Best of our wild blogs: 15 May 12

19 May (Sat): Raffles Museum Children's Open House
from wild shores of singapore

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [30 Apr - 13 May 2012]
from Green Business Times

The Seagrasses of Chek Jawa
from Nature rambles

Breakfast with Wild Boar and Sunshine on the Shores
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Citron-crested cockatoo spotted at East Coast Road
from Bird Ecology Study Group

The Tiny, Tiny Water Boatmen
from Macro Photography in Singapore

KTPH from 6 to 16
from Everyday Nature

Vietnam - Mangrove Carbon & Conservation
from Blue Carbon Blog by Steven J Lutz

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How NParks deals with flotsam at wetland reserve

Straits Times Forum 15 May 12;

WE THANK Ms Cindy Tan for her compliments about our service staff and her feedback ('Litter turns wetland reserve into an eyesore'; last Friday). The litter Ms Tan saw in the waters surrounding Sungei Buloh was flotsam that gets carried into Sungei Buloh by the tides.

To keep flotsam away from Sungei Buloh, we have installed a boom at the mangrove boardwalk. Our contractor carries out daily cleaning. To supplement this, a number of corporations and schools have partnered us to carry out regular clean-ups of the coastal area.

The litter could have come from anywhere in the Strait of Johor. One source could be the drains and waterways around Sungei Buloh. To reduce the pollution from this source, we appeal to the public not to litter.

Wong Tuan Wah
Director, Conservation
National Parks Board

Litter turns wetland reserve into an eyesore
Straits Times Forum 11 May 12;

I VISITED Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Sunday morning with my family. I had not been there for four years and was looking forward to enjoying the flora and fauna of this nature reserve.

While I was not disappointed in terms of the service (the woman at the visitor centre was friendly and helpful), I was quite aghast to see the amount of trash floating on the water - plastic bottles, styrofoam boxes and even a beach ball, which were really an eyesore.

A few times we thought we spotted some creatures in the water, but they turned out to be litter. I distinctly remember that on my last visit a few years ago, there was hardly any litter.

Cindy Tan (Ms)

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Oyster farming near Chek Jawa

The world is her oyster
Jonathan Choo Asia One 15 May 12;

Despite zero experience in oyster farming, this plucky woman ploughed $500,000 into a derelict oyster farm and successfully persuaded restaurants here to buy local molluscs.

She had no prior experience in aquaculture.

But that didn't stop her from venturing into unchartered waters and investing half a million dollars to rebuild a derelict oyster farm which had gone bust.

That was three years ago.

Today, Madam Fanny Su, 50, juggles her full-time job as a manager for an international organisation and being a part-time farmer on her oyster farm, Hai Loong Mariculture, located off Pulau Ubin, near Chek Jawa.

Her venture into oyster cultivation began when she was looking to do more with her love for the outdoors.

She initially considered fish farming.

In 2009, she started scouting for a fish farm to buy and discovered there was an oyster farm which had gone out of business about a year ago.

Doing her sums, Madam Su found that oyster farming could be more cost effective, she says.

So she paid the farm's previous owners $50,000. Says Madam Su with a laugh: "It came with a small motorboat and a cat."

The oyster farm was in very bad shape, almost half sinking when she got it.

It took four months to rebuild and she engaged contractors and sought help from the local fishing community.

The structure of the farm, which used to span 2,000 sq m, now covers an area of 4,000 sq m.

The total cost of the repair and renovation works? A cool $500,000.

It was a risk from the beginning as oysters take at least a year to mature and there was no guarantee of a market for locally-cultivated ones.

Having no prior experience, Madam Su ramped up her game by attending overseas trade shows and oyster farming courses in the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia to learn the ropes of the trade.

The farm now cultivates Pacific oysters from spats (baby oysters) delivered from Australia and Chile every four months.

Today, after three years of persistence and hard work, the farm has begun to yield results.

Now the farm employs five workers and supplies 3,000 oysters a week to about a dozen restaurant-chain regulars here and to private consumers.

The farm has 500,000 Pacific oysters growing in baskets at any one time, and they are working toward producing 20,000 of the plump shellfish a month.

Madam Su reckons it will take at least another five years to recover her investment.

And it was no easy feat persuading local restaurants to buy her oysters at first.

Recalls Madam Su: "I went cold-calling door-to-door, carrying a small insulated ice-box containing fresh oysters! I started at Clarke Quay and Boat Quay.

"Most believed that imported oysters are the best. I had to persuade them otherwise. I invited the restaurant managers and chefs to sample our oysters and let them taste the quality for themselves."

They were eventually won over by the plump, fleshy and fresh produce.

Before delivery, the oysters have to be scraped clean, sorted into three different size groups and undergo extensive depuration, a process of cleaning, purging and sterilisation for two days to kill off bacteria and viruses that may be present.

The oysters are then placed in a cooler water tank, ready for shipment.

Once a week, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore checks the surrounding water, the depuration system and collects oysters for testing.

Every weekend, Madam Su and her brother, Mr Frank Su, 58, who is retired from the army, pitch in.

She'll be busy with the paperwork and scraping duties, while her brother does maintenance work and monitors the farm.

For her, it really is a labour of love.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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Haze may return between June and October: Dr Balakrishnan

Channel NewsAsia 15 May 12;

SINGAPORE: The haze may return between June and October when the traditional dry season for Singapore and the southern ASEAN region is expected to occur, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said.

Dr Balakrishnan said in a written reply to Nominated MP Nicholas Fang that weather conditions may be generally drier compared to the same period last year.

This is because 2011 was a La Nina year, whereas neutral conditions are expected to prevail during the dry season in 2012.

He said an increase in hotspot activities can be expected in the fire-prone regions of Sumatra and Kalimantan during extended periods of dry weather.

Depending on the direction of prevailing winds, Singapore may be affected by transboundary smoke haze.

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore has actively promoted regional and international efforts to address the haze problem since 2006.

He said Singapore initiated the Sub-regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution comprising Environment Ministers and senior officials from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore would continue to work with Indonesia and the rest of the international and regional community to enhance the region's expertise and capacity in haze prevention.

But he said it was important for Indonesia to take strong enforcement actions against the perpetrators responsible for the land and forest fires and to bring them to task, as well as to enhance co-operation with ASEAN neighbours and the international community, in order to effectively tackle the transboundary haze problem.

- CNA/wm

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Vietnam: Mangroves reduce disaster risk, boost income options

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio AlertNet 14 May 12;

HANOI, Vietnam (AlertNet) – Memories of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Damrey, which struck coastal areas of northern and eastern Vietnam in 2005, are still fresh in Pham Thi Tuyen’s mind.

“The cyclone was (the most) powerful, dreadful and cataclysmic event I had ever witnessed in my life,” recalls the 37-year-old rice paddy farmer.

But Tuyen and other residents of rural Thanh Hoa province feel more confident about withstanding future storms, thanks to a project that takes advantage of the coastal protection offered by mangrove forests.

In the hours before Typhoon Damrey hit in September 2005, with winds of 100 km per hour (60 miles per hour), nearly 300,000 people were evacuated from the coastal areas of Thanh Hoa and Nam Dinh provinces.

“We had no choice but to flee for our lives to higher ground, leaving behind everything, including our cattle,” recalled Pham, who lives in the remote coastal community of Da Loc, in eastern Thanh Hoa province, about 175 km (110 miles) south of Hanoi, the capital.

A storm surge ripped apart 3.7 km (2.3 miles) of dykes in front of her village and inundated most of the district’s coastal communities, including agricultural fields, fruit orchards and cattle farms.

But in Da Loc community, one protective dyke, 1.7 km (1 mile) in length, survived the cyclone because it was buffered by thick mangrove forest.

“This was when we realised how stubbornly the mangroves can withstand tropical cyclones like Damrey,” said Vu Xuan Ngoc, a 33-year old fish farmer. “This was a key lesson nature taught us.”

Following Typhoon Damrey and an increasing number of cyclones that have affected Vietnam in the last five years, a number of international non-governmental organisations have begun working in disaster-prone coastal areas of Vietnam, building on evidence that mangroves can play a crucial role in reducing the destruction from cyclones.

A wave’s energy can be reduced by 75 percent if it passes through 200 metres of mangrove forest, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme.

CARE International, a non-governmental organisation working in Vietnam, has launched a project to help Da Loc and other adjoining communes re-establish mangrove forests as “living storm barriers”, said Nguyen Viet Nghi, a senior official at the organisation’s Vietnam project office.

Quoting from a project report, Nguyen said that in Hau Loc district, where Da Loc is situated, the area of coastal land which has mangrove coverage has increased from 15 hectares (37 acres) to more than 250 hectares (620 acres).

The mangrove strip is now nearly 3 km (2 miles) long and 700 metres wide, with more than 2,000 plants per hectare. More than 6,000 people in the six project areas of Thanh Hoa province, along with a further 2,300 people in adjoining project areas, are now better protected against the effects of flooding as a result of the mangroves.

Da Loc is one of six coastal communities of Thanh Hoa province considered highly vulnerable to frequent storm surges, sea level rise, intrusion of salt water and drought, all of which are expected to become more serious threats as a result of changes in the climate and an increase in extreme weather events.

According to the Southern Institute for Water Resources Research in Vietnam, Vietnam has witnessed a 0.5 to 0.7 degrees Celsius rise in temperature over the past 50 years.

The institute says that rainfall has become more erratic and has increased by 10 percent in the northern part of the country, and that the sea level has risen by 20 cm (8 inches) over the same 50-year period, with an anticipated increase of a further 100 cm (39 inches) by 2100.

According to Nguyen, the rapid establishment of the mangrove plantations is due to the active participation of local communities. Members of the six communes in Hau Loc district collectively run mangrove nurseries, selecting and sourcing seeds recommended for the area’s varied local conditions, which can include muddy soils or sandy seabed.

Community members also prepare and plant the mangroves in the new areas. For example, where CARE has provided training, the community has taken responsibility for sustaining the mangrove plantations.

“Experiences in Vietnam’s coastal communes show the value and advantages of (communities) sharing control over key decisions and resources,” said Rolf Herno, CARE International’s coordinator for adaptation learning projects in Africa.

“This enables communities to be powerful actors in the fight against poverty and adaptation to climate change,” he added.

Farming is the major source of income for coastal communities such as Da Loc. Nevertheless, the mangrove forests are offering communities an opportunity to diversify their livelihoods and increase the number of ways they are able to earn an income.

The project has incorporated plans to help residents diversify their income sources, in recognition of the fact that people in coastal areas need different livelihood options to help them build up long-term resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Giving local people additional possibilities for income generation was also important to help reduce their reliance on the mangroves as a source of wood for fuel or sale, Nguyen said.

Bui Thi Din, chairwoman of Yen Loc village women’s union in Da Loc, said that due to the increasing mangrove coverage, coastal communities’ living standards had improved significantly as they were now able to earn additional income by catching and selling crabs and shrimp that live among the mangrove roots.

Pham Thi Tuyen said that the project has helped her appreciate the different ways in which mangroves can protect and support her. Previously, “I just knew it was simply a [mangrove] forest and had no idea what was in the forest,” she said.

“But now I know better how to find clamshells, small crabs, mussels, oysters and shrimps to generate additional income for my family from these forests,” she said.

Chief executive of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, Sam Bickersteth, said lessons learned from community-based adaptation interventions in Vietnam can be replicated in other parts of the world.

“There is a strong need to carry forward these proven experiences to other coastal areas of Asia-Pacific countries, Africa and other parts of the world where denudation of mangrove forests has exposed the countries of these regions to tropical cyclones and other climate change-induced risks,” he said.

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio climate change and development reporters based in Karachi, Pakistan. . This story is part of a series supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.

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Malaysia: Protecting the reefs of Pulau Perhentian

Daniel Quilter The Star 15 May 12;

Working together to help the reefs of Perhentian.

PULAU Perhentian, Terengganu, is famed for its myriad marine life and clear waters, an ideal combination for great diving and snorkelling. It is made up of a cluster of islands – Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Pulau Perhentian Besar and a few smaller islands to the north. Great snorkel and dive sites can be found at reefs with names like Coral Garden, Sugar Wreck, Tiger Rock and Tanjung Besi.

Over the last five years, the amount of living corals has stayed largely consistent. Surveys by conservation group Reef Check Malaysia from 2007 to 2010 showed that live corals make up between 35% and 48% of the reef – this coverage can be considered “fair”.

The brilliance of the coral depends on when and where you go as the monsoon season has a large impact on the reef. Monsoon winds can stir up powerful waves which hit the reefs continuously from November to February, causing not just physical damage to corals but also raising water turbidity.

Coral colonies actually contain millions of tiny animals called polyps, not too dissimilar from tiny translucent jellyfish. Each polyp contains tiny algae plants called zooxanthellae, which produce over 90% of the energy for the coral polyps. This means that corals can only thrive when the water is clear and the zooxanthellae receive enough sunlight to photosynthesise. When monsoonal waves hit and sediment is stirred up, the zooxanthellae cannot collect enough sunlight, resulting in lower amounts of energy given to the corals. Because of this, corals are not as healthy or as colourful and vibrant in March and April as in the month of September.

Coral diversity

The monsoon also influences the predominant type of coral on the reef. In the shallow waters of Coral Garden, you will see mainly large boulder corals. The bay here is sheltered from monsoonal waves and winds, thus the calmer waters allow slow-growing boulder corals (they grow only 3cm to 5cm per year) to establish themselves. At the more exposed shallow parts of the snorkel site named Shark Point, staghorn corals dominate the reef. These grow much faster, about 15cm per year, and broken fragments can reattach themselves to the reef and continue to grow. This is why staghorn corals are more common in shallow areas with high wave action.

My favourite dive sites in Perhentian have to be Sugar Wreck, Tiger Rock and Tanjung Besi. Sugar Wreck is an old cargo ship that sank in 2000. Divers are always keen to venture into its cargo hold where you can see a pocket of trapped air. Wrecks are always great places to dive and to spot interesting marine life. Sometimes at Sugar Wreck, you can see 2m- to 3m-wide lagoon rays.

Terumbu Tiga or Tiger Rock, which lies east of Pulau Perhentian Besar, is the place to be if you like not only small things but also the biggest ones. The site is a collection of large rocks with crevices for lots of exciting swim-throughs. Avid divers often seek out the numerous colourful nudibranchs (or sea slugs) found here.

In September and October when plankton numbers increase, this becomes a popular site for spotting the largest fish in the sea – the whale shark. In 2009, I spotted my first whale shark in Perhentian. My group was making our decompression stop at 5m of water when I spotted this huge mouth coming towards us. It was about 7m long. It seemed to drift past us but when we tried to keep up with it, we realised how swiftly it was moving – it disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. We felt humbled by the sheer size and grace of the shark – it was, after all, only a baby shark (adults can grow up to 16m).

Tanjung Besi is my favourite dive site for corals as it is shallow and has beautiful coral formations and lots of reef fish. It is also a great example of a phenomenon called coral bleaching. In 2010, the temperature in the South China Sea rose by 2°C to 3°C, causing coral polyps to release their zooxanthellae. The algae not only give the corals energy but also their colour. Without the zooxanthellae, all that is left are translucent coral polyps in a white calcium carbonate structure. The ghostly-white corals give an impression of bleached corals.

When I dived this site in July 2010, the staghorn corals were completely white. It was, strangely, really beautiful, and reef fish continued with their daily habits just like how people do after a snowfall. The corals do not die straight away from coral bleaching and can withstand bleaching for up to four weeks before they start to die off. Reef Check Malaysia estimated the mortality rate to be only 10% to 15% of the affected reef, which is relatively low. However, with climate change, coral bleaching is expected to become more common.

Coral renewal

But there is always life after death and corals have been around for millions of years and can continue to live if we can help them adapt to a world with more humans. Ecoteer, together with Reef Check Malaysia, the Association of Operators of Pulau Perhentian, dive operators and several independent divemasters and dive instructors are working together to help the reefs of Perhentian. The most important thing is education and awareness. In 2009, Reef Check Malaysia introduced posters of “Do’s and Don’ts” for snorkellers and divers.

Good dive instructors and divemasters make it a point to brief their students on not touching corals or getting too close to sea turtles. Responsible divers or snorkellers should speak up if their instructor fails to brief their students on ethical diving and snorkelling practices. This is important as responsible practices should be the foundation for every individual wishing to enjoy the beautiful underwater environment. If you were to hold an anemone clownfish (Nemo in that popular animation Finding Nemo), the protective mucus which surrounds the clownfish will be rubbed off and it will be stung when it returns to its anemone home, causing it to die.

Individuals can help protect the reef by removing fishing nets and rubbish which they see underwater. In 2009, a large, discarded trawler net wrapped itself around the corals at Tokong Laut or Temple of the Sea, killing several marine animals. With the combined effort of several resort operators and divers, much of the net was removed. Underwater clean-ups should be continuously practised by everyone on the island, a message that is repeated during dive and snorkel briefings, as well as during talks on marine issues.

Among the local village children, Ecoteer is instilling a love for the marine environment through the school Environmental Club that meets every Friday. The children are introduced to various species of marine life and how to protect these creatures. This month, Ecoteer will start the Eco-Snorkelling Club to teach local guides about eco-friendly and safe snorkelling practices, such as not standing on corals, identification of species and the ills of fish feeding.

Similar briefings and guidance are given to Ecoteer volunteers and programme participants, who are also taught to collect data on coral cover when snorkelling. The information is submitted to, a website run by Queensland University in Australia, which is assessing coral bleaching events. In addition to that, Ecoteer hopes to train a few snorkel guides in reef surveys using the Reef Check method. The guides can then collect data on corals at the same time that they take visitors out to snorkel.

Pulau Perhentian is receiving support and effort by various organisations keen on protecting its marine environment. One guide has even suggested that snorkel sites be rotated on an annual basis to give the reef a chance to recover from damage inflicted by tourists. The education must continue as it is of utmost importance that the locals love and care for the environment and this has to start from the ground up – educating the younger generations who live in this beautiful marine playground.

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Indonesia Forests Remain a Source of Conflict

Jakarta Globe 14 May 12;

The world’s largest producer of teak, an Indonesian state-owned company on the island of Java, has again been awarded sustainable forest management (SFM) certification. But the company has a long and sometimes contentious relationship with forest communities in the area, and the forest rights of indigenous communities remain a potential cause of conflict.

“Land rights have long been a source of violence on Java,” Rhett Butler, a leading environmentalist and creator of a leading environmental news website told IRIN. Perhutani, an Indonesian state forestry company, exploits 2.4 million hectares of forests in Java — 7 percent of the island area — with earnings of around US$400 million in 2011.

Although Perhutani agreed in 2011 to the voluntary process that promotes eco-friendly management in order to obtain certification, it controls a huge area of forest once used by indigenous communities, many of whom still depend on the forests for their livelihoods.

The company needs FSC certification to access high-value wood markets in the United States and Europe, said Muhammad Firman, director of the Forest Utilization Department under Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry.

SFM balances the present use of forests with their preservation for future generations. Certification started in the 1980s and is granted to forest companies by around 60 independent organizations under two main umbrella groups — Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the world’s largest forest certification system, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) — with 20 to 30 percent of North American and European forests having certification, and Asia lagging far behind with only 2 to 4 percent.

However, many activists believe SFM certification is geared less toward local communities than toward the environment and facilitating trade between forest companies and Western wood buyers

“When indigenous people have been denied the right to use forests in the traditional way, no ‘inclusion’ programme can fully match their loss. It is not a question of “exclusion” or “inclusion,” said Deddy Raith, from the Jakarta-based NGO, WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

“Today, Perhutani still has full responsibility over the forests,” said Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto, president of local NGO, Telapak. “What we want is to mainstream community logging as the new trees-management regime in Indonesia.”

Martua Sirait, a policy analyst in Aceh Province for the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Center, maintains that the management of forests has ignored the customary land rights of some 40 to 60 million people since the 1960s.

Large-scale illegal loggers were often active in the forests, and local inhabitants were exposed to danger by sometimes becoming involved, or being caught in the crossfire. Between 1998 and 2008 Perhutani’s armed patrols were accused of killing 32 people and injuring 69 in the fight against illegal timber operators, The Forest Trust (TFT), a Geneva-based international charity, reported.

Perhutani lost its SFM certification in 2002 and required TFT’s assistance to define a course of action to regain it, said Scott Poynton, TFT’s executive director.

The program, “Drop the Guns,” began in 2003, with Perhutani providing a share of timber sales and non-timber forest products to forest communities. In exchange, villagers took on a new role as guardians of the forests. But both parties only laid down all their weapons in 2009, which explained why the deadly fights continued until 2008, Poynton said.

“Peace remains fragile because the underlying cause of unequal forest rights is unresolved. Perhutani can better sell its products, but villagers have received too little,” said Hasbi Berliani, a program manager at the national good governance NGO, Kemitraan, quoting an ongoing evaluation by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, which shows that poverty among indigenous households has yet to be alleviated.

“Villagers have been given $19 million between 2005 and 2010,” said Bambang Sukmananto, chief executive officer of Perhutani, noting that the 2011 SFM certification was recognition of the company’s efforts.

Providing greater forest rights to indigenous people is a growing trend across Asia, aimed not only at safeguarding the livelihoods of villagers but also at improving environmental protection.


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Deadlock over Rio+20 action plan fuels NGO scepticism about summit's payoff

Fortnight of inconclusive UN preparatory committee talks leaves delegates frustrated and raises doubts about Rio+20's outcomes
Thalif Deen for IPS 14 May 12;

After two weeks of closed-door negotiations, the UN preparatory committee PrepCom has failed to reach consensus on a global plan of action, entitled The Future We Want, to be adopted at the Rio+20 summit meeting of world leaders in Brazil next month.

The negotiators, comprising representatives of all 193 member states, had limited success beyond reducing the size of the action plan, or "outcome document", from nearly 200 to fewer than 100 pages. The document, called the "zero draft", originally ran to more than 6,000 pages of submissions by member states, international organisations and civil society groups.

Kim Sook, the South Korean ambassador to the UN and one of the co-chairs of the PrepCom, said delegates had expressed "disappointment and frustration at the lack of progress" on agreeing a plan aimed at a greener economy and a sustainable future.

In an effort to break the deadlock, the PrepCom will revisit the zero draft at an unscheduled five-day session beginning on 29 May. The draft action plan has to be ready for approval by the time world leaders arrive in Rio de Janeiro for the three-day UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), or Rio+20 summit, starting on 20 June.

If the PrepCom fails to reach consensus, negotiations will resume in Brazil on 13 June in a three-day, do-or-die attempt to finalise the document.

The summit will be a follow-up to the landmark 1992 Earth summit in Brazil, which adopted Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

"Let us be frank," the UNCSD secretary general Sha Zukang said, "the negotiating text is a far cry from the focused political document called for by the general assembly." Zukang said the objective should be to arrive in Rio "with at least 90% of the text ready, and only the most difficult 10% left to be negotiated there at the highest political levels".

However, a statement released by a coalition of international NGOs warned that Rio+20 "looks set to add almost nothing to global efforts to deliver sustainable development". "Too many governments are using or allowing the talks to undermine established human rights and agreed principles such as equity, precaution and polluter pays," it said.

Antonio Hill of Oxfam said: "After four months of talks on the so-called zero draft outcome document, the Rio+20 talks are stuck at zero." He added that little or nothing has emerged that will deliver what governments agreed was needed 20 years ago at the Earth summit.

Besides Oxfam, the coalition includes Development Alternatives, Greenpeace, the Forum of Brazilian NGOs and Social Movements for Environment and Development (FBOMS), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Vitae Civilis.

Asked about the sticking points in the negotiating process, Zeenat Niazi, senior programme director at the India-based Development Alternatives Group, told IPS there was disagreement over the concept of green economy and "its relevance and meaning to the global south".

She pointed out other areas of disagreement, including: issues of equity; sustainable consumption and production in the global north; social justice, especially related to resource extraction from developing and least-developed countries; and technology transfer and trade.

Additionally, there were disputes relating to sustainable development goals (SDGs) and how they deal with "the integration across the three pillars of sustainability, and not becoming a long laundry list". "And what kind of commitments will nations need to make, and the readiness for them, and the building up of national capacities to facilitate the inclusion of SDGs in national development plans and priorities?" asked Niazi.

Asked whether an additional week of negotiations will make any significant difference to the outcome document, Niazi told IPS: "It could, if there are spaces created to include the voices of civil society, and integrate the same in the outcome document and outline an inclusive road map to design the post-Rio+20 action plans."

In a statement, the UN identified some of the contentious issues preventing agreement on the outcome document. Some developed countries, the statement said, have embraced the green economy as a new roadmap for sustainable development, while many developing countries are more cautious, asserting that each country should choose its own path to a sustainable future and that a green economy approach should not lead to green protectionism or limit growth and poverty eradication.

Other countries and stakeholders, it said, have voiced concerns about implementation and accountability, pointing out that some commitments made at previous global meetings, such as for official development assistance (ODA), have yet to be fully realised.

Nonetheless, said the statement, virtually all countries appear willing to agree on a number of issues, including the overall need to recognise and act to meet pressing global and national challenges.

"It has been widely acknowledged that action is needed to provide for the needs of a growing global population that continues to consume and produce unsustainably, resulting in rising carbon emissions, degraded natural ecosystems and growing income inequality."

The need to find a better measurement of progress than gross domestic product has also been widely acknowledged. The statement added that countries have also been examining the concept of new SDGs, a set of benchmarks to guide them in achieving targeted outcomes within a specific time period, such as access to sustainable energy and clean water for all.

But some countries have differing views on what should or should not be included in the goals, as well as the formal process for how and when the goals may be defined, finalised and agreed upon.

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