Best of our wild blogs: 24 Nov 11

The ICCS Year-Round Cleanups at Tanah Merah East
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Chek Jawa Boardwalk during high tide
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

I love Salties
from Life's Indulgences

a mudskipper's short story
from sgbeachbum

Bonnets, buttons and other figging snails
from The annotated budak

Seeing Red in a Tent – Spidey Galore #3
from My Itchy Fingers

Wired Science highlights paper from Spider Lab: Nephila antipodiana’s chemical defense against ants from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Volunteering in Singapore: a video clip
from wild shores of singapore

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Why conservation is pragmatic

Philip Holden Today Online 24 Nov 11;

Having taught and researched Singapore literature for years, I often find myself inadvertently drawn into discussing it. Last Sunday, my doctor told me that he'd been reading Robert Yeo's classic The Adventures of Holden Heng, written twenty-five years ago but just republished. I asked him what he liked about the book. The central character, perhaps, or the plot? Not really, he told me. What he liked was that the novel brought back to life places he'd known so well that have now disappeared.

In the last month, we have heard of two more parts of our contemporary landscape that are in danger of disappearing. The Rochor Centre flats and Bukit Brown Cemetery at first sight have little in common: A modern space for the living, and a much older space for the dead. Yet both are important parts of the lifeworlds of a significant group of Singaporeans, and both are making way for the demands of development, for more roads to cater for Singapore's ever-growing car population.

In both cases, planning decisions seem to have been made before a full process of consultation has started: Consultation has thus largely been an exercise in minimising the negative effects of a course of action already decided upon, rather than exploring alternatives through genuine dialogue.

The reasons advanced in favour of the removal of graves from a section of Bukit Brown and the demolition of the Rochor Centre flats at first seem compelling. Singapore faces constraints on land that few other cities do, and it seems inevitable that heritage sites that make less intensive use of space will make way for contemporary, more space-efficientstructures. The old makes way for the new, and administrative expediency trumps consultation.

On reflection, though, this seems very much part of an outdated paradigm. One of the key issues of contention in the general and presidential elections in this year was the desire of Singaporeans for greater participation in the processes of governance.

And Singapore, in the last decade, has made its physical constraints a virtue. Faced with the prospect of water shortage, the Government did not take the easy route of negotiating an extension of the water agreements with Malaysia, or making new water supply treaties with Indonesia. Rather, it encouraged the development of technologies for recycling and desalinating water, providing the basis for the growth of companies such as Hyflux which are now major players internationally.

We could also show similar vision in dealing with conservation issues. Singapore's restricted size and the pace of its development means that we are now working through debates concerningthe preservation of heritage that will later be confronted in the rest of developing Asia. If we develop best practices in consultation mechanisms that bring in all members of the community, in sustainable development, and in engineering solutions that preserve heritage landscapes and structures, such expertise will surely be invaluable in the future.

Arguments for heritage frequently stress the intangible: The disorientation we feel at the loss of familiar landscapes, and the erosion of a sense of community that accompanies this. This sense of a connection to the past is certainly important.

My own experience of removal from Hillview Avenue estate under the Selective Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) has taught me that communities take many years to grow, and cannot simply be transplanted from one built environment to another. Yet for Singapore in the present, developing a cutting-edge expertise in the conservation of heritage would also make sound pragmatic economic sense.

Imagine a Singapore in thirty years time where my doctor and I, now both retired, would not have to rely on literature alone to bring the past to life, or to jog our now failing memories. Rather, we would live in a Singapore that had developed as a thriving heritage management hub, where places such as Bukit Brown and the Rochor Centre flats would not have vanished, but rather have become further enriched as spaces of community through the lived experiences of a new generation of Singaporeans.

Philip Holden is a Singapore Permanent Resident with a long history of involvement in heritage-related issues. He teaches at the University Scholars Programme at the National University of Singapore. A shorter version of this appeared in the print paper.

Clarify the land transport vision
Letter from Kenny Ching Hwe Seong Today Online 23 Nov 11;

I WRITE as a concerned citizen about how the Government's repeated exhortations for residents to utilise public transport do not resonate with its actions.

The North-South Expressway (NSE) and Bukit Brown redevelopment plans especially do not cohere with the Government's stated aims of reducing the number and use of cars.

These developments will serve only to encourage residents to drive more as traffic congestion is alleviated temporarily.

It is especially worrying when one considers the costs involved. For example, the NSE is expected to cost upward of S$7 billion. One wonders if the funds could have been used to expand MRT capacity or develop better bus services.

Tremendous human costs are incurred as residents are displaced, and in Bukit Brown's case, historical and institutional memories are destroyed.

It may be worthwhile to consider if there is indeed an over-arching and coherent vision with regard to car use and public transport in general.

If so, the relevant authorities need to articulate clearly what that is and reconcile development plans with it.

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Don't expect breakthrough in Durban climate talks: Dr Balakrishnan

Joanne Chan Channel NewsAsia 23 Nov 11;

SINGAPORE : Singapore Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Vivian Balakrishnan, is not expecting a breakthrough in climate talks in Durban next month.

He said that given the current global financial crisis and political problems in many developed countries, negotiations will be difficult.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries will head to the South African city for two weeks to discuss implementing measures to combat climate change.

Disagreements between developed and developing nations over who should take responsibility for carbon emissions are threatening to paralyse climate change talks.

Developing nations say developed countries have been releasing carbon emissions for decades in the pursuit of growth.

Highlighting these difficulties at a dialogue with 200 Singapore Polytechnic students on Wednesday, Dr Balakrishnan said it would take a binding agreement on all countries to achieve any significant reduction in carbon emissions.

But that is unlikely to emerge from negotiations in Durban.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "Do not expect a global solution at this stage. Expect a reaffirmation, a small tentative step forward on finance, and perhaps a roadmap to a long-term, multi-lateral regime.

"From Singapore's perspective, we have always taken the position that we believe that this is a global problem that can only be solved through a multi-lateral, rules-based approach. We will do our fair share, which must take into account our small size and our alternative-energy disadvantage."

Dr Balakrishnan also said it will be "almost impossible" to get a commitment to embark on major measures. However, he believes there are some "low-hanging fruits" that can be achieved.

This includes getting a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of next year.

He also expressed hope that some progress will be made on the green climate fund - agreed upon in Cancun - which will provide finance to help developing countries mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change.

Dr Balakrishnan said if countries are unable to reverse the effects of climate change, they will have to deal with issues such as rising sea levels.

He said: "Right now, if we reclaim any land, we have to make sure that the height of the reclamation is at lease 1.25 metres above the highest recorded sea level so far. In other words, we are buying ourselves some insurance.

"Similarly, if you build a new block of flats, a new house, a new shop, we will take every opportunity to raise the platform level. We will raise it to have a significant margin of about 1 to 2 feet above the highest recorded flood in that area. Now all this is very expensive, because you are spending more today to prepare for the future."

Other issues discussed during the dialogue included Singapore's self-sufficiency in water and the lack of alternative energy sources.

- CNA/ms

Hurdles in the way of climate deal: Vivian
Kezia Toh & Jessica Cheam Straits Times 24 Nov 11;

THE global financial crisis and political problems in many parts of the developed world are standing in the way of a deal at this year's United Nations climate change conference.

That, and the blame game played by various nations mean that the annual meeting, to be held in Durban later this month, will not yield a resolution, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

'Getting a commitment to embark on major measures is going to be almost impossible,' he told the media on the sidelines of an environmental dialogue session with 250 students at Singapore Polytechnic yesterday.

Governments from more than 190 nations are due to meet in the South African city from next Monday to Dec 9 to resume climate talks, with the aim of inking a legally binding deal for all countries to reduce pollution or carbon emissions.

Dr Balakrishnan, together with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, will attend the conference - now into its 17th year - for the first time since taking over the environment portfolio. He explained to students at the dialogue: 'This is what I call the 'tragedy of the commons'. If there is a garden which belongs to all of us, and yet not personally to each of us, the question would be whose responsibility is it to look after the garden.

'We all want to play on it, but none of us can be bothered to mow it, fill in the potholes, water it or to protect it. On the global level, this is what is happening to the world.'

But there is still some hope for this year's talks. The conference could yield a second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, which legally requires rich nations to reduce its emissions and is due to expire at the end of next year, and progress on the Green Climate Fund.

The fund, established at last year's conference in Cancun, Mexico, binds rich nations to contribute US$100 billion (S$130 billion) a year by 2020 to finance climate action, but is currently empty.

Former senior Indian government official Surya Sethi said Singapore is well- positioned to use its expertise in finance to help develop the fund. The Republic is a co-vice-chair of the fund.

Being a financial centre, it could also be the host country for housing the fund, and provide good administration and management, he told a seminar on climate negotiations held by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies earlier this month. Professor Sethi served as one of India's key policymakers for energy and climate change and was its core climate negotiator for eight years till 2009.

This year's talks could also produce a roadmap towards a long-term regime that many countries could adhere to, said Dr Balakrishnan, although he did not say what this will comprise. But he said Singapore will play its part to deal with climate change by continuing to focus on energy efficiency and sustainable development.

'From Singapore's perspective, we have always taken the position that we believe this is a global problem... We will do our fair share and take into account our small size and the fact that we are alternative-energy-disadvantaged,' he said.

Climate change 'must be dealt with long-term view'
Sumita Sreedharan Today Online 24 Nov 11;

SINGAPORE - Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan does not expect a breakthrough during the conference on climate change in Durban, South Africa, next week.

Instead, "expect a reaffirmation and a small tentative step forward on finance and perhaps a roadmap to a long-term multilateral regime", Dr Balakrishnan told students at the Singapore Polytechnic yesterday.

He also hopes that the majority of the countries attending the Durban conference will renew their commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, the current main treaty on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and that there would be progress in the establishment of the main climate fund. This will be used to help developing countries combat the effects of climate change.

Dr Balakrishnan said climate change is a long-term problem, one that has to be dealt with from that perspective. However, the political situation in the world today is one where leaders are just looking to the next election and not the greater good.

"There is the temptation to think short term, to only think of the next election and that is very powerful," said Dr Balakrishnan during a panel discussion on the challenges facing local and global environmental protection at the polytechnic.

The most hotly debated topic during the session was how Singapore could help bridge the gulf between the developing and developed countries, which have differing views on climate problems, and how to bring about a solution that would be agreeable to both sides.

Solutions offered by some of the students included imposing a carbon tax and issuing of green bonds that could be used to fund green initiatives.

Other issues raised during the panel discussion included Singapore's self-sufficiency in water and whether the price of water would increase as the population increases.

Dr Balakrishnan said it was theoretically possible for Singapore to be self-sufficient in water due to technological advances in water recycling and desalination in the last 10 years.

"The key determinant of water in the future will be the price of technology and price of energy," he said.

When asked if Singapore had plans for sustainable energy, such as wind farms, he replied that cost would be a factor in land-scarce Singapore. Instead, it would be more feasible to concentrate on energy efficiency, the minister added.

Dr Balakrishnan revealed that the Energy Conservation Act that will be introduced in 2013 is aimed at making companies more competitive in the global market by improving their energy performance and providing support for companies investing in energy efficiency.

"Singapore will do its fair share but we must take into account our small size and the fact that we are at an alternative energy disadvantage," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan added that the Government would continue with the strategies and initiatives listed out in the Sustainable Blueprint 2009, which has set a target to improve energy efficiency by 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

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Shell's Pulau Bukom refinery almost back to normal

Ronnie Lim Business Times 24 Nov 11;

(SINGAPORE) It's almost back to business as usual at Shell's Singapore facility - the oil giant's largest manufacturing site worldwide - following a Sept 28 fire at its Pulau Bukom refinery.

The blaze had caused it to shut down some plants, including three crude distillation units which form the backbone of its 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery.

While repairs are continuing on the island - including at the pump house which was 'ground zero' of the fire - traders told BT that the oil giant has since returned as a seller in the swaps market here in the last couple of weeks.

Shell has also lifted most of the force majeures for various product supplies it had to impose on some customers, a Shell spokesman told BT yesterday.

A Platts report earlier this month said, for instance that Shell Singapore - as well as Ellba Eastern, a joint venture between Shell and BASF - had ended their force majeure (FM) on styrene monomer supplies.

FM is a clause in contracts which frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary circumstance beyond the control of the parties occurs.

The Shell spokesman said, however, that there was no further update at this time to the group's earlier cited November/Dec- ember timeline for full resumption of Bukom operations.

An oil trader told BT that 'Shell has been quite active in the swaps market in the last couple of weeks, including in middle distillates, fuel oil and naphtha sales'. Based on the activity, he reckons that 'Bukom is almost back to normal'.

While Shell had restarted its third crude distillation unit (CDU) at the end of October, following progressive restarts of two earlier CDUs, a Reuters report said then that the 500,000 bpd refinery would be operating at just over 50 per cent at that stage.

Australia's Rotork, which makes valve control systems for the oil industry, meanwhile said this week that Shell had enlisted its help 'to assist in its recovery efforts'.

The fire had broken out in a pump house with a complex of many pipes leading to many light product tanks 'where, the moment one pipe is opened, it temporarily feeds the fire again', Shell officials earlier explained.

Rotork said that its Singapore office 'is now working to assist in repairing the damage, by initially helping Shell to actuate new valves for the most urgent repairs'.

'Rotork electric actuators installed in unaffected areas of the site are also being removed and shipped to the workshop for fitting to new critical plant replacement valves, while Rotork engineers assist with the on-site installation and commissioning of these actuated valves,' it added. New intelligent electric actuators have also been ordered for new valves to be installed at the site, it said.

Shell earlier indicated that it expects to book a loss of about US$150 million for the fourth quarter as a result of the fire.

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New ferret-badger species found in central Vietnam

Thanhnien News 23 Nov 11;

This creature, named Melogale cucphuongensis sp.nov, was discovered in Ninh Thuan Province.

A species of ferret-badger hitherto not known to western science has been found in a national park in the central Vietnamese province of Ninh Binh.

Tuoi Tre newspaper Wednesday quoted the non-profit organization PanNature as saying that the animal, Melogale cucphuongensis sp.nov, belongs to the genus Melogale, which has four species - together known as weasels -- and is mainly found in Indochina , Java, Bali, and parts of Borneo.

It has different characteristics from the other four -- a dark brown head and body with a black and white stripe running from neck to shoulders.

Newswire Dan Tri said the new species, locally known as chon bac ma (silver-cheeked fox) had first been discovered by the Cuc Phuong National Park’s Endangered Primate Rescue Center in January 2006 when it attempted to rescue an injured ferret-badger.

However, its study was interrupted because the animal died, and not until recently could it find another animal of the same species.

The discovery has been announced in the German scientific journal Der Zoologische Garten.

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Malaysia: Call to put sharks on endangered list

Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi New Straits Times 24 Nov 11;

Aquaria KLCC recently launched its second conservation campaign, "Save Our Fins", to rescue sharks from the brink of extinction.

Its managing director, Datuk Simon Foong, said the campaign urged people to stop eating shark's fin soup.

"Millions of sharks are killed for their fins yearly. We are urging the public to stop asking for shark's fin soup," said Foong, adding that shark fishing and finning is cruel and wasteful.

He said after the fins are cut-off, the sharks are thrown back to the sea to die.

The campaign was launched with the support of The Body Shop, TV3, FlyFM, New Straits Times, The Department of Fisheries, Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC).

Foong said the campaign's tagline "Out of the sea, into the city" illustrates the fate of sharks which are brought out of its habitat and into the consumer world.

"In line with the campaign, we are encouraging the public to sign a petition to 'Say No to Consuming Shark's Fin Soup'.

"The petition will be handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro Based Industry in the hope that sharks will be put on the endangered species list here," said Foong.

He said there are seven zones in the shark exhibition at the Aquaria where visitors can learn everything about sharks.

KL Mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail, who officiated the campaign, said City Hall would always support the campaign.

"We should opt for other seafood that is easily available," he said.

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Malaysia: Billboards teach wildlife trade laws

WWF 23 Nov 11;

Ignorance is no longer an excuse for wildlife criminals, with awareness signboards on wildlife crime penalties built around Gerik town, near Malaysia's Belum-Temengor Forest Complex.

These signboards, placed at poaching hotspots and public areas in and around Gerik, convey the penalties under new the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 as one of the means to deter would-be poachers from committing wildlife offences.

“The billboards are part of WWF-Malaysia’s overall efforts to support the enforcement authorities in addressing the poaching crisis which we are now facing at Belum-Temengor,” said Dato’ Dr. Dionysius Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia.

The Belum-Temengor Forest Complex has seen its share of wildlife crimes, the latest being the arrest of two smugglers and seizure of 12 pangolins near Gerik earlier this month.

The men arrested were tailed by the Perak Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) as they crossed from Kelantan into Perak border and headed to the village of Bersia, not far from Gerik town and the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex.

The case highlights yet again, the threat to pangolins and other wildlife in the area including the Malayan tiger, which are under constant threat from the voracious illegal wildlife trade in this region. In fact, Bersia has long been the subject of many reports of wildlife crime received by WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia from the public.

“With the inception of the new Wildlife Act, Malaysia now has some of the strongest anti poaching and wildlife protection laws in the region. It’s time to get the message out that this country is serious”, said Dr. William Schaedla , Regional Director for TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

The Hulu Perak District has a Joint Enforcement Taskforce that was set up in 2010 to fight poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

Dr. Schaedla added that the DWNP, which is a member of this taskforce, could certainly do with more support from other member agencies and information from the public considering the scale of the problem in the area. “The billboards are a great start, but after they go up the authorities will need resources to follow through on the message with action”, he said.

To report wildlife crime, members of the public in Malaysia can SMS to 019-356 4194 or email to The information received will be channelled directly to the DWNP, and caller’s identity will remain anonymous.

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Indonesian Coastal Cities Face Environment and Social Threats, Experts Say

Ismira Lutfia Jakarta Globe 23 Nov 11;

Jakarta and other Indonesian cities located on coastal deltas face a litany of environmental and social problems as a result of being built on flood plains, experts have warned.

Jan Sopaheluwakan, a researcher with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said delta cities historically suffer from a glut of problems, ranging from a shortage of fresh water to tidal flooding and land subsidence.

“That’s why it’s important to designate delta areas as an integrated part of a city’s wider spatial planning, and not as an independent sector,” he said at the World Delta Summit taking place this week in Jakarta.

“To address the problems in delta areas, you first have to address the problems upstream.”

Jan, who chairs the summit organizing committee, warned that these problems will only worsen over time if better urban planning, water management and environmental stewardship are not adopted in upstream areas.

He stressed the importance of responding to these issues, given that 50 percent of the world’s population and two-thirds of its large cities are located on delta or coastal plains.

Deputy Public Works Minister Hermanto Dardak explained that Jakarta was not the only Indonesian delta city threatened by flooding, land subsidence and coastal erosion. Others include Samarinda in East Kalimantan, which sits on the Mahakam River delta, and Pontianak in West Kalimantan, situated at the mouth of the Kapuas River, the country’s longest waterway.

“All the delta cities across Indonesia share the same sorts of problems, which require a special focus in terms of environmentally friendly urban planning to resolve,” Hermanto said.

Jan said protecting delta areas globally “will be key to maintaining human civilization.”

“The flooding that occurred in Thailand is an example of what can happen when a delta area, in this case the Chao Praya River, becomes degraded. This will happen in the Ciliwung River delta in Jakarta unless we take steps to prevent it.”

The first ever World Delta Summit is being held in Jakarta and follows the Delta in Times of Climate Change Conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in October 2010.

Organizers say the summit “is the first such world event that combines and brings science, policies and practical implementations into the discussions.”

They expect the event to “produce a common consensus on how a sustainable governance of world deltas in developed and emerging economies should be attained and continuously improved.”

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PNG adopts ancestral mangrove practices to lower carbon footprint

PNG's climate change action committee says the ancient tradition of cultivating mangroves will help counter the effects of climate change.
ABC News 23 Nov 11;

A PNG action committee says it is looking at ways to lessen the expected impacts of climate change on populated coastal and highland areas.

Papua New Guinea has been flagged as "highly vulnerable" to the effects of climate change, placing its people, environment and economy at great risk.

The Office of Climate Change and Development's Adaptation Director is calling on PNG residents to return to their ancestors' traditional and environmental lifestyles to lessen the impacts.

Varigini Badira says this lifestyle change, along with creating a greener economy, will lower PNG's carbon footprint.

"We are encouraging our people to go back to looking at how they can use their traditional knowledge to combat climate change," he told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.

"Traditionally, our people have been living a sustainable lifestyle - with a very low carbon footprint - living in harmony with our seas, forest, animals and rivers."

Mr Badira says the body will support initiatives like growing mangrove trees around coastal villages to prevent rising sea levels from flooding and damaging houses.

Tending to mangroves is an ancient PNG custom, he said.

He added that the harmful effects of climate change are "a bleak story, however, this is not a doomsday situation."

We need a sustainable green economy, which is resilient to climate change, and the needs of the 85 per cent of our people must be addressed through this pilot programme."

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India: UN conference hope for Sunderbans

Times of India 24 Nov 11;

KOLKATA: Less than a week to go for the crucial United Nations climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, it is still uncertain whether world leaders will be able to successfully negotiate further commitments on emission cuts even as the Kyoto Protocol commitment period ends in 2012. But if negotiations succeed, it will pave the way for an incentive mechanism to preserve forests. And the Sunderbans, one of the biggest mangrove forests in this part of the globe, could benefit majorly.

"Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is a set of steps designed to use market incentives to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation. REDD+ is the incentive programme proposed to spur regeneration of forest. Apart from reducing green house gases, it delivers co-benefits like biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation. In Durban, we will push for the mechanisms," said Union ministry of new and renewable energy joint secretary Shashi Shekhar.

And that is where the local community in the Sunderbans could benefit by devising projects that can leverage the mechanisms. A study by Calcutta University has quantified the carbon absorption capacity of Indian Sunderbans stretching across 2,118 sq km at 4.15 crore tonne of carbon dioxide a year. If the REDD mechanism is introduced, the carbon sink can be monetised into carbon credits worth over $25 billion or Rs 1,25,000 crore. The amount is derived from a project in Himachal Pradesh in which carbon credits were sold under the UN-mandated Clean Development Mechanism to World Bank at the rate of around $6 per tonne of carbon.

"Mangrove trees act as a natural tank for carbon dioxide storage and absorb carbon for their own requirement. The higher the concentration of biomass, more will be the amount of CO{-2} drawn from atmosphere. This in turn will control the rise of atmospheric temperature and subsequent climate change," explained Calcutta University marine science department head Abhijit Mitra. As a primary greenhouse gas, large-scale CO{-2} emission is responsible for global warming as temperature rise leads to melting of polar ice and sea levels rise. This, in turn, threatens to inundate coastal regions. The Sunderbans both in West Bengal and Bangladesh,

is among the most vulnerable. Two islands in the Indian part of the Sunderbans have already gone under water, forcing its inhabitants to become climate refugees.

If the new forest formula finds favour in Durban, a big chunk of Sunderbans' 42 lakh inhabitants can benefit through specially designed

carbon reduction projects through preservation and regeneration of mangroves. It is then that the study by Mitra and other scientists from CU will be invaluable.

Funded by the Union Earth Science ministry, the two-year study of the carbon sequestration efficiency of the mangroves revealed that forest areas in the Sunderbans trapped four times the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by other forests. "Since the Sunderbans is a mangrove eco-system with roots that break the wave velocity and tidal surges, accelerating the process of sedimentation, carbon trapping is more efficient here than in other forests," Mitra explained.

To evaluate carbon stocks in the above-ground biomass of three dominant mangrove species (Sonneratia apetala, Avicennia alba and Excoecaria agallocha) in the Sunderbans, carbon content in stem, branch and leaf biomass was estimated using laser beams. Carbon content of the soil was also studied by scientists Saurov Sett, Kasturi Sengupta and Kakoli Banerjee. The paper has been published in Forest Ecology and Management 2011, a Japanese journal from the Elsevier publishing house.

The study focused on three mangrove species common in the Sunderbans - Sonneratia apetala (keora), Avicennia alba (genwa) and Excoecaria agallocha (bain) and found them capable of absorbing enormous amounts carbon from the atmosphere. Keora absorbed 15-73 tonne of carbon per hectare, genwa 6-9 tonne per hectare and bain 10-21 tonne per hectare. Soil sample studies showed carbon content ranging from 13.34 tonne per hectare to 20.86 tonne per hectare.

"We have studied western Sunderbans (Sagar Islands, Lothian Island, etc) and central Sunderbans (Matla, Jharkhali, etc). Next year, the carbon content of east Sunderbans will be studied with forest department. The latter is the core area which has witness least degredation due to human intervention. The central part of the Sunderbans is a poor carbon sink when compared to the western Sunderbans due to high salinity and lack of fresh water," Mitra said.

Pradeep Vyas, director, Sunderban Biosphere Reserve, said a programme on plantation along the embankment could be taken up if NGOs join hands with the forest department. "During cyclone Aila, more than 600 km embankment that protected the islands from sea water incursion

was washed away. Alongside the rebuilding of embankments, we have plans to take up mangrove plantation so that the trees act as a buffer to break down tidal surges during such calamities," he said, adding that the forest department was ready to collaborate with the likes of TERI, Winrock Foundation and WWF-India.

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Dubai's island builder to build artificial reefs

Adam Schreck Associated Press 23 Nov 11;

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Nakheel, the Dubai property developer behind the emirate's manmade islands, laid out plans Wednesday to build a string of artificial reefs off the city-state's coast in a bid to attract more aquatic life.

The project aims in part to revitalize fishing prospects in the azure Persian Gulf waters that lap at Nakheel-built islands shaped like palm trees and a map of the world. The company's island-building efforts, now halted, have been criticized for upsetting the Gulf's natural environment.

Construction of more than 500 reefs could begin in a matter of months, likely using a combination of boulders and concrete structures, said Nakheel Chairman Ali Rashid Lootah.

He didn't disclose how much the project would cost, but said it won't be a "big financial burden" for the debt-laden company. That is because many of the rocks and other materials Nakheel plans to use are already piled up outside stalled building sites south of the city.

"We want to do our maximum, our best, to regenerate the marine environment in the whole area of Dubai," Lootah told reporters at Nakheel's headquarters near its iconic Palm Jumeirah island. He said the initiative was Nakheel's own, and didn't come about because of pressure from the fishing industry or environmentalists.

Some planned reef sites could be suitable for commercial fisheries, though fishing will only be allowed at a fraction of sites so sealife is not depleted, Lootah said.

Nakheel was at the center of debt problems that helped plunge Dubai's economy into crisis in late 2009, panicking investors the world over. The crisis forced the company and its former parent Dubai World to renegotiate the terms on more than $35 billion in combined debt.

Nakheel's restructuring effort dragged on for over a year as it struggled to win the support of bank creditors and unpaid contractors who balked at the Nakheel's revised terms. The company completed the restructuring in August.

Several of the islands Nakheel built sit empty, the casualties of a property bust that began in 2008 and has yet to recover. It has shelved plans for additional islands, and is now focused on generating new income while completing projects on dry land.

Nakheel to build 500 artificial reefs off Dubai coast
Rory Jones The National 23 Nov 11;

Construction on the project, which is being built in consultation with Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG), will begin in the next three months and last about a year.

"We thought it is important to help increase the marine life," said Ali Rashid Lootah, chairman of Nakheel. "It's a normal practice that international businesses do some social work and we thought that because most of our development is on the marine side, we thought [the social work] should be that side."

The 500 artificial reefs will be built in and around Nakheel's various developments, such as the Palm Jumeirah, the World and the Palm Jebel Ali, and will be open for public use and fishing.

Mr Lootah said that project was not in response to a report by the United Nations University that Gulf coastal projects were damaging the ecosystem for marine life in the region.

Nakheel said it did not have an estimated cost for the project, but Keith Wilson, marine programme director at (EMEG) said a similar reef project had been built in Hong Kong at a cost of US$15 million.

Nakheel to work on human-made reef project
The artificial reefs are designed to attract and support large populations of fish and will cover the entire coast of Dubai
Kevin Scott Gulf News 23 Nov 11;

Nakheel plans to start work on a new human-made reef project within the next few months after some of its developments led to the loss of traditional fishing grounds.

The Dubai-based real estate developer, which recently completed a massive Dh59 billion debt restructuring, says the project will regenerate the city's fishing and marine environment.

The artificial reefs are designed to attract and support large populations of fish and will cover the entire coast of Dubai. Only a small percentage will be fishable in order to ensure fisheries resources will not be over-exploited.

Nakheel declined to comment on the cost of the project, which is going ahead with cooperation from Dubai Municipality and the Emirates Marine Environmental Group. It is estimated the development will take around one year to complete.

"This project will not be a big financial burden as most of the materials are with us," said Ali Rashid Ahmad Lootah, Nakheel's chairman.

"We thought it was important to help increase marine life now that we have more free time after our restructuring," he added.

The construction of iconic developments, such as the Palm Jumeirah and The World, involved the loss of some of Dubai's traditional fishing grounds and no commercial fishing is currently permitted at Nakheel projects.

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Emissions Cuts Off Course To Halt Global Warming: UNEP

Nina Chestney PlanetArk 24 Nov 11;

Emissions Cuts Off Course To Halt Global Warming: UNEP Photo: Reuters/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT ENERGY)
Smoke billows from a chimney at a coking factory in Hefei, Anhui province October 2, 2010.
Photo: Reuters/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT ENERGY)

Greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 could rise more than forecast to between 6 billion and 11 billion tons above what is needed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report showed on Wednesday.

The gap between countries' emissions cut pledges and what is needed to remain under what scientists say is the limit to avoid devastating effects of global warming has widened since its 2010 estimate of 5-9 billion tons as new data emerged, UNEP said.

Extreme weather is likely to worsen across the globe this century as the Earth's climate warms, U.N. scientists warned last week, but global carbon emissions rose to a record level last year.

"To stay within the 2 degree limit, global emissions will have to peak soon (and) total greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 must be about 46 percent lower than their 1990 level, or about 53 percent lower than their 2005 level," the report said.

Countries agreed last year in Cancun, Mexico, that deep emissions cuts were needed to hold an increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries will meet in South Africa next week for a U.N. summit but only modest steps toward a broader climate deal are seen likely.

A 2 degrees C limit is only possible if emission levels are kept to around 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020. If nothing is done to limit emissions, they could rise to around 56 billion tons in 2020, UNEP said.

If countries' weakest pledges were implemented, emissions could recede to around 54.6 billion tons, leaving a gap of around 11 billion tonnes.

If nations make more ambitious pledges and U.N. climate talks adopt stricter rules on land use, forestry and surplus emissions credits, the figure could drop to around 50 billion tonnes, the report said.

Some scientists have warned emissions will have to peak before 2020 and fall to around 44 billion tonnes by 2020 to have a good chance of limiting temperature rise.

UNEP believes the emissions gap can be bridged by increasing energy efficiency and accelerating the deployment of renewable energy sources.

"There is abundant evidence that emissions reductions of between 14 to 20 billion tonnes ... are possible by 2020 and without any significant technical or financials breakthroughs," said Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director.

"The window for addressing climate change is rapidly narrowing but equally the options for cost-effective action have never been so abundant," he said.

The report involved 55 scientists and experts across 15 countries.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

'Emissions gap' overshadows warming target: UNEP
AFP Yahoo News 24 Nov 11;

The gap between what is being pledged to tackle carbon emissions by 2020 and what is needed remains as wide as ever, perhaps wider, the UN said on Wednesday.

Reporting ahead of world climate talks, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said annual carbon emissions would have to fall by around 8.5 percent compared with 2010 to bring Earth on track for reaching a commonly-accepted goal for warming.

In 2010, the last UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, decided to limit the increase in global average temperature to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

The UNEP report sketched scenarios giving a "likely" chance -- more than 66 percent -- of meeting this target.

Annual emissions that in 2010 were 48 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), a standard benchmark of greenhouse gases, would have to peak before 2020 and then fall to 44 billion tonnes of CO2e in that year, it said.

Yet the report also pointed to a possible widening in the "emissions gap," a term describing the difference between carbon-curbing pledges and what is needed to reach the 2 C (3.6 F) objective.

Last year, UNEP estimated that this "emissions gap" was set to be between five and nine billion tonnes in 2020.

Its new estimates are higher, at six to 11 billion tonnes, "but are still within the range of uncertainty of estimates," the updated report said.

The size of the gap depends on how rigorously pledges are implemented and monitored, it explained.

Assuming that the 2020 global carbon curb is reached, emissions would still have to be followed by a steep decline, of an average of 2.6 percent per year, UNEP cautioned.

"To have a likely chance of complying with the 2 C target, total greenhouse-gas emissions in 2050 must be about 46 percent lower than their 1990 level, or about 53 percent lower than their 2005 level," the report said.

But it also highlighted a range of strong options for reducing the gap.

Potential reductions of around 16 billion tonnes of CO2e in 2020 lie in efficiency gains in electricity production, industry, transport, construction and agriculture; in switching to renewable energy sources and installing carbon capture at power stations; and in cutting emissions from deforestation and agriculture.

Gains could also be made if countries toughened the conditions of pledges that so far are voluntary and minimised use of "forest sinks" and surplus credits on the carbon market to offset their own emissions.

The estimates are made in an update of a report, "Bridging the Gap," issued ahead of the November 28-December 9 talks in Durban, South Africa, of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Set up nearly 20 years ago, the forum has been dogged by bickering over how to share out the burden of reducing carbon emissions, especially from coal, oil and gas, which are the backbone of the energy supply today.

Reacting to the report, the European Union's climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said, "The bad news is that the gap is widening. The good news is that UNEP shows that it can still be closed.

"But its report underlines why the world does not need more time to think what to do. The world must get its act together."

Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC's executive secretary, said, "Time is short, so we need to optimize the tools at hand.

"In Durban, governments need to resolve the immediate future of the Kyoto Protocol, define the longer path towards a global, binding climate agreement, launch the agreed institutional network to support developing countries in their response to the climate challenge and set out a path to deliver the long-term funding that will pay for that."

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