Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jan 12

Chestnut Discoveries
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Sinar Mas Group seeks 'backdoor' public listing in Singapore
from news by Rhett Butler

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Singapore raises sea defences against tide of climate change

David Fogarty Reuters 27 Jan 12;

* Low-lying Singapore preparing for rising sea levels
* Takes climate "insurance" by raising height of new land
* Will make tougher CO2 curbs if global climate pact agreed

SINGAPORE, Jan 27 (Reuters) - A 15-km (10 mile) stretch of crisp white beach is one of the key battlegrounds in Singapore's campaign to defend its hard-won territory against rising sea levels linked to climate change.

Stone breakwaters are being enlarged on the low-lying island state's man-made east coast and their heights raised. Barges carrying imported sand top up the beach, which is regularly breached by high tides.

Singapore, the world's second most densely populated country after Monaco, covers 715 square km (276 sq miles). It has already reclaimed large areas to expand its economy and population -- boosting its land area by more than 20 percent since 1960.

But the new land is now the frontline in a long-term battle against the sea.

Every square metre is precious in Singapore.

One of the world's wealthiest nations in per-capita terms, it is also among the most vulnerable to climate change that is heating up the planet, changing weather patterns and causing seas to rise as the oceans warm and glaciers and icecaps melt.

Late last year, the government decided the height of all new reclamations must be 2.25 metres (7.5 feet) above the highest recorded tide level -- a rise of a metre over the previous mandated minimum height.

The additional buffer was costly but necessary, Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Reuters in a recent interview.

"You are buying insurance for the future," he said during a visit to a large flood control barrier that separates the sea from a reservoir in the central business area.

The decision underscores the government's renowned long-term planning and the dilemma the country faces in fighting climate change while still trying to grow. It also highlights the problem facing other low-lying island states and coastal cities and the need to prepare.

A major climate change review for the Chinese government last week said China's efforts to protect vulnerable coastal areas with embankments were inadequate. It said in the 30 years up to 2009, the sea level off Shanghai rose 11.5 centimeters (4.5 inches); in the next 30 years, it will probably rise another 10 to 15 centimeters.


Since it was created by the British as a trading port in the early 19th century, Singapore has turned to the sea to expand and has become one of the world's fastest-growing countries in terms of new land area. More land is being regularly reclaimed.

In this pocket powerhouse, there is much to protect. Singapore's recipe for success is to be a city of superlatives to keep ahead of competitors. It is a major Asian centre for finance, shipping, trading, manufacturing, even gambling, with giant casinos as glitzy as those in Las Vegas or Macau.

Much of the city centre is on reclaimed land, including an expanding financial district, a new terminal for ocean liners and a $3.2 billion underground expressway, part of which runs under the sea.

The industrial west has one of Asia's largest petrochemical complexes, much of it on reclaimed islands.

The wealth generated from these sectors has created a $255 billion economy. Per-capita GDP stands on a par with the United States at nearly $50,000, though opposition politicians complain about growing wealth gaps within the island's society.

The U.N. climate panel says sea levels could rise between 18 and 59 centimetres (7 to 24 inches) this century and more if parts of Antarctica and Greenland melt faster. Some scientists say the rise is more likely to be in a range of 1 to 2 metres.

Singapore could cope with a rise of 50 cm to 1 m, coastal scientist Teh Tiong Sa told Reuters during a tour of the East Coast Park, the city's main recreation area.

"But a rise of two metres would turn Singapore into an island fortress," said Teh, a retired teacher from Singapore's National Institute for Education. That would mean constructing more and higher walls to protect against the sea.

Indeed, between 70 and 80 percent of Singapore already has some form of coastal protection, the government says.

The dilemma Singapore faces is mirrored by other coastal cities, such as Mumbai, Hong Kong, Bangkok and New York, though not all have Singapore's financial muscle.

The threat underscores the limits on Singapore's physical growth in terms of further reclamation, costs and managing long-term growth of its population, which has risen from 3 million in 1990 to nearly 5.2 million in 2011.

Topping up reclamation levels "does not fundamentally change the way we approach reclamation -- while we reclaim to meet our development needs, we are cognisant that there is a physical limit to how much more land we can reclaim," a spokesman for the National Climate Change Secretariat told Reuters.

To make more efficient use of existing land, a government agency floated the idea this month of building a science city 30 stories underground.


Climate change presents a host of other challenges.

More intense rainfall has caused embarrassing floods in the premier Orchard Road shopping area.

And the government says average daily temperature in tropical Singapore could increase by 2.7 to 4.2 degrees Celsius (4.9 to 7.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from the current average of 26.8 deg C (80.2 F) by 2100, which could raise energy use for cooling.

Here lies another dilemma. The country is already one of the most energy intensive in Asia to power its industries and fiercely airconditioned malls and glass office towers -- a paradox in a country at such risk from climate change.

The government has focused on energy efficiency, such as strict building codes and appliance labelling to curb the growth of planet-warming carbon emissions and has steadily switched its power stations to burn gas instead of fuel oil.

It has also invested heavily in slick subway lines and promoted investment and research in the clean-tech sector.

But electricity demand is still set to grow. Consumption doubled between 1995 and 2010, government figures show, and long-term reliance on fossil fuels for energy is unlikely to change, given limited space for green energy such as solar.

Balakrishnan said the government is keen to do its part in any global fight against climate change and that pushing for greater energy efficiency made sense anyway in a country with virtually no natural resources.

But there was a limit to how fast it would move, opening the way for criticism from some countries that Singapore was hiding behind its developing country status under the United Nations, which obliges it to take only voluntary steps to curb emissions.

"What we want is a level playing field and unilateral moves are not feasible, not possible, for a small, tiny island state that actually is not going to make a real difference at a global level to greenhouse gases," Balakrishnan said.

Singapore's emissions, though, are forecast to keep growing, having roughly doubled since 1990. The government is looking at putting a price on carbon emissions and perhaps setting up an emissions trading market.

"We're already half way there in the sense we are already pricing everything according to the market," said Tilak Doshi, head of energy economics at the Energy Studies Institute in Singapore.

He pointed to Singapore being the world's largest bunkering port.

"Bunkering is huge in terms of carbon emissions and Singapore can play a key role in how to handle global shipping emissions," he said. "How to handle bunker fuels -- do we tax it, do we cap-and-trade it, do we get bunkering companies to start trading emissions certificates?"

The government has a number of levers to adjust energy policies over time. Against rising sea levels, it is a campaign in progress to tame the tides.

In some cases, it might be better to let the sea reclaim the land in a managed retreat, said Teh, the coastal scientist.

"It's like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Some areas you keep, others you let go." For land-limited Singapore, that could prove a tough decision to make. (Editing by Ron Popeski and Sanjeev Miglani)

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Pasir Ris beach now safe to swim, says NEA

Channel NewsAsia 27 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: It is now safe to swim at Pasir Ris beach.

The National Environment Agency has declared the water quality at Pasir Ris beach as "good", more than three years after it advised the public not to swim, wakeboard or waterski in the water there due to pollution.

NEA said the water quality at Pasir Ris beach has improved from "fair" to "good" according to the World Health Organisation's water quality guidelines for recreational use.

The beach will be reopened on Friday.

NEA said only 3 per cent of the collected water samples at Pasir Ris beach have enterococcus bacteria counts of greater than 200 per 100 ml in 2011, compared to 7 per cent in 2010.

This bacteria is found in human faeces.

NEA said the previous "fair" grading for the water quality at Pasir Ris beach was attributed to various possible sources, including minor leakage from older sewers, discharge from moored vessels, animals, as well as discharge from small-scale sewage treatment plants that serve the more remote areas in Pasir Ris.

NEA said PUB has extended the sewer network and diverted the used water from the 39 sewage treatment plants in the Tampines and Changi areas.

In March, PUB also completed the rehabilitation of 23 kilometres of aging sewers in the area under its sewer rehabilitation programme.

These measures have helped to improve the water quality at Pasir Ris beach.

The next annual review of water quality at Singapore's beaches will be in 2013.

- CNA/cc

Safe for swimming again
Water quality now good enough for aquatic activities, says NEA
Huang Lijie Straits Times 28 Jan 12;

AFTER a four-year wait, visitors to Pasir Ris beach can finally take a dip in the waters there without worry.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) announced yesterday that water quality at the beach has improved from 'fair' to 'good' and it is now suitable for swimming, water-skiing and other activities involving full-body contact or immersion.

The agency had been advising Pasir Ris beachgoers against water activities such as swimming since 2008, due to unsafe levels of enterococcus bacterium in the water.

The bacterium, found in animal and human faeces, can cause gastro-intestinal illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhoea if swimmers come into contact with it.

Under the World Health Organisation's guidelines for the quality of recreational waters, only beaches that are graded 'good' or 'very good' are suitable for full-body contact water activities.

Pasir Ris beach had been given a 'fair' rating in NEA's annual assessment of the water quality of beaches from 2008 to 2010.

At five other popular recreational beaches in Sentosa, Seletar Island, Sembawang Park, Changi and East Coast, where NEA also monitors the water quality, the ratings have been 'good' or 'very good'.

The water quality at Pasir Ris beach entered the 'good' range last year and it was closely monitored for a few more months to ensure that the improvement was sustained before the announcement was made yesterday.

The water quality at the beach was improved by tackling possible sources of water contamination, including minor leakage from older sewers and effluent discharge from smaller sewage treatment plants in the area.

With the help of the water treatment agency PUB, the public sewer network was extended to 39 sewage treatment plants in the Pasir Ris area so that the used water was diverted to waste water treatment plants first before being discharged into the sea.

PUB also finished repairing 23km of ageing sewers in the area last March under its sewer rehabilitation programme.

NEA said it would continue to monitor the water quality of the six beaches regularly and conduct the next annual review next year.

When The Straits Times visited the Pasir Ris beach yesterday, no one was swimming or taking part in water activities such as waterskiing.

Signs that used to warn beachgoers against swimming there, though, were gone.

Mrs Liao Mei Ling, 41, owner of a trading company who regularly visits the beach with her two nieces aged 10 and three, said: 'I never knew about the no-swimming advisory but I never allowed my nieces to swim because the water used to be filled with rubbish. Now that it is safe for swimming, I might reconsider.'

However, some beachgoers like Mr Gerard Pereira, 28, may not be taking a dip in the waters there soon.

Mr Pereira, who is between jobs and a frequent angler at Pasir Ris and East Coast, said: 'The water at East Coast beach looks cleaner and clearer so if I want to swim in the sea, I would rather swim there.'

Businesses at the beach welcomed the announcement that the waters are suitable for swimming and other water activities.

Madam Lillian Neo, 60, owner of a rental bike kiosk there, said its business dived by 20 per cent after NEA discouraged swimming at the beach.

She said: 'Now that swimming and other water activities are allowed at the beach, more people may come and we hope our business will also improve.'

Rating water quality at beaches
Straits Times 28 Jan 12;

UNDER the World Health Organisation's guidelines, there are five ratings for beach water quality - very good, good, fair, poor and very poor.

The grading depends on the level of enterococcus bacterium in the water at the beach, which is based on weekly sampling results collected over three years, and the degree of susceptibility of the beach to faecal contamination.

Beaches where not more than 5 per cent of the water samples contain more than 200 enterococcus bacteria per 100ml of water are rated 'good' or 'very good'.

Beaches with more than 5 per cent of such samples are graded 'fair', 'poor' or 'very poor'.

In 2009, Pasir Ris beach had 8 per cent of such water samples. It dropped to 7 per cent in 2010.

Last year, only 3 per cent of the water samples had more than 200 enterococcus bacteria per 100 ml, thus meeting the 'good' rating.

The water quality at East Coast Park, Sembawang Park and Changi Beach were also rated 'good' last year, while the beaches on Sentosa and Seletar Island were classified as 'very good'.


Pasir Ris Beach Now Open For Water Activities
NEA Media Release 27 Jan 12;

Singapore, 27 January 2012 – The National Environment Agency (NEA) is pleased to announce that Pasir Ris beach will be reopened today. The water quality at Pasir Ris beach has improved in 2011 and can now be reclassified from "Fair" to "Good" according to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s water quality guidelines for recreational use. Under these guidelines, only beaches that are graded "Good" or "Very Good" are suitable for whole body water contact activities such as swimming, water-skiing and wakeboarding (also known as primary contact activities). Pasir Ris beach will now join five other popular recreational beaches where the water quality is suitable for beach goers and water activities.

Water quality of Singapore beaches

For the past three years, five out of the six popular recreational beaches monitored by NEA were assessed to be suitable for primary contact activities as they were graded “Good” or “Very Good”. They are Sentosa Island, Seletar Island, Sembawang Park, Changi and East Coast Park. These 5 beaches continue to meet the WHO water quality guidelines for recreational use.

The water quality at Pasir Ris beach has improved in 2011, with only 3% of the collected samples having enterococcus counts greater than 200 per 100 ml, compared to 7% in 2010. The results of the water quality for recreational beaches are based on the weekly sampling results of water samples over three years.

Improvement in Pasir Ris beach water quality

The previous “Fair” grading for the water quality at Pasir Ris beach was attributed to various possible sources, including minor leakage from older sewers, discharges from moored vessels, animals, as well as discharges from small-scale Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) that serve the more remote areas in Pasir Ris. The weak water currents in the concave part of Pasir Ris beach are not effective in diluting and dispersing the discharges.

To help improve the water quality at Pasir Ris beach, PUB has extended the sewer network and diverted the used water from the 39 STPs in the Halus/Tampines, Changi and Selarang areas. PUB has also, in March 2011, completed the rehabilitation of 23 kilometres (km) of aging sewers in the area under its sewer rehabilitation programme.

NEA will continue to monitor closely the water quality of the six beaches and conduct the next annual review in 2013.

~~ End ~~

For more information, please contact

Call Centre: 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255 632)

More people at Pasir Ris beach after water declared safe
Seet Sok Hwee Channel NewsAsia 28 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: There were more people at Pasir Ris beach on Saturday, after the National Environment Agency (NEA) declared the water quality there as "good".

For over three years, the NEA had advised the public not to swim, wakeboard or waterski in the water due to pollution.

While the public had no qualms about splashing around at the beach on Saturday, litter could still be seen at various parts of the recreational area.

Businesses and the public are hopeful for a more enjoyable time now that the beach has been certified with a clean bill of health.

Ivan Teo, manager of Watercross, said: "It will definitely bring more crowds to the beach itself. Hopefully it will bring a better crowd to all businesses around here."


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Philippines: Sea Turtle Baby Boom on Turtle Islands Breaks 28-year Record

Conservation efforts deliver 1.4 million green turtle eggs, 14,220 nests, on priority Philippine beaches in 2011
Zambo Times 27 Jan 12;

January 27, 2012 (Manila, Philippines)– More than one million green turtle (Chelonia mydas) eggs were laid last year on Baguan Island of Turtle Islands, Tawi-Tawi, achieving an all-time high since recording of nesting started in 1984, Conservation International (CI) Philippines, citing figures obtained from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), announced.

A total of 14,220 green turtle nests were recorded in Baguan in 2011, breaking the previous record of 12,311 nests in 1995. The 2011 figures translate to some 2,844 nesting green turtles and over 1.44 million turtle eggs laid.

Green turtles are classified as Endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

“1.44 million green turtle eggs in one year is an astounding number for a nesting beach that’s only a little over one kilometer in length. This definitely presents great hope for boosting green turtle populations,” said Romeo Trono, CI Philippines Country Executive Director. “With an average of 90% hatching success and 1% survival rate up to sexual maturity, Baguan in 2011 alone could contribute up to 13,000 to the adult turtle population.”

Figures from the DENR show that since the previous high of 12,311 turtle nests recorded in 1995, Baguan’s nesting records have been declining and dropped to as low as just over 4,000 nests in 2003. Poaching by foreign fishermen, egg harvesting by local communities for food and trade, destruction and disturbance of habitats through illegal fishing methods and weak law enforcement were identified as the causes of the decline in the egg production and sea turtle population in the sanctuary.

“The increasing nest numbers show that when turtles are protected on their nesting beaches and in the water for long enough, they will recover,” said Dr. Bryan Wallace Director of Science for the Marine Flagship Species Program at CI. “The Turtle Islands are a globally important area for green turtles, especially for the West Pacific population, because of the relatively high abundance present and because of increasing protections for turtles in the area.”

Conservation partnerships

Since 2007, CI has been working with the Philippines’ DENR and the local government as well the Malaysian park management authority Sabah Parks to advise and implement marine conservation strategies in the region, including: setting up of the protected area management board, formulation of a ten-year management plan, and delineating 1,200 hectares around Baguan as strict protection zone or no take areas.

The 36-hectare Baguan in southern Philippines is one of the nine islands of the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area (TIHPA), a unique protected area jointly managed by two countries: Malaysia and the Philippines. It is made up of six islands of the Philippines’ TIWS, where Baguan is located, and three islands of Sabah’s Turtle Islands Park (TIP).

Law enforcement in Baguan was also strengthened by providing trainings to park wardens, law enforcers and community volunteers and stepping up patrolling efforts. The Philippine Turtle Islands’ enforcement team also includes officers and personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Marines deployed to the area.

“These partnerships with other agencies like the Coast Guard and Marines provide a big boost to law enforcement efforts in the Turtle Islands,” said Dr. Mundita Lim, director of DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau. “We also enjoy a good working relationship with our Sabah counterparts in charge of managing their side of the Turtle Islands. Turtles nest throughout the entire area, regardless of political boundaries. That is also the approach we are using in managing these islands through productive partnerships.”

Small islands, huge regional importance

“The work that we are doing in Turtle Islands is an important contribution to the overall health of the Coral Triangle,” said DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, emphasizing the Turtle Islands as a conservation priority not only for the Philippines and Malaysia but for all the other countries in the region. “If the Turtles Islands are not protected, it can have serious implications to the whole region’s turtle population and marine ecosystem.”

Dr. Nicolas Pilcher, director of Sabah-based Marine Research Foundation and Co-Chair of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, noted that bold protection measures such as the establishment of Baguan no-take zone and the complete protection status of the Turtle Islands Park in Sabah had been instrumental in ensuring a safe haven for turtles while other beaches in the region were being lost to coastal development.

“Indeed, the combined turtle stocks from the Philippine and Malaysian Turtle Islands, which share genetic similarities, is the single largest and most stable population of green turtles in all of Southeast Asia, and is of paramount importance in ensuring the long-term survival of the population," Pilcher added.

An average of 30 to 35 green turtles nest on Baguan’s shores every night, with totals increasing to as many as 140 during the peak nesting season of July to September. With each nesting, a sea turtle lays around 100 eggs and nests as many as five times within one nesting season. Only green turtles nest in Baguan though its surrounding reefs and water also serve as development and feeding habitats for hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata, clasiffied as Critically Endangered by the IUCN).

Conservation initiatives in Baguan are partially supported by the Global Marine Division of Conservation International and the Coral Triangle Support Partnership funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

“The hatchlings that emerge from the Turtle Islands still face great risks throughout their lives as they journey through the ocean, but at least here in the Turtle Islands, we are determined to provide them with a good start,” CIP’s Trono added.

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New taste for Thai elephant meat

Thanyarat Doksone Associated Press Yahoo News 27 Jan 12;

BANGKOK (AP) — A new taste for eating elephant meat — everything from trunks to sex organs — has emerged in Thailand and could pose a new threat to the survival of the species.

Wildlife officials told The Associated Press that they were alerted to the practice after finding two elephants slaughtered last month in a national park in western Thailand.

"The poachers took away the elephants' sex organs and trunks ... for human consumption," Damrong Phidet, director-general of Thailand's wildlife agency, said in a telephone interview. Some meat was to be consumed without cooking, like "elephant sashimi," he said.

Poachers typically just remove tusks, which are most commonly found on Asian male elephants and fetch thousands of dollars on the black market. A market for elephant meat, however, could lead to killing of the wider elephant population, Damrong said.

"If you keep hunting elephants for this, then they'll become extinct," he said.

Consuming elephant meat is not common in Thailand, but some Asian cultures believe consuming animals' reproductive organs can boost sexual prowess.

Damrong said the elephant meat was ordered by restaurants in Phuket, a popular travel destination in the country's south. It wasn't clear if the diners were foreigners.

The accusation drew a quick rebuttal from Phuket Governor Tri Akradecha, who told Thai media that he had never heard of such restaurants but ordered officials to look into the matter.

Poaching elephants is banned, and trafficking or possessing poached animal parts also is illegal. Elephant tusks are sought in the illegal ivory trade, and baby wild elephants are sometimes poached to be trained for talent shows.

"The situation has come to a crisis point. The longer we allow these cruel acts to happen, the sooner they will become extinct," Damrong said.

The quest for ivory remains the top reason poachers kill elephants in Thailand, other environmentalists say.

Soraida Salwala, the founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant foundation, said a full grown pair of tusks could be sold from 1 million to 2 million baht ($31,600 to $63,300), while the estimated value of an elephant's penis is more than 30,000 baht ($950).

"There's only a handful of people who like to eat elephant meat, but once there's demand, poachers will find it hard to resist the big money," she cautioned.

Thailand has fewer than 3,000 wild elephants and about 4,000 domesticated elephants, according to the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

The pachyderms were a mainstay of the logging industry in the northern and western parts of the country until logging contracts were revoked in the late 1980s.

Domesticated animals today are used mainly for heavy lifting and entertainment.

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DEA, NGOs Battle With Rhino Poaching 27 Jan 12;

Cape Town — The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has revealed that 232 suspects were arrested in connection with rhino poaching last year.

The suspects consisted of 194 rhino poachers, 24 receivers of rhino horns, 12 couriers and two exporters. No buyers were arrested.

Deputy Director General on biodiversity and conservation in the department, Fundisile Mketeni, told MPs on Thursday that the crime was grossing about R160 billion annually.

He said that between 2009, 2010 and last year, 122; 333, and 448 rhinos were poached respectively. He projected that about 300 rhinos were likely to be poached this year.

He highlighted that the North West and Limpopo provinces have the highest numbers of poached rhinos.

Mketeni was speaking during a briefing to Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs by over a dozen concerned organisations and individuals.

The organisations highlighted several problems on rhino poaching as well as proposing possible solutions.

Mketeni said that most of the poached rhino horns were destined for Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and China.

He indicated that South Africa was at various stages of signing bilateral agreements with these countries for purposes combating the crime.

Mtekeni complained about a lack of coordination between his department and its provincial counterparts as well as other related departments in dealing with problem.

He called for his department to be given centralized powers which would allow them to decisively deal with the matter.

Mtekeni said that the department should have its own officers trained along the lines of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

"We want to have our own intelligence and use it the way we want," he said, indicating that these would be able to directly pursue rhino poaching syndicates outside the country.

He said they planned to deploy their own officials at ports of entry as well as to train customs officials to help detect suspects about to leave the country.

He called for the Department of Public Works to fix, electrify and insert an electrical detection system on the fence between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique where rhino poaching activities were frequent.

Committee chairman Advocate Johnny de Lange told Mtekeni that his department could take certain powers from provincial departments and exercise them at a national level.

De Lange said that action should be taken to prevent the further killing of rhinos.

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Rio summit must yield new model: Brazil minister

Yana Marull (AFP) Google News 27 Jan 12;

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — The upcoming Rio summit on sustainable development must yield a new model to tackle the planet's economic, environmental and ethical crises, according to Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira.

The so-called Rio+20 gathering "is a an exceptional opportunity in a world in which people are searching for new ideas and new processes... to implement a new development paradigm," she said in an interview with AFP in Porto Alegre Thursday.

"The economic, ethical, cultural and environmental crisis which the planet is facing is a clear indication of the urgency of the present," she added. "We cannot talk of sustainability if we continue having poverty, inequality, unemployment, if we don't have a new vision for environmental assets."

The Rio+20 summit scheduled for June 20-22, the fourth major summit on sustainable development since 1972, is to take up a broad range of issues on the health of the world, including growth, food security, access to water, lifestyles, energy, biodiversity and climate.

Teixeira said the green economic model to be discussed in Rio must "offer social inclusion, creation of decent jobs, sustainable use of natural resources and technological innovation."

And she stressed the need for high-level representation at the UN summit on sustainable development, comparable to that at the Rio Earth Summit, which drew more than 100 heads of state or government 20 years ago.

"The presence of heads of state is important as is the presence of civil society and the private sector" to reach full agreement, the minister said.

"Twenty years ago, the focus was on the future. Now we have the urgency of the present. In 1992, there was no crisis, the paradigm was that neoliberalism had a solution for everything. Now we have the economic crisis," she added.

The first official draft of the June conference was released two weeks ago but critics said it amounted to a mere declaration of principles on the way forward.

It recognizes the limitations of gross domestic product as a measure of well-being and agrees "to further develop and strengthen indicators complementing GDP that integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions in a balanced manner."

One of its key proposals involves defining "sustainable development goals" that commit countries to meeting targets in the areas of food security, access to water, green jobs and even "sustainable production and consumption models."

These goals would complement the poverty-reduction Millennium Development Goals set by 192 countries in 2000.

Teixeira said Brazil's objective was to secure a "broad and solid" agreement at the conference.

She was in Porto Alegre to attend the World Social Forum (WSF), an alliance of social movements opposed to the World Economic Forum, the annual gathering of the world's economic and political elites being held at the same time in the Swiss resort of Davos.

Under the slogan "Capitalist Crisis, Social and Environmental Justice," the forum aims to lay the groundwork for a peoples' summit of social movements to be held in parallel to next June's Rio conference on sustainable development.

Thursday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff urged activists at the forum to come up with fresh ideas to help solve the world's most pressing problems.

Fresh ideas were "absolutely necessary" to help the world face the global economic crisis, she said, as she decried the negative effects of the crisis in the developed nations, warning it put "democracy itself" at risk.

WSF militants are sharply critical of the "green economy" concept which they view as "mercantilization" of natural resources and called for real change outside the capitalist that would take into account the welfare of people and the planet.

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