Best of our wild blogs: 24 Dec 11

Wet at Cyrene with flooding at sea
from wild shores of singapore

Tekukkor intertidal with the “seawall” girls
from Compressed air junkie

2011: A Year in local Wildlife Photos
from Trek through Paradise

Asian Glossy Starling: A portrait
from Bird Ecology Study Group

111222 Lower Peirce
from Singapore Nature

from PurpleMangrove

Read more!

Flash floods hit several areas in Singapore

Julia Ng/Wayne Chan Channel NewsAsia 23 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE: Prolonged heavy rain over the southern and central parts of Singapore on Friday afternoon led to flash floods in several areas.

National water agency PUB said that from 2.20pm to 5.20pm, Orchard Road saw a total recorded rainfall of 152.8 millimetres.

However, PUB said there was no flooding at Orchard Road. Instead, water ponded at the open area of Liat Towers, the underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City, and the basement of Lucky Plaza due to the sustained heavy downpour.

This activated the flood barricades at Liat Towers. But it wasn't enough to stop the water from entering.

Seng Woon Fa, marketing and brand manager at Wendy's Restaurant, said: "The water started coming in at 5pm. By 5.20pm, we started to evacuate all our customers.

"The barricade at the outer level and inner level does not work because the water came in too suddenly and probably there is something wrong with the system... Our daily business will be affected about 60 per cent."

Mr Seng said he will try to resume business as soon as possible once all equipment in the restaurant has been checked after cleaning up and it is safe to switch the power back on.

Elsewhere, flash floods occurred at Cuscaden Road, Newton Circus, Kampong Java, Lincoln Road, Wee Nam Road, Cambridge Road, the junction of Moulmein Road and Thomson Road in front of United Square, and the junction of Bukit Timah and Sixth Avenue.

PUB had sent out alerts to advise motorists to avoid these areas.

Flood waters reportedly reached up to a height of 30 centimetres for some areas and generally subsided within one hour, except at Cambridge Road, Newton Circus and the junction of Moulmein Road and Thomson Road in front of United Square, where waters subsided by 6pm.

One viewer, Lee Siew Cheng, said she was trapped at United Square along flood-hit Thomson Road from 5pm to 6pm. She said she could only get out after the knee-high water subsided an hour later, as taxis did not want to go into the flood-hit area.

PUB said the affected areas are mainly low-lying areas.

Up to eight gates at Marina Barrage were opened to maintain the water level at Marina Reservoir within the normal range. The last time all eight gates were opened was on October 21 this year.

PUB added that Rochor Canal is currently being upgraded to improve the drainage system serving Cambridge Road, Newton Circus and the junction of Moulmein Road and Thomson Road in front of United Square.

The works commenced in October 2011 and are expected to be completed in January 2014.

The Bukit Timah Canal between Wilby Road to Maple Road is being widened and works will be completed by December 2012.

The drains at Wee Nam Road will also be expanded by 2013.

Meanwhile, PUB has advised the public to exercise caution as flash floods may occur in the event of heavy storms.

The public can also call the PUB's 24-hour Call Centre at 1800-2846600 or go to PUB's Facebook Page or PUB's iPhone app iPUBOne to report flash floods or to check on the flood situation.

The public can also get updates on water level information in key canals/drains at PUB's Facebook Page, via Twitter at, or through PUB's website.

For the latest weather reports, including heavy rain warnings, members of the public can call the National Environment Agency's (NEA) weather forecast hotline at 65427788, visit the NEA website or use the mobile weather service (Weather@SG -

SMS alert services on heavy rain warning and water level information are also open to public subscription at

- CNA/ms

No floods in Orchard Rd, just 'ponding': PUB
Ng Jing Yng Today Online 24 Dec 11;

Singapore - As heavy rain pelted down on Orchard Road yesterday, Liat Towers activated its S$200,000 flood barrier system. As an added measure, plastic barriers were also distributed. But they proved no match for the floodwaters, as levels reached knee height and poured into the basement-level shops - reminiscent of the scene in June last year when floodwaters last hit the building. Yesterday, some customers even had to form a chain of chairs to get out from one of the affected stores.

Prolonged heavy rain which fell over a three-hour period over the southern and central parts of Singapore resulted in flash floods at numerous areas. Cuscaden Road, Newton Circus, Kampong Java, Lincoln Road, Wee Nam Road, Cambridge Road, the junction of Moulmein and Thomson roads in front of United Square, and the junction of Bukit Timah Road and Sixth Avenue were affected.

Flood waters reached a height of 30cm in some areas and generally subsided within an hour, except at Cambridge Road, Newton Circus and the Moulmein-Thomson junction in front of United Square, where waters subsided by 6pm, said national water agency PUB. "The affected areas are mainly low-lying areas," it added.

While the total recorded rainfall at Orchard Road was 152.8mm, PUB said "there was no flooding at Orchard Road". "However, water ponded at the open area of Liat Towers, the underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City, and the basement of Lucky Plaza due to the sustained heavy downpour," it added.

The underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City remained closed yesterday evening. Some shop owners at the ground floor of Lucky Plaza said that water levels were ankle-high, but the situation this time was better than during previous floods.

At retail store Giordano, store in-charge Lyn Molino estimated losses of up to S$7,000 and said that customers were not only deterred by the wet floors but also by the stench from yesterday's floodwaters. "This is supposed to be a good opportunity for us to have extra earnings but it has all been affected," she said.

The floodwaters also washed out business at Starbucks and fast-food restaurant Wendy's, among other establishments, at Liat Towers. Wendy's manager (marketing and branding) Seng Woon Fa estimated losses of about 60 per cent of the day's earnings. "We are now just busy cleaning up and hope to resume business as soon as possible ... we are still checking if any equipment is spoiled," he said.

Earlier yesterday, before the rain fell, PUB said drains would be widened in some areas next year. Eight of the 10 projects will commence in the first quarter, of which five of will involve expanding roadside drains at flood-prone areas, including parts of Chinatown, roads near Bencoolen Street as well as Arab Street and Rochor Canal Road.

The PUB will also improve drainage in three other non-flood-prone areas: Roads will be raised at Jalan Dusun, Jalan Datoh and Jalan Raja Udang. And drains will be expanded at Shanghai Road, Wee Nam Road, Outram Road and Tiong Bahru Road.

Yesterday, up to eight gates at Marina Barrage were opened to maintain the water level at Marina Reservoir within the normal range. PUB advised the public to exercise caution as flash floods could occur in the event of heavy storms. The public can also call the PUB 24-hour Call Centre at 1800-284-6600 or go to PUB's Facebook page or on its iPhone app, iPUBOne, to report flash floods or to check on the flood situation.

The public can also get updates on water level information in key canals/drains at PUB's Facebook page, its Twitter account,, or website,

'Pool' at Liat Towers again after heavy rain
Grace Chua & Feng Zengkun Straits Times 24 Dec 11;

CUSTOMERS at the Starbucks outlet in Liat Towers were taken aback by a sudden waterfall yesterday afternoon, in a scene reminiscent of last year's flash floods.

In less than five minutes, water gushed down the steps and into the basement coffee joint, the Wendy's burger outlet next door, as well as the Massimo Dutti clothing store.

Though both automatic and manual flood barriers had been installed, they did not come up in time to stop the waterworks, leaving shoppers to pick their way across chairs laid out as stepping stones, or wade through the knee-deep water

Miss Nur Sadrina Isahak, 19, was with a friend at Starbucks when the flooding began, and snapped a photo for citizen journalism website Stomp.

Said the polytechnic student: 'The Starbucks crew actually used a (secondary) barrier in front of their shop, but that didn't work and water started seeping through.'

She managed to get out when it was shin-deep and still rising.

Yesterday's heavy rain caused 'ponding' at Orchard Road malls and floods in other areas, said national water agency PUB, as people thronged the shopping belt to do their last-minute Christmas shopping.

Liat Towers was the worst-hit, but Lucky Plaza was also inundated.

PUB said the 'ponding' at Liat Towers was caused by prolonged heavy rain which fell directly into the building's open basement area.

'Based on our monitoring, Stamford Canal did not overflow. If it had, it would have resulted in flooding on Orchard Road which was not the case yesterday,' said a spokesman.

'Our officers will work with the management of Liat Towers to investigate further and determine the appropriate additional measures to be taken.'

The water agency added that 152.8mm of rain fell on Orchard Road in the three hours between 2.20pm and 5.20pm.

In June last year, 100mm of rain fell in two hours when Orchard Road was flooded.

Then, both Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza were overwhelmed, with merchandise swept out and away by rising waters.

Yesterday's floods are likely to raise questions over the adequacy of flood-protection measures in the area, such as flood barriers at Liat Towers and the raising of a 1.4km stretch of road from Orange Grove Road to Cairnhill Road.

At the underpass between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City, the water was ankle-deep, with an oily sheen.

Wave after wave of pedestrians walked down the steps to the top of the underpass, only to be turned away when they saw it was cordoned off.

Other areas were also submerged in yesterday's downpour, with water rising as high as 30cm in some places.

Between 4pm and 6pm, Newton Circus, United Square, parts of Bukit Timah, Kampong Java and Lincoln Road were among those hit by flash floods.

Road improvement works in some of these areas had been completed, such as at Lincoln Road.

The PUB had raised a 200m stretch along the road last year by about 50cm, but it said the rain yesterday was still too intense. About 140.8mm fell in the area in the three hours between 2.20pm and 5.20pm.

An ongoing project at the nearby Rochor Canal to reduce flooding in the area will be completed by 2014.

At Wee Nam Road, which was also affected yesterday, ongoing work to expand the area's drains will be completed by 2013.

PUB said most of the flash floods had subsided by 6.30pm.

Along Sixth Avenue in Bukit Timah, water bubbled out of the drains and grates, but shop owners and residents said they were not affected.

Most shops in the area were prepared: They had installed flood protection features such as waterproof floors and raised platforms outside their shops after the floods last year.

Ms Amber Mo, 27, an employee at LED Works along Sixth Avenue, said the shop was flooded last year but spared from yesterday's rains.

'We were all watching the drains in the afternoon but thankfully the water never rose too high,' she said.

At Newton Circus, hawkers at the popular food centre there said that the nearby roads were flooded to about ankle height, a common occurrence during heavy downpours. Traffic was not affected, and the water subsided about half an hour after the rain stopped.

The storm drain between Bukit Timah Road and Dunearn Road was filled nearly to capacity with muddy brown water, though roads were not submerged.

Low tide yesterday (0.5m) was at 5pm. Up to eight gates at the Marina Barrage were opened to make sure the water level at the Marina Reservoir did not rise too high.

Additional reporting by Lim Yan Liang

Ten major drainage improvement projects scheduled for next year
Channel NewsAsia 23 Dec 11;

SINGAPORE: With more wet weather expected, businesses in flood-prone areas are taking measures to protect their properties.

Businesses do not want a repeat of what happened in Orchard Road in June this year, so several establishments are taking measures to prevent flash floods from affecting them.

Some shopping centres along Orchard Road are installing floodgates ahead of the holiday season to prevent floodwater from seeping into their shops.

This comes as the National Environment Agency warned of a wet Christmas.

For the rest of Singapore, more relief is on the way.

National water agency PUB plans to widen drains in some areas next year. Eight of the 10 projects will commence in the first quarter.

Five of these will involve expanding roadside drains at flood-prone areas, including parts of Chinatown, roads near Bencoolen Street as well as Arab Street and Rochor Canal Road.

The PUB will also improve drainage in three other non-flood prone areas.

Roads including Jalan Dusun near Balestier Road will be raised, and drains near Outram Road and Tiong Bahru road will also be expanded.

PUB will also improve drainage in three other projects at non-flood prone areas at Jalan Dusun, Jalan Datoh and Jalan Raja Udang where roads will be raised. And at Shanghai Road and Wee Nam Road and Outram Road and Tiong Bahru Road, where drains will be expanded.


Drainage in 10 areas to be improved
Kezia Toh & Grace Chua Straits Times 24 Dec 11;

THE day flash floods hit several areas, including Orchard Road, national water agency PUB also announced details of 10 new drainage projects that are meant to ease the problem.

Yesterday, it said it would roll out the works in areas both flood-prone and non-flood-prone, with eight projects starting in the first quarter of next year and two in the second quarter.

The projects - nine are expected to be completed by 2013 and the other by 2015 - are part of a bigger plan to upgrade infrastructure to further strengthen flood protection efforts.

Since the 1960s, Singapore has experienced widespread flooding during the monsoon season.

In the last two years, flash floods have wreaked havoc in places like Orchard Road, Little India and Bukit Timah. Yesterday, some of these areas were also hit, despite the agency's completed and ongoing improvement works there.

The PUB, in its statement, said drains will be expanded at flood-prone spots such as Arab Street and Rochor Canal Road. For example, a 1.5m-wide drain in Rochor Road - from Waterloo Street to Bencoolen Street - will be rebuilt into a 2.5m-wide box drain.

Non-flood-prone areas will also get an upgrade. Three roads - Jalan Dusun, Jalan Datoh and Jalan Raja Udang in the Balestier area - will be raised by between 25cm and 40cm.

Drains in Shanghai and Wee Nam roads will be expanded.

Along Shanghai Road in River Valley, the 0.8m-wide drain will be converted into a 1.2m-wide box drain.

To ensure that it is business as usual during the improvement works, PUB said roads and pedestrian pathways will remain accessible.

In cases where temporary footpaths or road diversions are needed, these will be done according to the Land Transport Authority's requirements.

Shop owners and residents will be informed about the project schedules before work starts.

'The improvement works will be carried out in stages and PUB will take appropriate measures to ensure minimal disruption to the businesses, traffic and pedestrians,' said a PUB spokesman.

When the work is completed, PUB will cover up the drains to provide additional space for pedestrian footpaths.

Over the last 30 years, the Government has invested $2 billion in upgrading drainage infrastructure.

PUB continues to spend about $150 million each year improving existing infrastructure in a bid to fend off floods.

Currently, 26 projects are being carried out islandwide, including in Owen Road and Bishan Street 21. Some projects have been completed, such as in Lincoln and Surrey roads, as well as road-raising works in the Orchard Road area.

For companies making floodgates, the flooding incidents have generated more business.

Contracting company Parafoil Design & Engineering, for example, has had 50 to 60 inquiries for floodgates this year.

Four have been installed at malls and condominiums.

Yesterday, a 5m-long floodgate was set up at Forum The Shopping Mall, and a floodgate will be put up at Tanglin Mall next month.

Read more!

Lightning strike left canoeist brain dead

36-year-old insurance manager couldn't have been saved: Coroner
Khushwant Singh Straits Times 24 Dec 11;

THERE was no chance insurance manager Tan Boon Kiat, who died 15 hours after being struck by lightning while canoeing at Pasir Ris Park, could have been saved.

Evidence indicated that the 36-year-old was already brain dead when he was placed on a ventilator at Changi General Hospital (CGH), said State Coroner Victor Yeo in his findings at an inquiry yesterday.

Mr Tan was canoeing at sea with 20 other friends on March 5 when the incident occurred at about 5pm.

Police investigation officer Ma Weiliang said in a report prepared for the inquiry that Mr Tan was not breathing when paramedics arrived at about 6pm, six minutes after they were called.

He was rushed to CGH, where he was put on mechanical ventilation. A brain scan later also showed major cerebral injury resulting from oxygen deprivation.

Mr Tan had been jogging with his friends earlier that day before heading out on the rental canoes at Pasir Ris Park. The group decided to paddle back to shore when it started raining shortly after, but ventured out again when the rain stopped.

He was in the rear of a double-seater canoe while marketing executive Melanie Koo Yoon Mei, 32, was paddling in front.

At about 4.30pm, the weather turned bad and suddenly a bolt of lightning struck near the canoe, leaving Ms Koo momentarily stunned. Turning around, she saw Mr Tan unconscious and lying backwards.

The group quickly returned to shore and applied cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Mr Tan but could not revive him.

Forensic pathologist Wee Keng Poh was quoted in the police investigation report as saying that the lightning strike not only caused extensive burns, but also stopped Mr Tan's heart.

He added that the use of a ventilator would not have improved a patient's chances of recovery unless it was applied within five minutes of his heart stopping.

In an advisory included in the report, the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) said its facilities are equipped with lightning protection systems, and lifeguards ensure swimmers get out of swimming pools if there is any threat of lightning.

The SSC also recommended that outdoor activities be postponed or cancelled, and that people seek shelter immediately if they are caught in the open during bad weather.

Read more!

Singapore group entered Malaysian park illegally

Desiree Tresa Gasper The Star 23 Dec 11;

JOHOR BARU: A group of 21 Singaporeans who were rescued from the flood-hit part of Endau Rompin National Park entered the area illegally as the park was closed to the public due to the monsoon season.

Johor National Parks Corporation director Suhairi Hashim said they did not have permits to enter the park and also defied warnings by a park official to stay away from the area.

This was contrary to a report by a Singapore daily that the group were not warned about weather conditions and that they had permits.

Suhairi said that before entering, the group members who visited the National Park office in Kahang were informed that the park has been closed to the public.

“Our officer in Kahang explained to them that the area was prone to floods.

“However, there are no gates to prevent people from entering.”

“We only knew that they had gone into the park when the group members called us for help after flood waters cut off all access,” he said.

He explained that the group were trapped on their way out of the park and was eventually forced to spend the night at the park's complex.

“We tried to help them as much as we could and even got a medical unit to drop by and treat a one-year-old child who was part of the group,” he said, adding that the child was down with fever.

“The group's guide suggested that we allow them to use boats to exit the area but the waters were too choppy and we advised them against it,” he said.

Suhairi said he eventually called the Mersing Fire and Rescue Department which sent a helicopter to transport the group out on Dec 20.

“I also personally called the Singapore Consulate to arrange for a bus for the group to travel back to Singapore,” he said.

The report by the Singapore daily had quoted some of the members as saying they did not receive any medical attention and were only saved after they got in touch with the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs via satellite phone.

21 stranded visitors rescued
Jassmine Shadioe New Straits Times 21 Dec 11;

MERSING: TWENTY-ONE Singaporeans, including a year-old, stranded in the Endau-Rompin National Park for two days, were rescued yesterday.

The group and three locals, who entered the park without permission, were flown out by Fire and Rescue Department's helicopters about noon.

Johor National Parks Corporation director Suhairi Hashim said the Singaporeans had sought permission to enter the park from officers at its branch in Kahang on Dec 17, but their application was rejected because of the bad weather which could cause floods and landslides.

"The area has been cordoned off and has not been opened to the public since Dec 1 as it was not safe. However, it was learnt that the Singaporeans sneaked into the park on five four-wheel drive vehicles."

The journey into the national park from Kahang town is through a 56km dirt road. Because of the constant downpour, the road was muddy and slippery.

The Singaporeans arrived at the park's office late in the evening and the officers-in-charge had no choice but to allow them to spend the night at its chalet.

"It was already getting dark by then and if the officers had told the Singaporeans to turn back, it would have put them in greater danger, in addition to the risk of being attacked by wild elephants," Suhairi said.

The next day, the park officers accompanied the visitors out, but they were stranded at Sungai Lembakoh, when flood waters cut off their access route.

The visitors were taken back to the chalets. The park officers radioed for food supplies to be flown in as the park had been closed since Dec 1.

However, by 12.45pm yesterday, the Singaporeans, and the three locals who had helped get them into the park, were flown out by the Fire and Rescue Department Air Unit's Mi-8 helicopters based in Subang, Selangor.

The visitors returned to Singapore by bus.

Suhairi said the Johor National Parks Corporation had alerted the Tourism Department about the closure of the Endau-Rompin National Park and posted it on their official website and Facebook

He added that the park had heavy rain about the same time of the year, every year, and all travel agents were aware of its closure.

Suhairi urged people not to trespass into the national parks as it is very dangerous.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanked the Malaysian authorities for mounting the rescue mission.

The Singaporeans were in good health and had since arrived in the republic, the ministry said in a statement.

Read more!

Malaysia: New home for 3 wild elephants

M Hamzah Jamaludin New Straits Times 23 Dec 11;

BENTONG: THE Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) successfully relocated three out of five wild elephants that were captured in Kampung Troh near here, last week.

The pachyderms were relocated to an undisclosed location in Taman Negara on Wednesday.

Twenty State Perhilitan employees, including those from the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, were involved in the seven-hour relocation process of the two adult females and a year-old calf, which began at 8am.

Another two male elephants -- a 15-year-old and a 30-year-old -- will be relocated to the same area tomorrow.

The wild elephants were part of a large herd in Kemasul Forest Reserve which had encroached into nearby villages and destroyed crops for the past few years.

State Perhilitan director Khairiah Mohd Shariff said her staff had to use a tranquilliser on the calf after it tried to attack them.

The department had also used two tame elephants, Che Mek and Kala, to help in moving the two adult pachyderms into a lorry.

"Apart from the two relocation elephants, villagers also helped us move the wild animals into the lorry," said Khairiah, who supervised the relocation process.

Also present was Sabai state assemblyman Datuk M. Davendran.

Khairiah said the wild animals would have a bigger area to roam around in the national park.

"This is the biggest translocation exercise in the last five years."

Khairiah also congratulated her staff for their efficiency in handling the capture and relocation tasks.

She believes that between 20 and 25 wild elephants are still roaming in the Kemasul Forest Reserve.

Khairiah said there was still a possibility that the animals would encroach into the nearby villages here and in Temerloh.

The encroachments were more rampant during the fruit season, she added.

"The villagers should alert us if they come across the elephants.

"Early information would help us capture them before they can damage crops or harm people."

She advised the villagers not to risk their lives by taking things into their own hands.

"They can also be charged if they harm the animals."

Read more!

Giant Clam Culture To Help Conserve Marine Heritage

Haslin Gaffor Bernama 23 Dec 11;

This is the second of two articles on conservation efforts at Sabah's Tun Sakaran Marine Park

SEMPORNA, Dec 23 (Bernama) -- The Giant Clam Culture Centre on Buhey Dulang Island plays a vital role in conserving the marine ecosystem at the Tun Sakaran Marine Park off the coast of Semporna, Sabah.

The centre, the first of its kind under Sabah Parks, conducts research and cultures giant clams with seeds supplied to the local community to help them reduce their over-reliance on natural marine resources.

The centre, established in 2006 under the Semporna Islands Darwin Project, is the result of cooperation between Sabah Parks and the Marine Conservation Society-United Kingdom.

Sabah Parks' Marine Research Officer Nasrulhakim Maidin noted that the culture centre serves as an attraction where outsiders can learn more about the clams.

"Giant clam culture is important because their numbers have depleted from over-harvesting around the waters of Semporna," he told Bernama during a visit to Buhey Dulang Island of the coast of Semporna.

The giant clam is a mollusc in the Bivalvia class that thrives in Indo-Pacific waters.

There are seven species of giant clams in Malaysian Waters, and some can grow up to 60cm in length.

According to Nasrul, giant clams not only thrive on plankton but also produce their own nutrients through photosynthesis, with the help of the algae.

"The giant clam plays an important role in the marine ecosystem as it filters the water," he said.


So how to culture the giant clams? First, the giant clam brood stock is selected and its size is recorded for future reference.

Then the clam shell is cleaned with a nylon brush and numbered for future reference. The seeding is done by injecting diluted serotonin, a hormone, to stimulate spawning.

Within minutes, the giant clam stock reacts and produces eggs and sperm that are collected in big plastic bags to fertilize in a few days.

Six months after hatching, the seed is released into the sea within the reef area, initially in cages to protect them from predators.

The seeds that hatch at the centre are mostly relocated near Ribbon Reef, an area within the national park allocated for education on marine life.


In the long term, said Nasrul, there were plans to commercialise the giant clams for ornamental purposes as well.

Even now, many parties have indicated their interest in buying giant clams but locals are being given priority to sell them.

"We give the seeds to the locals, who will breed them for one or two months before they are ready for sale or export," he said.


Elvin Michael Bavoh, a marine officer at Tun Sakaran Marine Park's first research and culture centre, noted that so far about 2000 seeds have been relocated to the surrounding areas.

Another 1,000 seeds are waiting to be relocated from the centre.

He pointed out that the effort to culture giant calms in concentrated on two species -- tridacna gaigas and tridacna derasa -- which are fast diminishing in the waters of Semporna.

Currently only the tridacna derasa is being cultured with the brood stock from the waters of Semporna, while preparations are being made to culture the tridacna gaigas with brood stock from the Philippines.

Breeding the giant clams is no easy job, calling for close monitoring, because giant clams are easy prey to natural predators and humans.

In August, several of sea nomads known as Palauh, living around the waters of Semporna, were seen picking relocated giant clams not far from Buhey Dulang island, but they were stopped in time by park workers.

Preventing these giant clams from being stolen is a serious challenge for employees at the centre, and the park relies on cooperation from the islanders in conserving both the clams and, in the bigger picture, the marine heritage at Tun Sakaran Marine Park.


Read more!

Floods, heat, migration: How extreme weather will transform cities

George Webster, for CNN 23 Dec 11;

(CNN) -- When Tropical Storm Washi ripped through the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro last weekend, it dumped in one day more than the city's entire average rainfall for the month of December.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, a total of 181 millimeters of rainfall was recorded in the area last Friday, compared to the expected 99.9 millimeters for the whole month.

The devastating flash floods, which have so far claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, arrived just weeks after a report from the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change indicated that climate change has significantly increased the number of people at risk from flooding globally.

The report, "Climate: Observations, projections and impacts," examined how climate change will modify the weather in 24 countries around the world.

While findings vary from region to region, it forecasts an overall increase in this century of coastal and river floods, extreme weather events and a global temperature rise of between 3-5C, if emissions are left unchecked.

According to climate change experts, cities from New York in the U.S. to Dhaka in Bangladesh are likely to be heavily affected.


Simon Reddy, executive director of the C40 Cities network, which promotes sustainable development among local city authorities around the world says this could be a catalyst for migration into urban areas.

"If the forecast temperature rise is accurate, then entire countries could be irrevocably damaged in certain parts of the world -- and their inhabitants will have to find somewhere else to live," he said.

To illustrate his point, Reddy says that a third of flood-prone Bangladesh, in South Asia, could be made uninhabitable by a two-foot (60 cm) rise in regional sea-levels.

The Met Office report echoes this point, predicting that climate change will subject an additional five million people in Bangladesh to floods, if they continue to live in the same place.

"Where are they going to go?" said Reddy. "In most cases they'll move to where the opportunities and the jobs are -- the nearest habitable city."

With 70% of the world's population expected to live in cities by 2050, according to figures from the U.N., the impact of climate change on the urban environment is more prescient than ever before.


Historically, cities built up around water highways and coastal regions have flourished due to their association with maritime trade and transport, said Jan Corfee-Morlot, senior climate change analyst for the OECD.

"This means that a disproportionately high number of the world's cities are located in areas that are now increasingly at risk of floods," she added.

According to Morlot, recent risk studies from the OECD as well as the newly published data from the Met Office report predict that extreme "once-in-a-lifetime" weather events such as flash floods and coastal hurricanes are going to become significantly more commonplace.

But, she says, it's not just cities in the developing world that are ill-equipped to manage the problem.

"In America alone -- New York, Miami, New Orleans -- these cities face terrible exposure to floods, and unlike cities such as Rotterdam (in the Netherlands) -- they do not have the defenses to prevent them."

In the future, Morlot believes that major cities will have to adapt to the reality of regular flooding by building new infrastructure, such as vast flood barriers and "evacuation avenues" -- wide roads with dedicated lanes for emergency vehicles.

Extreme heat

Global temperatures are projected to rise by between three to five degrees over the next century, according to the Met Office.

Dr David Dodman, senior researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development, says that temperatures in the city will far exceed that, due to a phenomenon known as the "urban heat island effect."

"The built environment tends to absorb heat during the day and release it slowly at night, so there's little opportunity for the city to cool down" he said. "This means that temperature rises from climate change will be significantly exaggerated in urban areas."

Aside from increased instances of heat-related deaths, particularly among the elderly population, Dodman says that the "wicked irony" of the urban heat island effect is that it stimulates a demand for air conditioning.

"In places like Delhi, we're seeing a growing middle class use their wealth to pay for electricity-hungry air-conditioning units, which contribute to global warming, and this of course creates a negative feedback loop."

Water shortages

According to Dodman, the predicted rise in global sea levels pose a threat to city aquifers -- underground wells that provide a source of fresh water for many urban settlements around the world.

"In coastal cities, the rise causes 'saline intrusion' -- where salty water gets into the fresh water aquifers, making it undrinkable" he says.

In addition, Dr Doug Crawford-Brown, executive director at Cambridge University's Centre for Climate Mitigation Research, anticipates that stock piles of bottled water will be have to be rationed when fresh water distribution systems buckle under the impact of city floods.

"Even in a developed city like London, which is very well protected by the Thames barrier, high intensity rainfall could create problems with the old sewage system -- causing the potential spread of microbial disease," he said.


Simon Reddy believes that urbanities of the future will be defined "not just by how they restrict their own contributions to climate change, but by the infrastructure and policies they employ to defend against the consequences of it."

To this end, Reddy says that many of the cities in the C40 network have already started to implement adaptive measures.

"In Seoul, for instance, they have removed a highway and restored an ancient river running through the city. This creates a wind corridor to it keep cool, and will also help drain water away in times of high rainfall," he said.

Meanwhile, New York and Tokyo have led the way with green rooftops and urban gardens.

"Urban green spaces are going to be more critical than (they have) ever been," he said. "Not only do they absorb heat and rainfall -- helping to keep cities cool and dry, but they provide opportunities for small scale food cultivation -- so city dwellers can become a little less dependent on imports."

For Matthew Kahn, economics professor at the UCLA's Environment Institute, the accelerated urbanization caused by climate change, will mean that for most cities, the only way is up.

The professor, whose book "Climatopolis" details how future cities could turn climate change to their advantage, says that he expects future modern cities to accommodate the flood of migrants by building energy efficient high-rise residential tower blocks, over small areas of land -- "much like we see in Singapore today," he said.

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