Best of our wild blogs: 19 Dec 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [12 - 18 Dec 2011]
from Green Business Times

Rock stars
from The annotated budak

Rainy Mandai
from Urban Forest

Brown-throated Sunbird takes Nectar from Rain-soaked Tabebuia Flowers from Bird Ecology Study Group

Removing huge driftnets at Pulau Ubin
from wild shores of singapore and sgbeachbum

Sungei Buloh in December – great time to go!
from lekowala!

111217 Nangka Trail to Durian Loop
from Singapore Nature

Operation Spoonie
from Life's Indulgences

Coastal Horseshoe Crab
from Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Great floods unlikely to recur

New Straits Times 18 Dec 11;

NIGHTMARE: The recent wet spell that caused flash floods in some parts of Kuala Lumpur have invoked memories of the Great Floods of 1971 when the city became like a sea. Michael Murty, Predeep Nambiar and S.K. Thanusha Devi find out if there is a likelihood of the disaster recurring

THE Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) has assured the public that the recurrence of the Great Floods of 1971, is "highly unlikely" as the chances of it happening again is one in a hundred years.

It said the volume of water in 1971 reached 650 cumecs (cubic metre per second), an amount that could not be dealt with at that time.

Today, the Smart tunnel can channel 300 cumecs of water and the Batu Jinjang pond another 300 cumecs, making it highly unlikely that the 1971 disaster would recur.

The RM1.9 billion Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (Smart) functions to divert floodwaters from the Sungai Klang catchment area while the Batu Jinjang pond, which cost RM528 million, has flood diversion channels that begin from Sungai Gombak to Sungai Batu, and from Sungai Keroh to Sungai Jinjang.

DID water resources management and hydrology division director Hanapi Mohamad Noor said the measures implemented to solve the flood problem had worked.

However, he pointed out that issues, such as clogged drains had proved to be a hindrance.

"Water is unable into flow to rivers if drains are clogged. As drains are small in size, they can overflow much easier, leading to floods."

Hanapi said litterbugs should be educated on the effects of their irresponsible action.

"Our monsoon drains are capable of handling large amounts of water if they are free of rubbish."

He also said Sungai Bunus had partly contributed to the flood problem here as it could only handle 50 cumecs of water.

Following the two-hour downpour on Tuesday, the volume of water in the river reached 200 cumecs, causing it to burst its banks.

The incident caused flash floods along Jalan Tun Razak and other major roads in Kuala Lumpur.

Hanapi explained that two retention ponds in Air Panas and Setapak Jaya, worth RM20 million, would be built to slow down the flow of water into Sungai Bunus.

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Malaysia: Sea cucumber research pays off

New Straits Times 19 Dec 11;

KUALA LUMPUR: To find an alternative source of income for thousands of fishermen in the east coast, a team of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) researchers has discovered a new way to breed sea cucumbers for commercial purposes.

The university's School of Health Sciences Associate Prof Dr Farid Che Ghazali said the research was carried out on sea cucumbers (Gamat Sawa) from the Stichopus vastus species through a hatchery method.

"We are currently increasing the number of sea cucumbers through closed-circuit hatcheries using treated seawater which is the first of its kind in Malaysia.

"The sustainable hatcheries will increase the species' stock population and reduce its dependency on wild habitats."

Farid said the technique was simple and involved equipment, such as cement, a small storage shed and salt water.

He added that the technique was used on the Stichopus vastus species as it contained extracts used in cancer vaccines, diabetes and anti-ageing properties.

On increasing the growth rate of sea cucumbers, the researchers also used sexual, asexual and cage-rearing breeding techniques.

Farid said the cage-rearing technique needed a temperature of between 27o and 30o Celcius and the species must be placed in a dark location.

Farid said sexual breeding was possible through broadcast spawning.

The asexual technique was carried out through agametic cloning.

The RM2 million three-year research, that started in 2008, is funded by a grant from the Science, Technology and Innovation Minstry's Agro-biotechnology Institute.

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Indonesia: Tackling impact of invasive water weeds on a volcanic lake

Breathing New Life Into Dying Lake
Dwi Lusiana Jakarta Globe 18 Dec 11;

Lake Ranu Pane, East Java. With its mineral-rich, emerald green waters and tree-lined shores, the crater lake of Ranu Pane on the slope of Mount Semeru has always been an attraction for visitors and an important source of water for locals.

But now this geological marvel inside the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in Lumajang, East Java, is under grave threat.

In the past year, the water level in the lake has dropped drastically, reducing its surface area by more than 30 percent.

The water itself has become more turbid and no longer fit for human consumption, locals say.

“Before, the water here used to be clean, as clean as at Ranu Regulo,” said Bunoyo, a resident of Ranu Pane village, referring to another lake inside the national park.

“But in the past year it’s become dirty, all because of the weeds.”

Weeded out

The sinister weed in question is the Salvinia molesta aquatic fern, also known as kariba weed, an invasive species from South America whose explosive growth over the past year has seen it carpet much of the lake’s surface.

Because of its thick cover, in some places 20 centimeters deep, it starves the algae in the water of sunlight, which in turn prevents them from photosynthesizing and producing oxygen.

As a result, the water turns brackish and the lake’s native plant and animal life die out. The weed itself thrives on the rich mineral content of the volcanic water and on pollutants, and continues to spread and absorb more water.

Sukodono, a Ranu Pane villager, said that the quality of the lake water has deteriorated so much, that it is no longer fit for bathing or washing.

“When the lake’s all covered in weeds like this, what use is it to us,” he said, adding that villagers now have to pay to have clean water brought to their village by tankers.

The villagers are not the only ones suffering, though. Scientists say that whistling ducks, native to the volcanic lakes in the area, are no longer seen at Ranu Pane, whereas large populations of the birds still thrive at Ranu Regulo and Ranu Kumbolo.

Real culprit

Lukman Hakim, a biologist at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, says the culprit in all this is not the kariba weed itself, but the factor that allowed it to bloom in the first place: pollution of the lake by humans.

“The falling water level and the appearance of the weeds are signs that the lake is polluted,” he said.

“Most of it comes from the leaching of pesticides and fertilizers from local farming activities, but there’s also the problem of people dumping trash in the water and bathing and washing there.”

Lukman said his own research has highlighted high nitrate levels in water samples from Ranu Pane, pointing to human pollutants. What aggravates the problem, he said, is the farming system used there.

“They don’t use terracing, despite having to farm on an incline, so what happens is that during heavy rains, all the chemicals get flushed directly into the lake downhill, along with large amounts of soil,” he said.

“If this keeps up and the lake is not restored immediately, our fear is that Ranu Pane will dry out within 10 years.”

Five-year plan

Officials in charge of the national park have taken key steps in response to the threat.

Emi Endah, head of the park’s conservation and restoration unit, said officials are clearing away the weeds and mulching it for use as organic fertilizer, thereby addressing both the leaching of chemical pollutants and the growing weed cover.

They are also planting more trees by the shoreline and setting up mud traps to prevent loose soil from washing into the water.

Emi said the restoration process, which also involves the villagers, is expected to take five years to complete.

Sri Utama is one of the Ranu Pane villagers getting in on the act. She and her neighbor are growing 400 tree seedlings that they plan to later plant by the lake. A total of 10,000 trees are expected to be planted during the restoration process.

With help from the park officials and Brawijaya scientists, as well as increased awareness of how their own actions have threatened the very lake they depend on, the villagers are making sure the lake sticks around for several generations yet.

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Thailand: Crack down on illegal resorts in marine national park

Bangkok Post 19 Dec 11;

RAYONG : The National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department has found 66 resorts are illegally located in the Khao Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samet National Park.

However the owners claim that they were established in the park before the area was declared a marine national park zone in 1991.

The number of resorts was recorded at 46 in 2001, according to the department.

Over the past 10 years the department has lodged complaints with the Criminal Court over seven cases of public land encroachment on the resort island.

The Criminal, Appeals and Supreme Courts ruled in favour of the department in five of the seven cases.

The other cases are still pending in the Criminal Court.

Conflicts over public land encroachment on the island between locals and authorities have remained unresolved for years. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which is a key agency investigating whether Koh Samet residents have rights over land possession on the island since 2002, on Saturday accompanied authorities to discuss the problem with residents and owners of the resorts.

The NHRC decided the state agency should issue a land ownership document for 34 cases of Koh Samet residents who have been living on 700 rai before the establishment of Khao-Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samet National Park in 1991.

When Abhisit Vejjajiva was the prime minister, he set up a committee to grant land documents to those people.

However, the issuing of land documents was suspended when the Pheu Thai Party took over government this year.

The Koh Samet residents have asked the government to speed up the issuing of the land documents as they want an end to the uncertainly.

Damrong Phidej, the department director-general, warned Koh Samet residents not to further encroach on public land on the island or legal action will be taken against them.

Mr Damrong said the department will continue taking islanders who encroach on the protected area to court.

"If you stay in your own place, we won't take any legal action against you. But if you trespass on forest lands, you will have to face legal action," Mr Damrong said.

Dujhathai Navapanich, an owner of Vongduern Villa on Koh Samet, said the department should make clear the allocation of 700 rai of land for residents as previously suggested by the NHRC.

"We have been living here since before the national park announcement," Ms Dujhathai said.

"What we need is land documents verifying our rights over our own land. This is our parents' land."

She said the island no longer meets the criteria of a national park, as it has become a major tourist attraction.

She said residents, local organisations and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation should work together to manage the island under the principle of natural conservation and fair treatment for locals.

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