Best of our wild blogs: 14 Mar 12

Tears at Chek Jawa in 2001
from Nature rambles

29 Mar (Thu): Green Drinks talk on "Secret Shores of Singapore"
from wild shores of singapore

Giant clams at Beting Bemban Besar
from wild shores of singapore

Butterflies @ NTU Herb Garden (方草园)
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Four Little Egrets - Fishing along canal
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Family day in Bukit Brown
from Rojak Librarian

Sign up for a Gastropodic good time!
from Raffles Museum News

New articles on Nature in Singapore website
from Raffles Museum News

ACRES Flag Day – Donate to support wildlife rescue!
from My Wild Life with Nature

Climate change could increase fires, logging, and hunting in rainforests
from news by Jeremy Hance

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Climate change authority responds to WWF's 'largest carbon footprint' charge

Today Online 14 Mar 12;

SINGAPORE - The National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) has responded to environmental group World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) findings that the Republic has the largest carbon footprint per capita in the Asia-Pacific.

The NCCS issued its response to "provide a better understanding of the facts" and took issue with the WWF citing Singapore as "a society that may be one of the best examples of what we should not do" - a statement which "seriously misrepresents the situation", said the NCCS.

The secretariat cited how the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Asian Green City Index last year had assessed Singapore as Asia's greenest metropolis and said Singapore ranked "well above average" for its policies on energy and carbon emissions.

The EIU study found that Singapore used three megajoules of energy to generate US$1 (S$1.30) of gross domestic product (GDP) - half the Index's average of six megajoules. The Index had examined the environmental performance of 22 Asian cities in eight categories including environmental governance, air quality, energy and carbon dioxide emissions.

The NCCS also noted that the methodology used by the WWF in its upcoming Asia Footprint Report differs from that of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The latter attributes emissions from goods to the country where they are produced, while WWF attributes carbon emissions from the goods to the importing country.

Based on the UNFCCC's method, Singapore ranked below countries such as Brunei, Australia and South Korea in terms of per capita emissions, said the NCCS.

Even so, the NCCS noted "inherent limitations" in the use of per capita indicators to measure carbon emissions. "Carbon emissions per capita as a measure disadvantages countries with small populations," it said.

This is so for Singapore due to its small land area, with no readily available alternative energy sources.

Singapore ranks favourably when it comes to energy intensity, the NCCS also pointed out.

Its carbon-dioxide emissions per dollar or GDP is among "the lowest internationally" - or 123 out of 137 countries, based on data from the International Energy Agency.

"Singapore will strive to be an even more environmentally green city, even given out inherent limitations as an island state," the NCCS said.

Last Monday, the WWF had revealed that Singapore topped the list of carbon emitters per capita in the Asia-Pacific, saying its high GDP per capita fuelled consumption habits and citing the corporate sector and construction industry as a significant contributor.

Exact carbon emission levels of various countries will be revealed when its Asia Footprint Report is out in June.

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Let's talk, SLA tells farmers

It is giving those told to vacate state land a chance to discuss issue
Grace Chua Straits Times 14 Mar 12;

THE group of residents who have been farming on a patch of state land in Clementi Avenue 4 may now get a little breathing room.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA), which last week issued an eviction notice on the illegal vegetable garden, is now asking these farmers to come forward to discuss the issue.

If they fail to do this by March 20, their vegetable patches, the sheds and other structures there will be cleared.

An SLA spokesman said it has no choice but to do this, because public health and safety issues - from mosquitoes and air pollution from the burning of leaves on the site - have been raised.

So far, three families have identified themselves.

Meanwhile, Ms Sim Ann, the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Member of Parliament overseeing the area, has offered to mediate.

Yesterday, she showed reporters round the 1,800 sq m of vegetable patches, pointing out potential mosquito breeding grounds and imploring the farmers to step forward.

'If they don't do so, it'll be quite hard for us to represent their views,' she said.

The SLA, which has no immediate plans for that tract of state land, also wants to hear from the area's grassroots groups on whether parts of the land can be used in the interim for the enjoyment of the residents.

'If the grassroots organisations require more time to discuss this with residents, the SLA is prepared to consider,' an SLA spokesman said.

The SLA said it oversees 270 community-use sites islandwide, though none of these is used for farms or gardens.

The Clementi case is one of the first high-profile run-ins between a government agency and illegal farmers in almost a decade; the last known case was of a farm in Neo Tiew which was told to go.

The Clementi patchwork of farms, sitting on land almost two football fields in length, is bounded by a portion of the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu railway line, the Sungei Ulu Pandan canal, Clementi Avenue 4 and Clementi Avenue 6.

A week ago, the SLA posted a letter on sheds and other structures there, asking the users to dismantle them by March 20 or face enforcement action. No invitation to discuss the issue was offered then.

Yesterday, the SLA said that, aside from asking the farmers to come forward by March 20, it would give them 'a reasonable period of time' to dismantle and remove the structures and other items.

Its spokesman did not elaborate.

The area has been cultivated by various residents for some 30 years. Most of the 20 or so farmers are not in it for profit, but just for the exercise and the fruits of their labour, which include jackfruit, chilli and sweet potato.

But some residents have complained of smoke from the leaves that are burned regularly on site.

Kindergarten teacher Ng Ang Mui, 48, who lives in Block 305, said her two children have asthma and her mother was having problems breathing.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Ms Sim said public health was her priority: 'Let's just settle the public-health concerns first - and that really concerns everyone, not just the residents nearby but also the people using this piece of land. The rest, we'll have to figure it out along the way.'

Mr Lester Yeong, 35, whose retired father farms a patch on the site, has offered to speak for the farmers. He and others have proposed to the SLA that farming be allowed to carry on until plans are made for the land, and that the farmers pay a nominal fee for a temporary occupancy permit.

His father's vegetable patch is fenced up, but he said he would not mind opening up the garden to public access.

Meanwhile, members of the public have written in to The Straits Times, some opposed to the farming and others backing it for the 'charm' it gives the neighbourhood.

Retiree Lee Ter Kiah, 70, said the 'dirty and unsightly' farms should make way for a park where people can take strolls.

Clementi resident Lin Shuli, a 22-year-old sociology undergraduate who is studying the farmers for a term paper on ageing, said: 'I understand the farmers have occupied the land illegally, but I urge the authorities to consider preserving this community - and even help the elderly to build on their hobby.'

They could, for example, make compost instead of burning vegetable matter, she said, adding: 'These plots of land are what give them a sense of purpose in their silver years.'

Residents told to clear out "farm" on state land
Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 13 Mar 12;

SINGAPORE: The authorities are hoping to engage those who have been illegally using a plot of state land at Clementi Avenue 4.

Residents have been farming at the 1,800 square metre site for almost 30 years, but they are now being ordered by the Singapore Land Authority to move out by March 20.

And for residents like Lester Yeong, they are hoping that a compromise can be reached between the authorities and residents.

Mr Yeong and his family have been farming in the area for about two years. They spend about two to three hours daily at the plot and have planted about 20 species of fruits and vegetables there.

Mr Yeong said: "It's like a kampong and it is near where we stay. My kids come here every day after I return from work and they totally enjoy it. It's most unfortunate that a single incident has caused SLA to issue the encroachment notice. Right now, I have made an appeal to MP of Bukit Timah, Sim Ann, that we would very much like to continue with what we have been doing... and we are ready for any form of compromise. With compromise, I believe that it'll be a very valuable community farming area."

However, health issues are a concern.

A resident living in Clementi raised concerns a few weeks ago about leaves being burnt at the plot.

The burning had caused problems for her child who has asthma.

Aside from health concerns, the National Environment Agency is also worried about mosquito breeding.

And MP for the area, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC's Sim Ann, hopes those who have been using the plot will come forward to share their views with her.

Ms Sim said: "If they don't identify themselves, it's going to be very hard for us to represent their views when we engage with agencies such as the Singapore Land Authority and other concerned agencies such as the National Environment Agency. The SLA has also assured us that they will work with the community and stakeholders to come up with an arrangement that is for the greater community interest."

SLA said it will consider whether the plot should be used for some form of interim community use.

- CNA/fa

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Hundred-year-old tree cut down

Letter from Patricia Chee Today Online 14 Mar 12;

It was a black day for many residents in Kheam Hock Road when a newcomer to the neighbourhood recently cut down a 100-year-old tree.

It stood along the road outside the plot of land bought by this newcomer, who built three houses on land where previously there had been one.

The National Parks Board told me that the third house had been designed with the driveway opposite where the tree stood. As a result, the tree "blocked" the entrance to the house and permission was given to cut it down.

I understand that NParks has spent a lot to take photographs and document significant and beautiful trees, to protect them. Do the authorities now have a different philosophy about protecting trees and the environment?

It seems that their obligation to the public is to fund documentation for posterity, as is the case for Bukit Brown Cemetery, rather than saving trees or green lungs, even those with historical value, for ordinary citizens and future generations to enjoy.

Works would have affected tree stability
Letter from Sim Cheng Hai Director (Policy & Planning) National Parks Board
Today Online 17 Mar 12;

WE REFER to Ms Patricia Chee's letter, "Hundred-year-old tree cut down" (March 14).

The National Parks Board processes the development plans of public and private projects when they potentially affect roadside trees. We do our utmost to retain existing trees by requiring the developer to set aside a tree-protection zone to protect the major tree roots from development works.

While the tree referred to by Ms Chee was not likely to have been as old as 100 years, we had explored all ways to retain it. This included working with the architect on alternative design configurations and carrying out tests to assess the presence of major tree roots.

Unfortunately, given the constraints of the site, one major anchoring root would have been affected by the construction. This would have an impact on the stability of the tree. Hence, we could not retain it.

New trees will be planted back. We have contacted Ms Chee and explained our position to her.

We share Ms Chee's love for mature trees and wish to assure her of our commitment to greenery.

We look after about 1.3 million trees located within parks and road verges, and ensure that they receive continual care and attention so that they can grow to maturity.

We also introduced the Heritage Tree Scheme in 2001 to promote the conservation and appreciation of beautiful and majestic mature trees. Under this scheme, members of the public can nominate potential Heritage Trees.

Currently, there are 183 Heritage Trees of various species in Singapore.

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Indonesia: Three elephants deaths being investigated in Riau

Antara 14 Mar 12;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - A joint team is investigating the death of three Sumatran elephants in Pelalawan district in Riau province to determine whether the dead elephants were poisoned or killed by hunters.

"We are still investigating to see if it was the result of deliberate actions," the chief of the Tesso Nilo National Park agency, Hayani Suprahman, told ANTARA here on Saturday.

The case has drawn public attention since the deaths occurred within days of each other. Hayani said initial allegations focused on the elephants possibly being poisoned.

He added that the offices involved in the investigation are the Tesso Nilo National Park, the Tesso Nilo National Park Foundation, the Riau chapter of the Natural Resource Conservation Agency and the police.

"If, indeed, the elephants had been poisoned, we will find the perpetrators," he said.

The three elephants were found dead in Pangakala Gondai village in the Langgam sub-district in Pelalawan.

Last Tuesday a wild Sumatran elephant was found dead in Pangkalan Gondai, not far away from Tesso Nilo National Park. The dead animal was found with a wound in its head.

The following day another elephant was discovered dead about 400 meters from where the first elephant was found.

The third dead animal was found by a WWF team about 50 meters from where the second death occurred. Further, the team only found the skull of the dead animal, according to officials.

It is believed the dead elephants were originally from a group living in Tesso Nilo National Park. The area where the dead elephants were found had earlier been converted into oil palm plantations.

Based upon initial information, the elephants died from being poisoned. Officials speculated that the elephants were possibly looking for water near the river after they realized they had been poisoned.

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Outlook for China's marine environment 'not optimistic'

China Daily 13 Mar 12;

BEIJING - The head of China's oceanic authority has said that the outlook for China's maritime environment is "not optimistic", calling for further efforts to build the ocean conservation culture.

Major tasks include upgrading traditional industry, evaluating the maritime environmental carrying capacity, controlling the total amount of pollutants, and improving the monitoring system, said Liu Cigui, director of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA).

Liu added that certain achievements have been made in energy conservation, emissions reduction and pollution control. However, the outlook for the maritime environment is not optimistic in general, as it is still facing major challenges.

Due to the rapid economic expansion and development of maritime resources, labor-intensive industries and industries with high consumption in energy and resources are polluting the country's marine belt, Liu said.

The development of the heavy chemical industry, especially coastal and offshore oil and gas exploitation, brings risks to the maritime environment, as chances for oil and chemical leaks are growing.

In the meantime, the depletion of oxygen in water is another challenge facing the maritime environment, Chen said, adding that a total of 14,000 square km of algae bloom was found from 2005 to 2010.

According to Liu, environmental protection and control, as well as ecological rehabilitation in the Bohai Sea, will be the focus for the SOA's work this year and for some time to come.

The country's semi-closed Bohai Sea suffered heavy pollution last year as an oil leak took place at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield run by ConocoPhillips China, a subsidiary of US energy giant ConocoPhillips.

The oil spill has polluted over 6,200 square km of water in the bay since June, an area about nine times the size of Singapore. The SOA later said that its investigation revealed that operations in the oilfield were in violation of the region's development plan.

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At global forum, ministers pledge to tackle water crisis

(AFP) Google News 14 Mar 12;

MARSEILLE, France — A hundred and thirty countries on Tuesday urged the upcoming Rio Summit to speed action on providing the poor with access to clean water and sanitation and fix worsening problems of water scarcity and pollution.

But their declaration was opposed by leftwing Bolivia as failing to enshrine the principles of social justice, the right to water and care for the environment, and activists derided the arena where it was issued as a trade fair.

"We commit to accelerate the full implementation of the human rights obligations relating to access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation by all appropriate means as a part of our efforts to overcome the water crisis at all levels," a communique said.

The five-page statement, endorsed by 130 national representatives including 84 ministers, was issued at the World Water Forum, a six-day event gathering policymakers, businesses and water experts.

It also sketched aims for tackling water stress through better management and investment and for improving environmental custodianship of the precious resource.

It called for these aims to "be widely disseminated in relevant fora, including the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development," the formal name for the June 20-22 followup to the 1992 Rio Summit.

The declaration was backed by a petition with 130,000 signatures organised by Solidarites Internationales, a French group, which demanded access to water for the poor.

But the communique was contested by Bolivian Environment and Water Minister Felipe Quispe Quenta.

According to journalists who attended the ministerial plenary, his microphone was cut off, purportedly for time reasons, after he said the text did not include clear references to social justice and the right to water.

"We expressed our disagreement when the statement was being drafted and we were not heard. Bolivia does not go along with this ministerial declaration," the minister said to reporters after the session.

A Canadian NGO, the Council of Canadians, described the Water Forum, held every three years, as "the Davos of Water... a non-democratic forum run by multinational water corporations."

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of a small US NGO, Food and Water Watch, said the Forum was viewed with suspicion by many grass-roots organisations on water, sustainable development and the environment.

"I think there is no interest (here) in having a debate or dialogue," she told AFP.

"We have a trade fair that is being promoted as a ministerial, but what we really need is the UN to take hold of the process. We cannot have the water industry dictate the issues."

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Why is the sea rising at different rates around Australia?

ABC Science 14 Mar 12;

What causes sea level rise? Why is the average sea-level rise around Australia higher than the global mean? And why is the sea rising at different rates around Australia?

Looking out to sea it's hard to imagine that the seemingly flat expanse of ocean in front of you is rising. But according to satellite and tide-gauge data collected since 1993, global sea levels are rising on average about 3 millimetres per year, faster than the average for the 20th century as a whole.

The major factors contributing to global sea-level rise are expansion of the ocean as the water warms and melting of ice on land, leading to an increase in volume of the ocean, says Dr John Church from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.

"These processes will continue to contribute to rising sea levels during the 21st century and for centuries into the future," Church says, adding that "changes in ice sheets have caused changes in sea level of over 100 metres in the past."

Another smaller contribution is the change in volume of liquid (rather than frozen) water stored on land. For example, extensive flooding in Australia, Asia and South America during the 2010/11 La Niña event caused a small and temporary fall in sea level as water was transferred onto land. By the end of 2011 sea levels had begun to rise again as this water flowed back to the ocean.

Sea-level rise around Australia

Despite appearances, the ocean is not flat — it is a constantly shifting mass affected by factors such as ocean temperatures, currents and atmospheric winds. This means there are differences between the global-average sea-level rise and local rates of rise.

At an average of about 5 millimetres per year, sea levels are rising faster around Australia since 1993 than the global average. And the rate of sea-level rise varies around the coast of Australia.

In the north and north-west, sea levels are rising between 7 and 11 millimetres per year since 1993 — that's two to three times the global average. On the central east coast and areas to the south of Australia rates are mostly similar to the global average.

Regional variations in sea level rise are influenced by range of factors including interannual and decadal fluctuations in climate, says Church.

"That larger rate of rise in the north and north-west is probably dominated by climate variability — El Niño/La Niña cycles as well as a longer period decadal change like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation," says Church.

"This is a movement of water around the ocean, but with little change in overall volume, like sloshing water in a very big bathtub."

"If you go from a period of La Niña to El Niño or a period of El Niño to La Niña then you'll see a trend in sea level across the Pacific Ocean," says Church.

During La Niña periods, trade winds blow warm water westward across the Pacific, through the Indonesian Archipelego to the the Indian Ocean, where they are clearly seen in the Fremantle tide-gauge record, he says.

But during El Nino periods the trade winds relax and warm water flows eastward in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

"For example, during 1997/98 sea levels mostly fell around Australia, and in the western equatorial Pacific and the eastern equatorial Indian oceans," he says.

While the El Niño/La Niña causes short term 'troughs' and 'spikes' in sea level, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation produces long-term patterns over several decades.

"The interannual variability produced by El Niño/La Niña is large, of the order of tens of centimetres in some spots, but superimposed on that is the rising trend which over time is likely to be larger than El Niño/La Niña," says Church.

Local anomalies

Within this rising trend are local anomalies, thought to be attributed to the changing "solid" Earth and shifting ocean currents.

"One example is Hillarys in Perth where groundwater extraction has led to subsidence and an apparent larger rate of sea-level rise compared to the land," says Church.

In contrast, coastal sea levels at Port Kembla in New South Wales aren't rising as fast as the ocean offshore. "We believe that is due to changes in the strength of the East Australian Current (EAC)," says Church.

The EAC is a major current that flows down the east coast of Australia, bringing warm water from the tropics.

"The EAC is extending south and that brings warm water and high sea levels to the offshore side of the EAC, but across the EAC there's also a slope in sea level so that rising sea level offshore is not felt as strongly at the coast."

Dr John Church from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research was interviewed by Genelle Weule.

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Climate-induced migration a growing humanitarian threat - report

Thin Lei Win Reuters AlertNet 13 Mar 12;

BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Disaster-prone Asia Pacific will see a surge in climate-induced migration this century and governments need to start planning to avoid humanitarian crises caused by millions of people fleeing their homes, a new report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warned Tuesday.

Migration linked to climate change, a phenomenon that will “only become more pronounced in the coming years,” poses a growing humanitarian threat, said Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia Pacific.

The report, available in draft form last year, also said most migration in the region would be within national boundaries, and primarily from rural to urban areas. The movement, the bulk of which will involve poor people, is likely to be influenced by social, political and economic changes as well as climate pressures.

The report urged the region’s leaders to protect migrants, improve international cooperation on migrant issues, draw up more comprehensive systems to manage disaster risks, use migration as a tool to adapt to climate change and remove barriers to insurance schemes and remittances that help communities become more resilient.

“By taking actions today, governments can reduce the likelihood of future humanitarian crises” and maximise the possibilities that people can remain in their communities or, if they are forced to move, relocate to more secure places with livelihood options, the report noted.

"People have moved for environmental reasons since the beginning of time. What has changed lately is the policy awareness about it and also how much climate change aggravates this tendency,” said Dina Ionesco, migration policy officer for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), at the report’s launch in Bangkok.

According to IOM, currently there are around 200 million international migrants worldwide and over 700 million internal migrants, most of them economic migrants.


Storms, floods and other extreme weather events in Asia Pacific displaced more than 42 million people in the past two years, a share of whom became migrants, either unable to return home or opting to relocate, the report said.

The figure does not include those who moved due to slow environmental changes such as desertification, rising sea levels or coastal erosions, problems nations like the the Maldives or Papua New Guinea in particular have suffered.

Numbers of migrants as a result of slow environmental changes are much harder to calculate, partly because such changes take place over a long period of time but also because they are less visible than sudden disasters which displace thousands overnight. However, experts also say these events tend to force people to move away more permanently.

Asia Pacific is already the region most prone to natural disasters, both in terms of the absolute number of disasters and the sheer number of people exposed (60 percent of the world’s population lives in the region).

Climate change is expected to worsen the natural disaster burden, bringing sea level rise, storm surges, flooding and water stress, and leaving more people displaced, at least temporarily.

The report identifies as Asian climate risk ‘hot spots’ booming megacities including Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila, the densely populated low-lying coast of China, southern Pakistan, the deltas of the Mekong, Red and Irrawaddy rivers and the Pacific island states of Kiribati and Tuvalu.

While migration remains a controversial and sensitive issue, governments are realising the importance of a comprehensive migration and resettlement policy, said Bart W. Edes, the director of ADB's division on poverty reduction, gender and social development.

"I think we're aided in part by the reality around what we're seeing - disasters after disasters,” he told AlertNet.

In the Philippines, where ADB is based, a typhoon hit northern Mindanao - an area previously not affected by typhoons - in December, killing more than 1,000 people and leaving tens of thousands displaced.


Coming demographic changes will bring more attention to migration in general, Edes added, and some of the solutions could be applicable to climate-induced migration. He pointed to Japan, which has signed bilateral agreements with Indonesia and Philippines to bring nurses to the country to fill gaps in the labour force left by an aging population.

“This is a practical example, in Asia, of a country that is not famous for being a big land of immigration and yet they have found it their self-interest (to do this),” he said.

The report also stressed the importance of remittances in helping communities deal with climate change and urged for fees surrounding remittances to be lowered.

“Remittances play a massive role in building resilience,” Edes said. In Bangladesh, the Philippines, Tajikistan, and Cambodia, they are “improving livelihoods, diversifying income (and) helping provide a buffer against economic shocks whether environmentally-caused or not.”

And the report singled out AfatVimo, a micro-insurance scheme in India, which covers damage or loss through 19 kinds of disasters, including floods, cyclones, lightning strikes and landslides, as an example of how to build resilience against climate impacts. The annual premium is about $4.50 with a total potential benefit of $1,560.

Migration itself is a crucial means of adapting to climate change, and ultimately affected communities should be allowed to choose to migrate, said IOM’s Ionesco.

"Migration can create alternative livelihoods for people. It can really be part of the solution if it's well managed, well-planned, well-thought-out and well-integrated in other policies, such as humanitarian, development, adaptation and climate change policies,” she said.

"The idea is to plan and forecast this migration that can be foreseen so it's not forced, (so) it remains a choice."

Climate refugees
More than 42 million people in Asia-Pacific displaced by extreme weather events over last two years: ADB report
Nirmal Ghosh Straits Times 14 Mar 12;

BANGKOK: Ningxia Hui autonomous region is more than 1,000km from Beijing and China's booming coastal cities. Near Inner Mongolia, it is one of China's poorest regions, and in recent years has seen both less rain and shifting weather patterns.

It is watered by the storied Yellow River, but that river has been shrinking. Locals in Ningxia Hui get by with just 14 per cent of the amount of water the average Chinese consumes every day.

To adapt, the local government has moved tens of thousands of villagers from parched areas.

Villages stricken by drought are abandoned to let the surrounding ecology regenerate. Those who leave move to subsidised housing close to water and roads, with biogas-based electricity, schools and greenhouses. Relocated villagers also receive financial assistance and training.

Some 180,000 people migrated from drought-hit villages in Ningxia Hui from 2006 to 2010. Over the next five years, 350,000 more will migrate.

Ningxia Hui is one example of the toll of climate change but it is not the worst. China is not even on the list of 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Six of those on the list however are in the Asia-Pacific region - Bangladesh, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

More than 42 million people in Asia and the Pacific were displaced by extreme weather events over the last two years, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) yesterday.

Many were those who lived in Asia's low-lying zones close to the sea and major rivers. With the world's temperature expected to rise by up to 2 deg C by 2050, and possibly by up to 4 deg C by 2100, the ADB warned that governments will need to factor in climate change in their development plans, including planning for mass migration.

In a new report - 'Climate-Induced Migration' - released during a two-day conference here, the ADB said that increasing waves of migration are straining the ability of cities and governments to cope.

The best example is Dhaka. The capital of Bangladesh is home to about 12 million people, of which close to four million live in slums. According to the International Organisation for Migration, over 60 per cent of slum dwellers in Dhaka have experienced environmental disasters. And the population is still growing; Dhaka is on course to become the fourth-largest megacity in the world by 2025.

The ADB urged more support for vulnerable populations so that they have a choice not to migrate - and better infrastructure and livelihood alternatives for those who were forced to do so.

Governments need to use new financial instruments including 'catastrophe bonds' and special insurance schemes. The Asia-Pacific region, the bank said, needs to spend about US$40 billion (S$50 billion) a year up to the end of 2050 to 'climate proof' itself.

'The solutions are there, they just cost money,' ADB vice-president Bindu Lohani told journalists.

While people migrate for a variety of other reasons, 'the environment is becoming a significant driver of migration in Asia and the Pacific as the population grows in vulnerable areas', Mr Lohani said.

The existence of sound migration policies can determine whether people become migrants or refugees, said research fellow Francois Gemenne, from the France-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

Effects of extreme weather

EXTREME weather events displaced more than 42 million people across Asia and the Pacific in 2010 and last year.

Between 2001 and 2010, natural disasters affected an average of more than 200 million people in the region each year, with more than 70,000 deaths.

An estimated 10.7 million people were displaced by extreme weather events related to climate change in Asia alone, in 2011. East, South-east, and South Asia accounted for almost all of the displaced.

Environmental hazards from rising sea levels and associated storm surges are a great concern for low-lying regions in South-east Asia. About one-third of its population live in areas at risk of coastal flooding.

Areas identified as highly vulnerable include the Mekong, Red, and Irrawaddy river deltas. Major cities situated at or close to sea level in the region - including Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta and Manila - are likely to be affected.

Increasingly severe storms, droughts and rising sea levels linked to climate change are likely to dent rice and wheat production.


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