 450 flood relief centres, which could hold about 80,000 people, in flood-prone areas in Pendang, Kubang Pasu and Kota Setar districts.

He said the council would deploy about 70 boats, 60 lorries and 80 four-wheel-drive vehicles to help flood victims.

The council identified thousands of volunteers from the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, Civil Defence Corps and non-governmental organisations to help flood evacuees, distribute food and provide medical aid.

Kedah Drainage and Irrigation Department director Ab Qahar Osman said the state was caught off-guard last year by the heavy rain in southern Thailand, which spilled over into the state and caused major floods.

"We may see the same pattern this year."

Preparations underway to face bad floods: DPM
Zuhrin Azam Ahmad The Star 31 Oct 11;

SEPANG: Extensive preparations are underway to face floods that are expected to be the worst in decades, said Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the Government was not taking any chance as weather reports indicated that the impending floods could be devastating.

“There could be a more stronger winds, more rains and stronger currents than before.

“With all these reports, the preparations must also be more than the usual,” he said Monday at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport's Bunga Raya Complex here.

Muhyiddin was speaking to newsmen after seeing off Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor who left for Saudi Arabia to perform the haj.

Muhyiddin said the National Security Council would be holding a meeting soon with departments and agencies involve in floods evacuation operation.

He said the meeting among others would be to update the agencies and departments on the situation and preparations particularly on logistic matters.

“Early preparations are already in place but we are not taking any chance and would like to see where we can further improve the preparations.

“While we have always prepared ourselves for floods, this time the situation may be unexpected,” he said.

Read more!

Jakarta to build another dam to address flood problem

Antara 31 Oct 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo has said the capital city will build another dam to overcome a chronic flood problem in the Pondok Labu area and its surroundings.

"We have prepared everything. In the long term, we will construct a dam there. Pondok Labu will definitely no longer suffer flooding when the dam is completed," Fauzi Bowo said at Halim Perdana Kusuma Air Force base here on Monday where he was among a number of government officials seeing off President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his entourage on their departure to France.

The process to acquire land for the planned dam would begin next year, according to the governor.

Before flying to France, President Yudhoyono asked Vice President Boediono and Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo to address the flood problem in the capital city and to prevent the floods from spreading to wider areas like what were happening in Thailand and Myanmar.

On Sunday evening (Oct 31), Pondok Labu in south Jakarta was flooded up to a height of two meters, forcing residents to flee to higher ground.

The Indonesian Red Cross helped the local residents in the evacuation process and set up emergency tents to accommodate the flood victims consisting of at least 239 families.

Most parts of Indonesia are currently entering the rainy season.


Editor: Ella Syafputri

Fauzi Vows to Build New Dam After S. Jakarta Floods
Jakarta Globe 31 Oct 11;

Following major flooding in South Jakarta’s Pondok Labu neighborhood on Sunday, Governor Fauzi Bowo has announced plans to build a new dam in the area to prevent further disasters.

“In the long run, we’re going to build dam there,” Fauzi said at the Halim Perdanakusuma airport on Monday. “After the dam is finished, there will be no floods in Pondok Bambu.”

Heavy flooding hit Pondok Labu and several other parts of the city after heavy rains on Sunday. The floodwaters in Pondok Labu reached a peak of two meters, inundating many homes and forcing 239 families to flee for higher ground and seek shelter in emergency tents overnight.

Prior to leaving for France for a G20 meeting, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono requested that Vice President Boediono and Fauzi look into heavy flooding.

Fauzi said on Monday that the land appropriation process for the new dam would start next year.


Indonesian government urged to mitigate impacts of Jakarta floods
Antara 31 Oct 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Public policy observer Andrinov Chaniago has urged the government to mitigate the impacts of big floods which usually occur every five years in Jakarta.

"Natural disasters cannot be avoided, but the impacts should be anticipated by the government," Adrinov said here on Monday.

The anticipatory steps could include reconstruction of damaged culverts in the capital city, he said.

"Jakarta`s drainage quality and capacity is not good enough," he said.

Serious floods could paralyze daily activities of Jakarta`s citizens, including in the business and education sectors, he said.

In normal conditions, it would take three days to go back to normal after flooding, but in Jakarta it could take more than three days, which indicated that there was something wrong with the drainage system, he added.

Andrinov said that until now the government`s anticipatory steps against big floods that usually come back every five years, were still not known.

Before flying to France, President Yudhoyono asked Vice President Boediono and Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo to address the flood problem in the capital city and to prevent the floods from spreading to wider areas like what were happening in Thailand and Myanmar.

On Sunday evening (Oct 31), Pondok Labu in south Jakarta was flooded up to a height of two meters, forcing residents to flee to higher ground.

The Indonesian Red Cross helped the local residents in the evacuation process and set up emergency tents to accommodate the flood victims consisting of at least 239 families.

Most parts of Indonesia are currently entering the rainy season.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Flooding in South Jakarta Likely to Reoccur: BNPB
Jakarta Globe 1 Nov 11;

The spokesman of the National Mitigation Agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said flooding in the Pondok Labu area is likely to reoccur because the width of the Krukut River has decreased due to the growing number of people living on the river banks.

Homes in the area were submerged in waters up to 1.5 meters high on Sunday due to heavy rains in the upstream areas of the Krukut River.

“The housing areas growing rapidly along the river banks have depleted the size of the river,” Sutopo told the Jakarta Globe, adding that the river’s width had decreased from 16 meters to two meters.

“It means it can only contain 30 percent of the rainfall, thus the flooding,” he said. “It is important that the river be returned to its original width to improve its capacity.”

Pondok Labu has always been prone to flooding and flood waters caused hundreds of families to flee the area on Sunday night. This was capital’s first major incident since the start of this year’s rainy season.

On Tuesday morning, the Jayakarta Regional Military Command Maj. Gen. Waris visited flood victims in the evacuation shelter.

Waris’ visit coincided with accusations from evacuees that one of the causes of the flood was the construction of a shooting range for the marines.

“Our friends in the marines are taking the necessary steps such as dredging the river so the floods will stop completely,” Waris said as quoted by news portal

The marines also donated food for the evacuees and volunteered at the emergency kitchen.

Read more!

Peak Tides Test Thai Capital's Flood Defenses

Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat and Robert Birsel PlanetArk 31 Oct 11

Peak tides tested Bangkok's flood defenses on Sunday as hope rose that the center of the Thai capital might escape the worst floods in decades, but that was little comfort for swamped suburbs and provinces where worry about disease is growing.

The floods have killed at least 381 people since July and affected more than 2 million. Authorities have cut growth forecasts for Southeast Asia's second biggest economy. Disruptions to auto and computer-part producers have been felt worldwide.

Water flowing down the central Chao Phraya river basin from the north is meeting peak tides surging in the Gulf of Thailand, 20 km (12 miles) south of Bangkok, leading to fears the city's makeshift defenses would be swamped.

The tides have pushed water in the river, which snakes its way through the city past gilded temples and wooden shanties, about 2.5 meters (8 feet) above sea level but dikes and sandbag walls have largely held.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, a political novice who took over this year after an election that many Thais hoped would heal chronic political divisions, said the city's fate rested with its network of defenses.

"It depends on the level of the sea and sometimes it's about the stability of the way we put the sandbags," Yingluck told reporters. "Hopefully, the sandbags are quite strong enough. So if the sandbags don't fall over, it should be OK."

The high tides are due to last until Monday. Sunday's tide was not quite as high as Saturday's, Yingluck said, adding that people should not lose confidence: "We will recover soon."

But the danger is far from over.

Authorities trying to divert water around the city and out to sea said a "great volume" was flowing from the north into a canal in western Taling Chan district and people were being advised to leave.

Most people living in Thonburi, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya, have been struggling in waist-deep water for several days to save possessions.

People in Thonburi's Bang Phlad neighborhood battled in vain to shore up a crumbling sandbag wall and women screamed as water from the swollen river surged into a commercial street.

Several parts of north Bangkok are also swamped while provinces just north, such as Pathun Thani and Ayutthaya, have been largely inundated for weeks. Fears about water-borne diseases and malaria are growing.

Matthew Cochrane of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the situation was critical. Many people were living in floodwater without access to food and water.

"There are more than 2 million people who have been affected over the past few months. Many of them are still affected," Cochrane told Reuters.

As well as the growing risk of diarrhea and mosquito-borne diseases, skin infections were a major problem, he said.

In some areas, crocodiles have escaped from flooded farms and snakes searching for dry land have slithered into homes.


The floods have submerged 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares), or roughly the size of Kuwait, and follow unusually heavy monsoon rain.

But there have been accusations that authorities delayed releasing water from dams. By the time they had to release it or risk dams bursting, rain was heavy and rivers full.

The weather has been mostly clear for the last few days.

The worst floods in half a century have also wiped out a quarter of the main rice crop in the world's biggest exporter.

The waters also inundated seven industrial estates that have sprung up over the last 20 years on what used to be the central plan's rice-growing lands.

Thailand is the second-largest exporter of computer hard drives and global prices are rising because of a flood-related shortage of major components used in personal computers.

The president of South Korea's Samsung Electronics said he expected Thailand's floods to hit the computer memory chip market further by hurting PC production until the first quarter of next year.

"There is too much uncertainty in the market," Jun Dong-soo, president of Samsung's memory business, said in comments released on Sunday. Samsung is the world's top maker of dynamic random access memory, which is used widely in PCs.

Japan's Honda Motor Co may keep its Thai factory shut for about six months which would affect 3 percent of its annual global car output, the Nikkei business daily reported.

The high tides have flooded parts of Bangkok's normally bustling Chinatown and some streets around the glittering Grand Palace which a few tourists were still visiting.

Numerous buildings have been sandbagged or walled off. Many people left their cars on elevated roads, although most of the inner city is dry.

Many residents have taken advantage of a special five-day holiday to Monday to flee the city. Those left behind have stocked up and supplies of staples in many shops have run out.

Some governments have warned citizens against non-essential travel to the city of 12 million and some flights have been canceled, although the main airport has not been flooded.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Malaysia: Conservation boost for pygmy elephants in Sabah

The Star 31 Oct 11;

KOTA KINABALU: Efforts to establish forest corridors along the lower Kinabatangan region – where isolated groups of wildlife are under threat – have received a boost with the recent collaring of five Borneo pygmy elephants.

Wildlife researchers said the four female and one male pachyderm would provide researchers with crucial information on the available elephant habitat in the region.

Dr Benoit Goosens of the wildlife research unit, Danau Girang Field Centre, said: “Extensive agriculture through oil palm plantations has considerably reduced the habitat of elephants in Kinabatangan, increasing human-elephant conflict.

“The herd there, estimated at about 200 to 250, is having difficulty moving between flooded lands, swamps, fenced plantations, villages and nature lodges,” he said yesterday.

To complicate matters, Dr Goosens said uncontrolled tourism with up to 20 boats along riverbanks increased the pressure on the elephants when they drink from the river.

“It is time we act to re-establish quality habitat and provide space for the elephants in the Kinabatangan region,” he added.

Three Bornean elephants were fitted with a satellite collar last week in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary as part of a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department, the non-governmental organisation HUTAN and the centre.

The project was financed by the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Elephant Family, Houston Zoo and Columbus Zoo.

Last week, members of the centre and the department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit re-collared one bull named Gading (it was first collared in July 2008) and two females.

“We followed another bull for almost two hours when Gading showed up. He was our primary target and it took us another two hours to dart and collar him,” said Jibius Dausip from the unit who led the collaring team.

Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the launching of the Sabah Elephant Action Plan in January would pave the way for the government to properly manage the elephant population in the state.

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Bangladesh to set up dolphin sanctuaries

(AFP) Google News 31 Oct 11;

DHAKA — Bangladesh will declare three river areas in its southwest as dolphin sanctuaries, wildlife officials said Monday, in a bid to protect the country's population of endangered freshwater cetaceans.

The forestry department took the decision after studies found three areas in the UNESCO-listed Sundarbans mangrove forest, which straddles Bangladesh and India, were home to large populations of Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphins.

"We have decided to declare river channels at Dhangmari, Chandpai and Dudhmukhi areas in the eastern Sundarbans as dolphin sanctuaries," Tapan Kumar Dey, senior wildlife conservation official at the forest department, said.

"The channels and adjoining areas are home to hundreds of endangered Irrawady and Ganges river dolphins. Fishermen will be banned from fishing in the areas," he told AFP.

Tens of thousands of fishermen catch fish and shrimp in the channels. Although dolphins are not targeted directly, they often become entangled in the fishing nets and die by the dozen every year.

A series of studies since 2002 by the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP) identified the three areas in the Sunderbans' river channels which are key dolphin hotspots.

An earlier BCDP study found the world's largest population of Irrawaddy dolphins -- an estimated 6,000 -- living along Bangladesh's southern coast, including in the Sundarbans.

In other areas where the flat-faced dolphins are known to converge, such as the Mekong delta in South East Asia, populations have been estimated at less than 100.

Bangladesh dolphins get Sundarbans sanctuaries
Anbarasan Ethirajan BBC News 31 Oct 11;

Bangladesh is declaring three areas in the southern Sundarbans mangrove forest as dolphin sanctuaries to protect freshwater dolphins, officials say.

Conservationists say the mangrove forest is the only place in the world where the Ganges river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins are found.

These dolphins are among the world's most endangered mammals.

Fishermen normally do not target them, but the animals get entangled in fishing nets and drown.

They are also threatened by rising salinity levels and pollution.

"We have decided to declare Dhangmari, Chandpai and Dudhmukhi areas of eastern Sundarbans as dolphin sanctuaries so that these mammals can survive in a safe environment," Tapan Kumar Dey, a senior wildlife conservation official, told the BBC.

He said the three water segments were identified as dolphin hotspots by the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project (BCDP), which has been doing research in Bangladesh.
'Clearly demarcated'

Mr Dey said an official notification on establishing the sanctuaries will be issued by the ministry of environment soon.

"The waterways in these areas will be clearly demarcated and there will be signpostings so that local fishermen will not venture into this region for fishing," Mr Dey said.

Environmentalists say the diverse aquatic ecosystem of the Sundarbans support an impressive variety of cetaceans - whales, dolphins and porpoises.

While Ganges river dolphins find safe haven in the upper regions of Sundarbans, Irrawaddy dolphins thrive in the southern parts, which are closer to the Bay of Bengal.

The decision by the forest department coincided with a new survey by the BCDP which, apart from freshwater dolphins, also reported sightings of the finless porpoises and an Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin in western Sundarbans.

These two cetacean species, which are normally found along the coast, migrate upriver in Sundarbans mostly during winter, when the salinity level is high. They go back after fresh water starts flowing into the rivers.

The nine-day survey was conducted in the western part of Sundarbans mangrove forests earlier this month.

"This year we encountered many of them during the recent survey, soon after the rains when the salinity level is low. Their presence in this region at this time may be an indication of the rising salinity level," Rubaiyat Mansur Mowgli, principal researcher of the BCDP said.

"Our preliminary results indicate that there is a high density of dolphin population in western Sundarbans as well and some areas there might also be identified as dolphin hotspots," Mr Mowgli said,

However, he warned that the identification of new dolphin hotspots does not mean the animals are thriving in Sundarbans.

"Declining freshwater supplies and rising sea levels due to global climate change are affecting the dolphin population," Mr Mowgli said.

Two years ago, researchers found that there were nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins - which are related to orcas or killer whales - in the waterways of Sundarbans mangrove forests and the nearby coastal waters of the Bay of Bengal.

Read more!

Fukushima Plant Released Record Amount of Radiation Into Sea

Beth Thomas BusinessWeek 31 Oct 11;

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- The destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan was responsible for the biggest discharge of radioactive material into the ocean in history, a study from a French nuclear safety institute said.

The radioactive cesium that flowed into the sea from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant was 20 times the amount estimated by its owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., according to the study by the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, which is funded by the French government.

It’s the second report released in a week calling into question estimates from Japan’s government and the operator of the plant that was damaged in the March earthquake and tsunami. The Fukushima station may have emitted more than double the company’s estimate of atmospheric release at the height of the worst civil atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, according to a study in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal.

The oceanic study estimates 27,000 terabecquerels of radioactive cesium 137 leaked into the sea from the Fukushima plant, north of Tokyo.

Tepco is aware of the estimate from the institute through media reports and has no comment, spokesman Hajime Motojuku said today by phone.

The three melted reactors and at least one damaged spent- fuel pool may have emitted 35,800 terabecquerels of cesium 137 into the atmosphere, according to Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal. The estimated amount is about 42 percent of that released into the atmosphere in the Chernobyl explosion in 1986, according to the study.

Japan’s nuclear regulator in June said 15,000 terabecquerels of cesium 137 was discharged.

Cesium 137 is a source of concern for public health because the radioactive isotope has a half-life of 30 years.

A becquerel represents one radioactive decay per second and involves the release of atomic energy, which can damage human cells and DNA. Prolonged exposure to radiation can cause leukemia and other forms of cancer, according to the World Nuclear Association. A terabecquerel is 1 million times 1 million becquerels.

--With assistance from Tsuyoshi Inajima in Tokyo. Editors: Aaron Sheldrick, John Chacko

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Traditional Farm Methods Help Climate Adaptation

Nina Chestney PlanetArk 1 Nov 11;

Traditional agriculture methods could help protect food supplies and make agriculture more resilient to the effects of climate change, a report by the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said on Monday.

Traditional knowledge, rather than modern methods, has helped indigenous people in countries like China, Kenya and Bolivia to cope with extreme weather and environmental change, the report said.

"Policies, subsidies, research and intellectual property rights promote a few modern commercial varieties and intensive agriculture at the expense of traditional crops and practices," said Krystyna Swiderska, senior researcher at the IIED and lead author of the study.

"This is perverse as it forces countries and communities to depend on an ever decreasing variety of crops and threatens with extinction the knowledge and biological diversity that form the foundations of resilience."

Traditional methods include using local plants to control pests, choosing crop varieties which tolerate extreme conditions such as droughts and floods and planting a variety of crops to hedge bets against uncertain futures.

Policymakers agree that agriculture needs to be adapted to cope with rising temperatures, variable rainfall and extreme weather events to ensure future food security.

However, government policies have largely overlooked long-established agricultural practices in favor of intensifying production through modern methods, the report said.

Next month, governments will meet at a U.N. climate summit in Durban, South Africa, to work on securing a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and climate aid for developing countries.

"They must have traditional knowledge firmly in their sights and begin discussing how to reform intellectual property rights in agriculture as a main concern," the report said.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)

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