Best of our wild blogs: 16 Jan 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [9 - 15 Jan 2012]
from Green Business Times

19 Jan (Thu): Free screening of ‘Sharkwater’
from wild shores of singapore

First dive of 2012: Catching up with old friends
from Pulau Hantu

Singapore's only resident Pitta
from Life's Indulgences

A Cloudy Morning @ Pulau Ubin
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Resident surprised to find snake on staircase at Woodlands block
from Lazy Lizard's Tales and Beware of 2m-long python spotted swimming in Punggol Waterway

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents”
from Otterman speaks

Black-naped Oriole
from Monday Morgue

Read more!

Droughts a bigger worry than flash floods: Vivian

Features to alleviate flooding woes should store water too, he says
Kezia Toh Straits Times 16 Jan 12;

DROUGHTS are more worrying than flash floods, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday, as Singapore approaches the dry spell of the North-east Monsoon next month.

Changing weather patterns mean that there is a greater likelihood of intense rain - as well as dry spells, he said.

'What is happening to the weather now is greater variability, there are days with very intense rain, and those days of intense rains may be increasing,' said Dr Balakrishnan.

'But it is equally possible, and indeed likely, that there will also be dry spells.'

He cited a drought in the early part of 2010 which affected Johor Baru in neighbouring Malaysia as well as Singapore, which led to a dip in water levels in reservoirs here and in Johor.

'Prolonged drought is something that is of greater worry to me, than a flash flood which can be resolved in 15 minutes to half an hour,' he said.

His comments came as Singapore approaches the dry phase of the North-east Monsoon in February and March, which typically sees fair and occasionally windy days with little or no rain.

That is why recommendations by an expert panel last week to tackle flooding problems should also cater to possible droughts, said Dr Balakrishnan, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of Eco Day Out 2012 @ South West, a recycling event organised by the South West Community Development Council, the National Environment Agency and Hong Kah grassroots organisations.

The panel had proposed detention ponds and green roofs to alleviate flooding problems.

These features, said Dr Balakrishnan, can also store water which will be recycled to wash cars and streets, and water the plants, during dry spells.

Yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan also spelled out a timeline for plans to ease flooding woes.

Improvement works at Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza - which bore the brunt of the waterworks in June 2010 and last month - must be completed within three months, he said.

Meanwhile, the decision whether to install a detention pond to solve Orchard Road's flood woes, and where to locate it, should be made in the next six months, he added.

It would require land the size of two to three football fields, and store excess stormwater temporarily, releasing it at a controlled rate to protect downstream areas.

The Stamford Canal will also be scrutinised for any possible increase in capacity, he said.

Last week, the panel advised the authorities to invest in a digital map of land heights, known as a digital elevation map, and said it would have to be accurate to within 10cm to be useful.

Within a year, the beginning of the elevation map should take shape, said Dr Balakrishnan.

But the proposals still need careful planning before they can become reality, he said, counting finances and trade-offs such as land use as factors.

He said: 'It does take some time to make sure we've considered all the factors, and come up with a plan that is realistic, implementable, and one which the public will agree is worth the money that will be spent.'

Anti-flood measures must also cater to droughts: Dr Balakrishnan
Sara Grosse Channel NewsAsia 15 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's investments in measures to prevent flooding must be just as effective in managing the other extreme weather condition - droughts. Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said this at a community driven recycling event, ECo Day Out at South West on Sunday.

The environment minister pointed out during the event that the variability in the weather has been greater, which means more intense rain and possible dry spells.

This is something that the panel of experts that is reviewing flood protection should bear in mind, said Dr Balakrishnan.

He said: "A prolonged drought is something which is of greater worry to me than a flash flood, which can be resolved over 15 minutes to half an hour. One key point which I'm watching is to make sure that a lot of the recommendations that have been put by panel would also make sense if we have to deal in future with dry seasons or with droughts.

"So for instance, having green roofs, having detention ponds, having close water cycle loops, using water more efficiently at a local level. For example, do we really need portable water fit for drinking to be used for washing cars, to clean the streets, to water our plants?"

The panel of experts on anti-flood measures submitted its report earlier on Tuesday.

Some of the other recommendations by the flood panel include the use of rooftops and more porous pavements.

While the Environment Minister agrees with all the recommendations, he said there might be some issues translating them into reality.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "It means getting the finances, and equally important, there are also trade-offs involved. For instance, land and alternative uses for that land.

"It does take some time to make sure we have considered all the factors and come up with a plan which is realistic, which is implementable and one which the public will agree is worth the money that will be spent on these plans."

He added that the national water agency, PUB, will have its hands full in fixing the flood problem.

The improvement works at Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza must be completed within three months. It also has about six months to decide if it should go ahead to build detention ponds, as well as where they will be located.

The Stamford Canal will be checked to see if its current capacity is really maximised within nine months, and by the end of the year, an accurate digital elevation map of Singapore should take shape.


Managing floods ... and droughts
Sara Grosse Today Online 16 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE - Singapore's investments in anti-flood measures must be just as effective in managing droughts, the other extreme weather condition, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday at a community event.

The greater variability in the weather means more intense rain and possible dry spells, which the panel of experts reviewing Singapore's flood protection should bear in mind, he said.

"A prolonged drought is something which is of greater worry to me than a flash flood, which can be resolved over 15 minutes to half an hour," said Dr Balakrishnan. "A key point that I'm watching is to make sure that a lot of the recommendations by the panel would also make sense if we have to deal in future with dry seasons or with droughts.

"For example, do we really need potable water fit for drinking to be used for washing cars, to clean the streets, to water our plants?"

The panel submitted its report on Tuesday. The recommendations included having green rooftops and more porous pavements.

While Dr Balakrishnan agreed with all the recommendations, he said there may be some issues in making them a reality.

"It means getting the finances and, equally important, there are also trade-offs involved. For instance, land and alternative uses for that land," he said.

"It does take some time to make sure we have considered all the factors and come up with a plan that is realistic, which is implementable and one which the public will agree is worth the money that will be spent."

He added that national water agency PUB will be busy fixing the flood problem.

Improvement work at Liat Towers and Lucky Plaza must be completed within three months, while PUB has about six months to decide if it should go ahead to build detention ponds and their locations.

Stamford Canal will be checked within nine months to see if its current capacity is really maximised and, by the end of the year, an accurate digital elevation map of Singapore should take shape.

Drainage issues mostly solved: PUB chairman
Remaining isolated pockets need to be thought through
Lynn Kan Business Times 15 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE has made huge strides in tackling its drainage issues, but small isolated pockets remain to be solved, PUB chairman Tan Gee Paw told BT.

'When you look at it overall, we've done extremely well in terms of drainage,' said Mr Tan.

He pointed to the findings laid out in a recently publicised expert panel report, which showed that Singapore successfully brought down flood-prone areas from 629 ha in 1980 to 56 ha today.

'But there are still pockets to be played out. We've tackled the bigger issues. Now comes the isolated pockets that will be very difficult and very costly. This will have to be thought through very carefully.'

Mr Tan called the 12-member expert panel's assessment on Singapore's flood mitigation measures a 'balanced report'.

'(The reduction in flood-prone areas) is an achievement that many countries will find difficult to follow, especially one in a tropical climate when the rainfall doesn't come in drizzles, but when it comes, it comes, ' he said.

Mr Tan spoke to BT at the sidelines of the 26th annual Chua Chor Teck Memorial Lecture last Wednesday. He had delivered this year's lecture.

Mr Tan, a former director of Keppel Corporation in the 1970s, spoke about the commonalities between the offshore and marine industry and Singapore's water story.

When asked how Singapore could best deal with climate change, Mr Tan said that it is best not to wait for statistical evidence and to prepare for it right away.

'Anecdotal evidence is sufficient for us to take action,' he said. 'I think we need 50-60 years of data . . . for us to definitely say (that climate change is a proven phenomena). So, the jury is out. But it is best for us to be prepared.'

Mr Tan said that the government has already embarked on planning to gird Singapore against these vagaries of weather change.

At the same time, Singapore's water industry should also be keeping its fingers on the pulse of morphing weather patterns.

'Every crisis provides a challenge for industries. We would expect the water industry to open their eyes and watch out for changing water patterns, how to move into the right countries at the right time,' he said.

Although Singapore's woes revolve around too much rainfall - three cases of floods hit the Orchard Road shopping belt in 18 months - Mr Tan said that the republic's enduring concern is about securing enough water for itself.

'Climate change - as it tends to the extremes - will challenge the paradigm of water supply,' he said. 'What is important is the reliability of water supply. There is no use having a lot of water, yet no reliability.

'Recycling (water) does help, because it gives a degree of reliability against water. But it's not the ultimate solution because you still need the first drop of water.

'The ultimate would be seawater desalting. Maybe the future lies in technological breakthroughs in seawater desalting, which can then pave the way to meet the challenge of climate change.'

Read more!

Not a good Rabbit Year for abandoned bunnies

Judith Tan Straits Times 16 Jan 12;

LUCK has run out for pet rabbits as the Year of the Rabbit draws to a close.

At least 475 rabbits - the animal feted and bought during the Chinese New Year last year - were dumped in parks, wooded areas or void decks between last February and the year end.

About 100 of these were rescued by members of the House Rabbit Society of Singapore (HRSS); another 375 were brought in to or left at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

The Chinese Year of the Rabbit started last Feb 3 and ends on Sunday.

The society said the 100 it rescued was 30 per cent more than the number of bunnies it saved the previous year.

HRSS president Jacelyn Heng said even pedigree rabbits, some costing up to $1,000 each, are not immune to being dumped.

Citing the case of a male Silver Marten now looked after by HRSS while waiting to be adopted, she said: 'This is one of the rarer breeds here and yet it was abandoned in a rubbish bin on Oct 21.'

Other pedigree breeds unceremoniously dumped after the novelty of looking after them wore off included the Netherland Dwarf, Lionhead Dwarf, Holland Lop and Angora.

Last July, nine pedigree rabbits were found crammed into a rusty cage the size of two large handbags at the void deck of a Tampines housing block. One had an ear missing; all were gaunt, had flu symptoms and dirty, matted fur.

The HRSS, SPCA and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority had put out a public message early last year, urging people not to buy the animal 'for good luck', just because it was the Year of the Rabbit, only to neglect them later.

The plea fell on deaf ears.

Ms Heng said people are not aware that it is an offence to dump their pets. Those caught doing so may be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year or both fined and jailed.

SPCA executive director Corinne Fong said getting to the root of pet abandonment will require looking into the practice of pet buyers sourcing the animals from sellers they make contact with online.

'Cut out this unregulated trade, and you can cut down on part of the problem of pet abandonment,' she said, in a reference to the practice of pet shops - a regulated trade - microchipping the cats and dogs they sell.

Good pet shops will even advise prospective buyers on the care needed for the animal, so buyers know the responsibility pet ownership entails.

Like the animal welfare groups looking out for abandoned cats and dogs, HRSS faces the problem of finding good homes for its cotton-tailed charges.

Ms Heng said: 'There's a misconception that rabbits cannot be litter-trained or that they need to be caged constantly. That's not true.'

The HRSS pushes for the rabbits it re-homes to be kept in cage-free environments, but those who show up to adopt them may not be ready to give their new pets free run of their homes.

There may be a reprieve yet. Haw Par Corporation executive director Chng Hwee Hong has expressed interest in helping the HRSS house its abandoned pets.

Ms Heng confirmed that the HRSS has been in touch with him, but talks can take place only after the Chinese New Year as Mr Chng is away in China.

She said the HRSS needs to sort out a concern: 'The HRSS is all about indoor housing as rabbits do not do well outdoors. We'll speak to Mr Chng to find out more about his plans for a rabbit sanctuary of sorts.'

Read more!

Singapore Environment Council launches journalism awards

Tan Weizhen Today Online 16 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE - The search is on for the best environmental journalists in Asia. The inaugural Asian Environmental Journalism Awards, launched yesterday by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), is looking for winners in three categories.

These are the Coca-Cola Environmental Story of the Year, the City Developments Limited Environmental Journalist of the Year and Excellence in Environmental Reporting by a media organisation.

For the story of the year, the team of judges are looking for professional or citizen journalists who displayed outstanding journalistic qualities in covering an environmental issue here or in the region.

The journalist of the year should have produced an "outstanding body" of at least five environmental stories from last September to this June.

For the third award, the media organisation should have a consistently high performance in covering environmental issues in Asia.

The eight judges include former National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah.

SEC executive director Jose Raymond, a former journalist, said: "The SEC is proud to take the lead in organising the Asian Environmental Journalism Awards and in championing the effort to promote exceptional environmental journalism."

Winners of the first two categories will receive S$3,000 and a trophy each. The winning media organisation will receive a trophy. Applications open today and close on June 30. Interested parties can visit Tan Wei Zhen

SEC launches environmental journalism awards
Channel NewsAsia 16 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: The search is on for green journalists and media organisations in Singapore.

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) launched the inaugural Asian Environmental Journalism Awards on Monday, with the aim of honouring outstanding works of environmental journalism by professional, citizen journalists and media organisations.

Applications for the awards close on June 30.

Interested journalists and media organisations can visit for application guidelines and details.

An eight-member judging panel, helmed by former national development minister Mah Bow Tan, will decide the winners.

SEC said the Coca-Cola Environmental Story of the Year recognises professional or citizen journalists who have displayed outstanding journalistic qualities in covering an environmental issue in Singapore or in the region.

The CDL Environmental Journalist of the Year recognises professional or citizen journalists who have contributed at least five environmental articles from September 1, 2011 to June 1, 2012.

The SEC will also give out the Excellence in Environmental Reporting Award to a media organisation for consistently high performance in covering environmental issues in Asia.

Winners of the first two awards will receive S$3,000 and a trophy, while the winning media organisation will receive a trophy.

The winners will be announced on July 27.

- CNA/cc

Read more!

Malaysia: Tiger killed after stalking women

New Straits Times 16 Jan 12;

KUALA KANGSAR: It was the scariest moment for mother and daughter as they came face to face with two tigers early yesterday.

The tiger that was shot dead by Rela personnel. Another tiger ran off.

However, Rohani Osman, 50, and Mastura Kamaruddin, 16, who were tapping rubber trees at Kampung Chuar Hulu, Kati, near here, kept their cool and decided to try an age-old method to ward off the tigers.

Remembering the advice of elderly folks that tigers would only attack humans from behind, the two women slowly walked backwards with the tigers following them menacingly.

They continued to walk backwards to the top of a hill, fervently praying to be rescued.

“However, the two tigers kept coming at us, growling and waiting for an opportunity to attack.

“I braced myself and threw stones but it did not work.”

Rohani then remembered that she had a handphone with her and called a relative for help.

After walking backwards for two hours, the women managed to climb up a tree. However, the tigers would not give up and waited below the tree.

At this juncture, Rela and Civil Defence Department personnel managed to track down the women.

“One of the tigers became aggressive and turned its attention on the rescuers.

Rela personnel fired three shots, killing one of the tigers while the other escaped into the jungle.

The women were then helped down from the tree and taken out of the jungle.

The carcass of the 70kg female tiger was handed over to the state Wildlife Department.

Move to chase away tiger
New Straits Times 17 Jan 12;

THE state Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) has set up a team to monitor the area around Kampung Chuar Hulu, Kati, near Kuala Kangsar, where two women were almost mauled by two tigers.

State Perhilitan director Mohd Nawayai Yasak said yesterday the team, comprising four rangers, were on the lookout for one of the tigers which escaped after the other was shot dead by Rela personnel on Sunday.

"The team will also monitor other villages in a radius of 5km from where the women were almost attacked.

"Once the tiger is spotted, we will drive it back deeper into the jungle and away from human settlements."

He said the area where the women faced the tigers was adjacent to the Bintang Hijau forest reserve, which was identified as a habitat for tigers and elephants.

"The site is also listed in the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan as a suitable habitat for tigers, which are considered an endangered species."

He said the tigers, which almost attacked rubber tapper Rohani Osman, 50, and her daughter, Mastura Kamaruddin, 16, were probably young tigers from the same litter.

"Judging from the size of the female tiger which was shot, it was probably under 2 years old."

He said it was highly uncharacteristic of tigers to attack humans unless threatened.

"Tigers also do not usually attack livestock. The tiger's main prey are deer and other wild animals but not cattle."

He, however, confirmed that there were reports by villagers regarding livestock being attacked by tigers, with the latest case happening several days prior to the Sunday incident.

"We have received reports on tiger sightings as well as attacks on livestock since November. A team of rangers has been monitoring the villages but no fresh tracks were found."

When asked if any legal action would be taken against the Rela personnel for shooting an endangered animal, Nawayai said the department was investigating the events which led to the tiger being shot.

"We will present our findings to the headquarters. It is up to them to proceed."

Meanwhile, he said, a taxidermy would be performed on the carcass of the 70kg female tiger, which would then be placed in a museum. He advised the public, especially villagers, not to take matters into their own hands in the event of tiger sightings.

"They should contact the nearest Perhilitan office in Sungai Siput or Selama."

The Perak Perhilitan office can be contacted at 05-2436645.

Villagers live in fear of prowling tiger
New Straits Times 20 Jan 12;

TEMERLOH: Some 600 residents of Kampung Bongsu near Lanchang, here, are living in fear of a tiger they believe is prowling nearby.

They claim that the tiger has appeared in the village several times in the past and that it did so again yesterday. Villager Adnan Mat Jail said pug marks of the animal have been spotted in the jungle bordering the village. Temerloh police chief ACP Mohd Noor Mansur confirmed that the villagers have lodged a police report and the Wildlife and National Parks Department have been notified. Bernama

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Malaysia: Switch to cage farmed fish - eco-friendly and just as tasty

More hoteliers and restaurant operators obtain their supplies from fish breeders to support efforts to protect marine life
Phuah Ken Lin New Straits Times 15 Jan 12;

CAGE fish farming has received overwhelming support from hoteliers, who source sustainably harvested fish directly from fish breeders in line with the government's effort to protect dwindling supplies of fish.

In Penang, more hotels and restaurants have ceased buying from fishermen involved in trawling, poisoning and bombing to obtain their catch in a bid to protect the natural habitat.

The harmful effect from irresponsible and indiscriminate fishing techniques threaten to disrupt the ecosystem with serious consequences.

So, hoteliers decided to get their act together to minimise marine life degradation.

Some hotels even plan to rely solely on fish farm operators as supplies from fishmongers are phased out.

The popularity of fish farming is soaring, judging from numerous hotel link-ups to members of the Marine Farmers Association of Malaysia (MFFAM)

Fish farmers from Johor, Selangor and Penang banded together to establish MFFAM this year.

This development is significant as the three states account for about 80 per cent of local farmed fish production.

The move led to keen interest from the hotel industry to source sustainably harvested fish for their restaurants and food outlets.

Leading the pack are Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, as well as its sister hotel Golden Sands Resort in Batu Ferringhi.

The two resorts plan to increase their purchases from GST Fine Foods Sdn Bhd, a member of MFFAM, as well as from an established marine and fish farmer based in Simpang Ampat, Bukit Kawan, here.

Rasa Sayang director of communications Suleiman Tuanku Abdul Rahman said the resort aimed to set an exemplary example for others to emulate.

"We want to influence others to join us to protect marine life.

"This is because fish is fast becoming an endangered species in Malaysia.

"Our objective is to help prevent the sea habitat from being destroyed by destructive fishing techniques," he said.

He was commenting on the matter during a press visit to GST's fish farm, off Pulau Aman recently .

Suleiman said the hotel intended to gradually sever its ties from other fishmongers who sourced their supply by trawling and illegal fishing methods.

An abundant supply of caged sea bass, red snapper, garoupa and golden trevally are reared at the breeding farm.

Present at the fish farm visit were the resort's executive sous chef John Brock and chef de cuisine David Pooley, who personally selected the catch for their gourmet cuisine.

It was the first time the duo learnt to scoop out the fish.

GST manager Goh Chin Twan said the company adhered to stringent criteria on fish farm maintenance and cleanliness guidelines set by the European Union (EU).

Goh said the company was the sole fish exporter in the northern region to be recognised by the EU.

In a related development, Rasa Sayang and Golden Sands were recently nominated for the Marine Fish Cage Culturists Programme by Coral Triangle Public-Private Partnerships.

The programme is a cooperative initiative involving practitioners of marine culture, local fishing communities and consumers in the quest to promote responsible fishing practices, fish cultivation and consumption of fish stocks

The nomination was in line with the resorts' support for sustainable fish cultivation and consumption at the hotel level.

Read more!

Malaysia: NGOs cool to call for environment court

New Straits Times 16 Jan 12;

PUTRAJAYA: The suggestion to set up a special court to deal with environment matters was met with cautious optimism by non-governmental organisations.

Traffic, an international organisation that monitors wildlife trade, said while the call made by Chief Justice Tan Sri Ariffin Zakaria was a good one, prosecutors in the Attorney- General's Chambers and legal advisers of government departments needed to have a better understanding for the court to have an impact.

Traffic is a joint programme of the World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Union.

"They should have a much better understanding of wildlife crime and a better grasp of wildlife laws," its senior communications officer Elizabeth John said when contacted yesterday.

Malaysian Nature Society was also pleased that the chief justice had identified environmental issues as an important matter that needed special consideration.

Its head of communications, Andrew Sebastian, said the organisation had always been puzzled as to why offenders were not handed down the maximum punishment in many cases.

"Whether a new specialised court is the answer remains to be seen. We hope the different agencies will discuss this idea further."

Selangor Forestry Department assistant director (operations and enforcement) Mohd Yussainy Md Yusop said while the idea for a specialised court was a good one, state and federal laws needed to be synchronised so that tackling environmental crimes could be a priority.

Yussainy, who has been fighting against mangrove wood smugglers in the state, explained that jurisdiction between environment-related matters, such as land laws and wildlife laws, were divided between federal and state authorities.

On Saturday, Ariffin proposed the setting up of an environment court to handle such cases and increase the awareness of nature's importance.

He said a court dedicated to handling environment matters was important as 60 per cent of the country was forested.

WWF-Malaysia Welcomes Proposed Creation Of environmental Courts
Bernama 16 Jan 12;

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 (Bernama) -- The World Wide Fund for Nature-Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) has welcomed the proposed introduction of "environmental courts" in the country.

It expressed hope that the initiative would play a key role towards establishing frameworks that effectively institutionalise the capacity and role of the judiciary in the application of environmental law and policy that ultimately support sustainable development.

WWF-Malaysia said the move would promote and define environmental justice in the country by strengthening environmental laws and regulations as well as improve governance mechanisms.

"We're certain that the proposed establishment of a specialised court that adjudicate environmental matters will go a long way in ensuring strict implementation, enforcement and compliance of environmental laws and policy in the country," its executive director and chief executive Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said.

Chief Justice Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria had said that specialised environmental courts may soon be introduced in the country at the opening of the 2012 Legal Year and Conference of Judges in Putrajaya.


Green court is in keeping with the times
The Star 17 Jan 12;

I REFER to “Green Courts in pipeline” (Sunday Star, Jan 15). As an environmental scholar myself, I was delighted with our Chief Justice’s announcement regarding the introduction of Environmental Courts in Malaysia.

I strongly support the introduction of a specialised Environmental Court dealing with green issues that impact the health, safety and welfare of citizens.

Important environmental issues such as housing, fire, solid waste, animal control, building and health should be prioritised within the court system. In this way, we can reduce the number of repeat offenders and increase public awareness of problems associated with the environment.

It is an undeniable fact that, in the modern times we live in today, increasing industrial activity brings with it damaging consequences for the environment, and this in turn requires a corresponding increase in regulation.

Hence, environmental law becomes part of a dynamic, constantly evolving area, and it deserves special treatment more than any other area of law.

The need for a specialised Environmental Court was envisaged by Dr Mohd Naeem in his 1995 paper “Protecting Environment From Pollution: Efforts and The Law In Malaysia”, where he stated that in Malaysia environmental polluters do bad things knowingly, sometimes negligently or sometimes recklessly.

They do not have any respect for the environment. They think what they are doing is neither wrong nor is it an offence. Sometimes they are under the wrong impression that their doings have no damaging effect on others in the vicinity.

He asserted that those who cause pollution by engaging in such irresponsible practices must be prosecuted in specialised courts.

Most developed countries such as Australia, Canada and the US have environmental courts within their states. European countries such as Denmark, Finland and Sweden have divisions within the court system reserved for environmental cases. Even developing nations such as Bangladesh, Kenya and Malawi have created environmental courts and tribunals.

Recently, in India, the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, provided for the establishment of a National Green Tribunal for the effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection.

The Indian 2010 Act also empowers the tribunal with enforcement rights relating to the environment and giving of relief and compensation to persons.

The benefit of an environmental court was discussed by the former UK Chief Justice Lord Woolf in his 1992 lecture “Are the Judiciary Environmentally Myopic”.

Lord Woolf suggested that having environmental courts with general responsibility for overseeing and enforcing the safeguards provided for the protection of environment is the most effective way of dealing with environmental matters.

However, Lord Woolf also cautioned that environmental disputes require degrees of specialist knowledge, and following this, it has been suggested by the Law Commission in India, that the environmental courts must not only be staffed exclusively by persons with judicial or legal experience but be supported by persons having scientific qualifications and experience in the environmental field.

This will enable the specialist court to analyse the differing economic and legal instruments at work in environmental law.

As a result, under the Indian 2010 Act, environmental tribunals would have the benefit of expert advice from technically qualified environmental scientists as part of the judicial process.

Evidently, the establishment of an environmental court is a step forward for Malaysian environmental jurisprudence.

As Gitanjali Gill points out in her 2010 paper “A Green Tribunal for India”, the environmental court is unlikely to be a panacea for all environmental ills, but it could provide a lead in terms of new forms of environmental dispute resolution and do much to further advance a distinctly green jurisprudence.

For Malaysia, this will be a system appropriate for its contemporary needs.


Green courts in pipeline
Zuhrin Azam Ahmad and Qishin Tariq The Star 15 Jan 12;

PUTRAJAYA: A man who stole 11 cans of Tiger beer and Guinness stout was jailed for five years. And another man who had illegal possession of a dead tiger got away with a RM7,000 fine.

“Clearly our values are misplaced. Surely, our tigers are worth more than the 11 cans of Tiger beer,” Chief Justice Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria said when opening the 2012 Legal Year and Conference of Judges here yesterday.

To end this problem, specialised “environmental courts” may soon be introduced in the country to handle cases involving environmental crime.

Arifin said there should be an end to the lack of sensitivity to such crimes.

He said the judiciary would provide more training to its judges and officers on environmental law.

He also issued a stern reminder to members of the judiciary not to abuse their position and to avoid exposure to corrupt practices.

Judges and officers, he said, should continue to maintain the dignity and integrity of their office.

“We should at all times conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our position in society.

“Always bear in mind that your conduct, be it in private or in your official capacity, is subject to public scrutiny.

“In conducting a trial, do it with decorum,” he said.

Arifin also urged lawyers to stop making wild and baseless accusations against judges.

“This is because your words are taken seriously by the public. Such allegations may undermine the integrity of the judiciary,” he said.

He also announced that from this month, all criminal and civil appeals in the Federal Court would be heard by a five-man quorum, aimed at improving the quality of judgments and decisions.

At the same function, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said the Peaceful Assembly Act was meant to encourage freedom of expression.

He said there had been consultation with the various stakeholders including the Bar Council before the Act was passed.

“However, in consulting with the stakeholders, we are still governed by the Official Secrets Act. The bottom line is that there can never be a perfect' legislation.

“It can only ever hope to be a right' legislation to meet the exigencies of the relevant time.”

Jail air and water polluters

The Star 18 Jan 12;

THE Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) welcomes the call by Chief Justice Tan Sri Ariffin Zakaria to set up a special court to deal with environment crimes.

But the proposed court should not be limited to the theft of timber from our forests or the poaching or trafficking of our wildlife.

Instead, the Environment Court should also deal with the theft of our other resources such as illegal mining and fishing as well as the pollution of the environment.

The pollution of our water resources and the air we breathe should be punished with mandatory jail sentence due to the seriousness of the environmental crime.

Therefore the Environmental Quality Act (EQA) 1974 (Act 147) should be amended to include this mandatory jail sentence for pollution of the environment.

Discharge of effluents into our streams and rivers would not only affect the fishes and other organisms in the water but also affect the sources of our drinking water, which would in turn affect our health in general, therefore the need for the mandatory jail sentence.

Meanwhile, MNS would like to suggest, and at the same time volunteer to assist the Attorney’s General Chambers with, ILKAP (Institut Latihan Kehakiman dan Perundangan or Judicial and Legal Training Institute) as the training venue – and with the cooperation of the relevant government departments such as the Forestry Department, Wildlife and National Parks Department, Fisheries Department, Marine Parks Department, Department of Environment – to organise and carry out seminars and workshops to ensure that the proposed Environment Court is fully functional to protect our natural resources and the environment for the present and future generations.


President, MNS.

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Floods in Malaysia and Indonesia

Over 1,000 evacuated on east coast of Malaysia
Straits Times 16 Jan 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: More residents have been evacuated on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia since floods hit Terengganu yesterday morning, raising the number of evacuees there and in Kelantan and Pahang to more than a thousand altogether.

Up to 290 people were evacuated to relief centres in Setiu district in Terengganu, 445 in Kuantan and Pekan districts in Pahang, and 276 in Kuala Krai district in Kelantan.

Some rivers in Terengganu and Kelantan are swollen, according to media reports.

In Terengganu, the State Drainage and Irrigation Department reported last Saturday that water levels at Setiu River had risen to the danger point, causing the banks to burst.

However, by yesterday, levels had dropped back to the warning mark.

In Kelantan, the State Flood Operations Department said the number of evacuees in Kuala Krai rose overnight to 276 from 173.

Water levels at Kelantan River are above the danger point, which could cause floods in low-lying areas, according to a spokesman.


Jakarta residents brace themselves for major floods
Medical staff, rescue gear and teams on standby with peak of rainy season next week
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 16 Jan 12;

JAKARTA: Hundreds of rubber boats and life jackets are being readied as the city's authorities and residents brace themselves for major floods next week, when the peak of the rainy season is forecast to hit the capital.

While residents in areas such as Manggarai in South Jakarta have turned hundreds of tyre tubes into homemade life preservers, the capital's five local administrations have prepared mobile electricity generators, water pumps and dinghies in case residents have to flee their homes.

Some 600 medical staff have been put on standby to deal with the inevitable spread of flood-borne diseases like diarrhoea, dengue fever and chikungunya. Search-and-rescue teams meanwhile have been trained to operate in deep water and flood-prone roads have been lined with brightly coloured poles and ropes to aid evacuation.

The massive preparation comes amid expectations of major flooding next week and in the first week of next month.

While the capital is used to inundation every year from the wet weather between December and March, it has been hit by especially severe flooding every five years or so.

In February 2007, more than two-thirds of Jakarta was waterlogged after rain poured non-stop for three days, with waters rising as high as 7m in some areas. Nearly 60 people died and more than 420,000 were forced to flee their homes, while damage was estimated at US$795 million (S$1.03 billion).

There were major floods in 2002 and 1996 as well.

At Kampung Pulo in East Jakarta, residents are preparing for the worst.

'We have floods every year - we have become accustomed to floods. But this time round, we are watching out for the big one,' said Mr Yayat Supriatna, 45, a community leader.

In 2007, residents used to ankle- or knee-high flooding found themselves completely submerged.

'The water level reached waist-high - on the second floor,' said Mr Yayat.

Jakarta's flooding is due to a lethal combination of heavy rain, clogged drains and rivers, ground subsistence and high sea tides that push flood waters back into the city.

Rapid urbanisation has made things worse.

While builders ignore urban planning rules in the rush to erect more buildings, the extraction of groundwater by home owners and industries is causing the capital to sink - 40 per cent of Jakarta is already below sea level.

The city of 13 million is one of South-east Asia's most densely populated, yet it has one of the least-developed piped water networks.

'What Jakarta needs is to ensure it can supply ample clean, piped water so people will no longer rely on groundwater-mining,' Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo told The Straits Times.

But the government is hoping that its latest efforts to minimise flooding in the capital will work.

In January 2010, it completed the East Flood Canal, which drains rainwater away from the city's eastern and northern parts more quickly into the sea. This, together with the West Flood Canal, which drains the southern and western areas, links the 13 rivers and more than 55 canals criss-crossing Jakarta to the sea.

These rivers and canals have been dredged more regularly to speed up the flow of water, while two flood-control reservoirs are being built in Kampung Pulo and Pondok Labu, adding to the existing 55.

Said Mr Fauzi: 'We have managed to reduce floods in Jakarta in general by 30 per cent since 2010.

'Hopefully, a major flood like that in 2007 will not recur.'

Kampung Pulo residents hope so too. In the last three months, they had only three minor floods - a marked improvement from the countless seen five years ago in the same period.

But some fear that heavy rain in the highlands in Bogor, West Java, would eventually result in run-off flooding their area, which lies near a river.

Said Mr Warji, 44, a construction worker: 'If Bogor and Jakarta have simultaneous heavy rain and high tides occur north of Jakarta, we would definitely have a problem.'

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China sets pace for smoggy Hong Kong: think-tank

Stephen Coates (AFP) Google News 15 Jan 12;

HONG KONG — Beijing's decision to come clean on its dirty air has embarrassed Hong Kong, where smog kills hundreds of people a year, hurts business and drives away talent, a think-tank has said.

Mike Kilburn, head of environmental strategy at non-profit group Civic Exchange, said Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang's failure to fix the city's air quality could have far-reaching consequences for its competitiveness.

"The Hong Kong government must introduce new air quality objectives immediately, especially now that China has put out its own air quality objective," he told AFP.

"Hong Kong is in a highly embarrassing position now that China has introduced new measures."

Beijing last week bowed to a vocal online campaign for a change in the way air quality is measured and pledged to start publishing figures showing the smallest, most dangerous pollution particles.

The Chinese capital currently bases its air quality information on particles of 10 micrometres or larger, known as PM10, and does not take into account the smaller particulates that experts say are most harmful to human health.

The Beijing Environmental Bureau said it would provide hourly updates of measurements of particles of 2.5 micrometres or less, known as PM2.5, ahead of the Lunar New Year on January 23.

The mainland authorities' move came after Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department said roadside pollution levels in the southern financial hub were the worst ever last year.

Measurements in the Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok districts indicated that pollution levels were 10 times worse than in 2005 on more than one day out of every five.

A recent ranking of cities by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in respect of PM2.5 placed Hong Kong -- which competes with Singapore as Asia's banking powerhouse -- at 559th out of 566 cities.

That dire outcome sparked searching questions to Environment Secretary Edward Yau in the legislative council last week.

Lawmaker Kam Nai-wai asked whether the government would "assume political responsibility" for failing to live up to promises to update Hong Kong's air quality objectives (AQOs), set in 1987, to meet modern health standards.

Yau responded that PM2.5 samplers would be operational in all monitoring stations in Hong Kong by the first quarter of 2012, and laid much of the blame for the small-particle pollution on "regions outside Hong Kong".

"The government is now working on the final proposal to update the AQOs for submission to the Legislative Council for deliberation as soon as possible," he said.

Yau said clean-air measures had to be "generally supported by the community", a likely reference to public opposition to higher transport costs and resistance from business owners to tighter environmental controls.

A report by Civic Action released Thursday said ageing diesel commercial vehicles, LPG-powered taxis and minibuses were the main sources of pollution in the city's "street canyons" of office towers and apartment buildings.

Air quality is not only damaging residents' health, it is also eroding the city's competitiveness as a regional centre for business and finance, it said.

The report cited pollution-related questions over infrastructure projects including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau (HKZM) bridge and a planned third runway at Hong Kong airport.

An official study last year found that the runway would have to operate at less than half capacity if new air quality standards were implemented.

Surveys showed that "air pollution is driving those who form the base of Hong Kong?s knowledge and finance-based economy -- the wealthiest and best educated -- to leave," it said.

"The challenges to the HKZM Bridge and the third runway represent a dramatic escalation in the scale of the problem. The business community is beginning to appreciate the seriousness of this threat," it said.

Tsang's seven-year rule, which is due to end in March, can be measured in terms of the more than 7,200 smog-related deaths recorded since he took power in 2005, Kilburn said.

The figures are backed up by the Hedley Environmental Index run by the medical faculty at the University of Hong Kong.

"It's a shockingly high number. What we are concerned about is the lack of urgency," he said Friday, when a pall of toxic airborne particles made it it barely possible to see across the city's Victoria Harbour.

The think-tank's air quality "report card" said the government had implemented various measures to control pollution, but these had been ineffective in the absence of a coordinated clean-air policy.

"Without tight standards, polluting businesses in Hong Kong, especially vehicle and vessel owners and operators, have been permitted to remain unregulated for the last two decades," it said.

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