Best of our wild blogs: 23 Apr 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [16 - 22 Apr 2012]
from Green Business Times

Bright side of Bishan Park
from Everyday Nature a NEW blog by Tang Hung Bun, author of the Guide to Dragonflies of Singapore

A White-eye Entangled in a Spider's Web
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Make a pledge this Earth Day – join us to battle marine trash on Sat 28 Apr 2012 at the Tanah Merah Year-Round Coastal Cleanup!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and Zone Captains recce Tanah Merah for the Earth Day Cleanup

Wild Boar
from Monday Morgue

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Goal to make Singapore free of shark's fins

Tan Weizhen Today Online 23 Apr 12;

SINGAPORE - A series of anti-shark's fin campaigns by various groups are taking place islandwide over the next few months with a common goal: To make Singapore fin-free in the near term.

The advocates are arguing for a ban on trade of the popular dish and its consumption at official banquets and functions. They are also hoping to persuade Chinese restaurants here to remove the dish from their menus and corporate events.

Two communities - Chong Pang and Canberra under Nee Soon GRC - have banned the dish from being served at official functions.

When contacted, the Ministry of Law said Law Minister K Shanmugan and Member of Parliament Lim Wee Kiak have recently taken the lead in this no shark's fin stand.

Two weeks ago, the No Sharks Fins Singapore campaign was the first to launch here, organised by avid diver Michael Aw. After garnering enthusiastic support - 80,000 responses at an online petition earlier in January - organisers decided to take it a step further.

They hope to persuade all Chinese restaurants here to remove this dish - considered a traditional Chinese delicacy - by next year and will be conducting outreach programmes at schools. Non-profit organisations like World Wildlife Fund campaign are lending their weight behind this campaign.

Another group, Shark Savers, is due to embark on four campaigns over the next few months, with the end goal of persuading the authorities to impose a trade ban as well as a ban of the dish at official functions.

Speaking to Today, Mr Jonn Lu, who is leading efforts of the international shark conservation group, said that, while no other country in this region has imposed a total trade ban, Singapore is well positioned to be the first.

"To date, no country with a significant stake in this industry, be it a fishing, trading or a consumptive one, has done anything to protect sharks. Herein lies a golden opportunity for the Singapore Government to come across as a thought and policy leader," he said.

Last year, Singapore imported about 3,500 tonnes of shark's fin, 40 per cent more than the previous year. Explaining that in the past the focus was on education, Mr Lu said now there is little time for these efforts to bear fruit - hence the call for a ban.

According to Mr Lu, those from within the trading industry have estimated that sharks face extinction within a decade, while scientists give estimates of about 20 years.

Worldwide estimates are that about 100 million sharks are killed for their fins each year, although scientists are not sure. Internationally, calls for bans from environmentalists have met with limited success.

To date, only five states in the United States have passed Bills banning the sale, trade and possession of shark's fins. California - the biggest market for this trade outside Asia - became the latest to implement the ban starting in January this year.

In China, negotiations are on-going for a trade and banqueting ban, said Mr Lu. According to reports, a legislation proposal for the latter was drawn up this year.

When contacted about the possibility of a ban here, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority said that "it will continue to monitor the conservation status of sharks and restrict trade in any species, which is endangered".

A spokesman added that Singa-pore follows the lead of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which decides every three years if an animal is threatened with extinction.

In recent months, a string of local supermarkets, such as FairPrice and Carrefour, and hotels like Shangri-La pledged to stop serving or selling the dish.

Shark Savers' efforts to spread its cause among the community here will focus on those aged between 10 to 45 years. The campaigns here will focus on social media, short '101' lessons held within the community to educate people on sharks, a Shark Aid concert, as well as print and television advertisements.

As to chances of winning enough support to successfully call for a ban, Mr Lu is optimistic as people now are "more interested than they were 10 to 15 years ago".

He warned that loss of sharks as apex predators could lead to a "cascading effect" on wild fish stocks and commercial fisheries.

"We need to save them now for selfish reasons: Being apex predators, they are absolutely critical in the maintenance of balance and harmony within food pyramids and food webs," he added.

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Malaysia: Search for shark fin soup substitute

Muguntan Vanar The Star 23 Apr 12;

KOTA KINABALU: Shark conservationists have thrown a challenge to hotels to whip up an alternative to shark fin soup and the chefs are rolling up their sleeves!

At least 10 chefs from major hotels in the city are expected to take part in the “Imperial Gourmet Soup Challenge” organised by the Tanjung Aru Junior Chamber International (JCI) on May 6.

JCI Tanjung Aru chairman Aderick Chong said the aim of the challenge at Surya Sabah Mall here was to create more gourmet soups for banquets.

“We hope shark fin soup will eventually be forgotten,'' said Chong, whose JCI is among several NGOs working with the state government to put an end to shark hunting and finning in Sabah.

Chong said sharks' fins were tasteless and contained methyl-mercury.

“At the moment, we have fish maw soup and chicken in wintermelon as the common replacements for shark fin soup. We hope more soup choices will be created and are just as prestigious,'' he added.

The guidelines for the contest state that the soups must be shark and shark fin free and the chefs must use environmentally sustainable ingredients.

“Participants will be encouraged to refer to the Malaysia Sustainable Seafood Guide provided by WWF and Malaysian Nature Society.

”Our judges will only have the name of the soup and its ingredients for judging. The chefs will remain anonymous,” he said, adding that the identities of the chefs and their hotels would be revealed after winners were selected.

Chong said the Shangri-la group of hotels and the Sutera Harbour resort had removed shark fin soup from their menus.

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The rising tide of Asia's water challenges

Brahma Chellaney The Straits Times 23 Apr 12;

DAM-BUILDING on shared rivers has emerged as the leading source of interstate and intrastate water disputes and tensions in Asia, the world's driest continent where freshwater availability is less than half the global annual average of 6,380 cubic metres per person.

Dam-building has largely petered out in the West but continues in full swing in Asia where such activity has roiled inter-riparian relations, intensifying water disputes and impeding broader regional integration.

Numerous new dam projects in Central, South, South-east and East Asia show that policymakers still seek to engineer potential solutions to the water crisis via traditional supply-side approaches, when the imperative now is to improve water-use productivity and efficiency and to tap non-traditional sources, from wastewater reclamation to rainwater capture, as Singapore is doing.

Dam-building at a number of sites in Asia has triggered grassroots opposition over the submergence of land and the displacement of residents. Such opposition, however, tends to be effectively stifled in autocracies, while democracies struggle to deal with this resistance. Indeed, about four-fifths of all dams currently under construction in Asia are in China, which already boasts slightly more than half of all existing large dams in the world.

Such is the growing interstate water competition that even run-of-river projects have become a source of inter- riparian tensions, although they generally do not alter cross-border flows unlike multipurpose storage dams. These run-of-river dams are mostly small and employ a river's natural flow and elevation drop to produce electricity, without the aid of a large reservoir or dam.

Pakistan has, for instance, invoked provisions in the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty to take a modest-sized Indian run-of- river dam to the International Court of Arbitration, staying further work on the dam.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has fast-tracked its own three-times-larger dam project on the same Himalayan stream, apparently to gain a priority right on river-water use under the customary doctrine of prior appropriation. This Chinese-aided, US$2.16 billion (S$2.7 billion) Pakistani project is located at a border site, just downstream from the Indian project.

Under the 1960 treaty, India set aside 80 per cent of the waters of the six-river Indus system for downstream Pakistan - the most generous water-sharing pact thus far in modern world history.

India, however, is downriver to China, which rejects the concept of water sharing. An extensive Chinese water infrastructure in Tibet will have a serious impact on India, which gets almost one-third of all its yearly water supplies from the rivers originating there.

More broadly, the building of large dams is running into stiff grassroots opposition in Asian democracies.

The future of Japan's US$5.62 billion Yanba Dam project remains uncertain, although the government recently resurrected it. In South Korea, the so-called Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, launched by President Lee Myung Bak in 2009, has become nationally divisive.

The project involves the building of more dams in a country that already has more than 800 large dams and 18,000 small reservoirs, with artificial lakes making up almost 95 per cent of all lakes in South Korea.

In India, the power of citizen groups to organise grassroots protests is such that it has become virtually impossible to build a large dam, blighting the promise of hydropower. Proof of this was the 2010 decision to abandon three dam projects on River Bhagirathi.

In South-east Asia, dam-building disputes fall into two categories - smaller projects in the lower basin and China's mega-dams on the upper Mekong River.

Laos is aiming to earn hydro-dollars through the export of electricity, mainly to China. Indeed, most of the planned Laotian and Cambodian dams involve Chinese assistance. Thailand's own hydro-development plans have further muddied the picture.

Vietnam, located farthest downstream, has the most to lose. Laos, responding to growing regional concerns, has, however, put on hold its largest project, the 1,260MW Sayabouly Dam, until an expert review has been completed.

China's dam-building on shared rivers, by contrast, continues unabated.

After recently commissioning the 4,200MW Xiaowan, which dwarfs Paris' Eiffel Tower in height, China is racing to complete the 5,850MW Nuozhadu, also on the Mekong. The state-run HydroChina Corporation, meanwhile, has unveiled a plan to build a dam more than two times as large as the Three Gorges Dam at Metog, close to the disputed, heavily militarised border with India.

Asia is the hub of the global water challenges. To contain the rising security risks, Asian states must build institutionalised water cooperation based on transparency, information sharing, equitable distribution of benefits, dispute settlement, pollution control, and a mutual commitment to refrain from projects that could diminish transboundary flows.

The writer is a Bosch Public Policy Fellow with The Transatlantic Academy in Washington, and the author of the recently published Water: Asia's New Battleground (Georgetown University Press).

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