Best of our wild blogs: 28 May 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [21 - 27 May 2012]
from Green Business Times

Fri 08 Jun 2012: 4pm @ NUS LT20 – Richard Corlett on “Climate change in the tropics: the end of the world as we know it?” from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Fabulous Marine Exhibition at the Festival of Biodiversity
from wild shores of singapore and Volunteers at the Festival of Biodiversity

Singapore got wildlife meh? ABUDEN?!
from Pulau Hantu

Malayan Water Monitor
from Monday Morgue and Vote Monday Morgue!

From Belukar Track To Lornie Trail Part 1
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Oriental Honey-Buzzard in Action
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Malaysians demonstrate against Taiwan-invested petrochemical projects in Johor

Focus Taiwan 27 May 12;

Kuala Lumpur, May 27 (CNA) Hundreds of residents of Pengerang, Malaysia defied a downpour Saturday to stage a demonstration against a planned petrochemical project to be built with investment from Taiwan's Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology.

Led by six self-help groups, over 500 villagers in the small town in southern Malaysia chanted slogans in the protest over the controversial project that was scrapped in Taiwan due to environmental concerns.

Taiwan's minister of economic affairs confirmed earlier this month the the naphtha cracker plant project, in which state-owned oil refiner CPC Corp. has a large stake, might be moved to Malaysia. CPC later said the Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co. will complete a feasibility assessment by May next year.

Saturday's demonstrators opposed a proposed relocation of residents, a Mandarin school in the coastal town, graveyards containing nearly 3,000 tombs and land seizures.

During the event, activists took turns to address the crowd, while others held banners reading "stop the project; save Pengerang" and "grave pollution of ocean and air."

The president of an alliance formed by six groups of activists said they are not against any development project but are asking the government to take the residents' basic rights more seriously.

(By Kuay Chau-churh and Kendra Lin)

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Hong Kong plan to create 25 islands threatens wildlife, say protesters

Creation of 1,500 hectares of land in the region is flawed on environmental and demographic grounds, say experts
Vaudine England 27 May 12;

Green hillsides stretch out behind Ruy Barretto's stone house and trains to China slip under the hill in the designated conservation area where his family home has stood for generations. Down by the waterfront, Tolo harbour is teeming with visitors. Behind it, a narrow, neglected road crawls up the Sha Lo Tung hillside through dense trees, birdsong, wild rushes, ferns and fresh air.

But if Hong Kong's planners have their way, tonnes of construction waste will be dumped in and around Tolo harbour, disfiguring shorelines, despoiling uninhabited islands and wrecking a rare recreational resource.

The plan is part of a broader aim to create 1,500 hectares of land to provide homes and land space for millions more people. The planners talk of creating 25 islands and waterfront extensions of hundreds of hectares each. They would dump concrete in the sea to join up islands where weekend sailors see porpoises and turtles, and wipe out natural pebble and sand beaches.

Thousands have signed petitions against the plans. Experts on population, environment, urban design and sustainability say that instead of creating new lifestyles for residents, the plans will allow the government to save the cost of shipping waste to China and garner huge profits from land sales.

"They are trying to kill two birds with one profitable stone," says Barretto, a barrister. The WWF says the environmental cost of the redevelopment is too high. Among the sites targeted for reclamation, Po Toi island is home to Romer's tree frog; Hei Ling Chau island is home to a special burrowing lizard; and the waters around Beaufort island support more than 30 species of coral. Porpoises, mangroves and spawning grounds for fish would all be put at risk.

However, the 25-location plan will create land in one of the planet's most heavily populated places. The authorities are also thinking about creating new land for a third runway at the international airport.

The government's civil engineering and development department (Cedd), which refused to be interviewed, says it is merely seeking public opinion on the best way to meet future development needs. It issued a brochure suggesting that new land could be created at 25 locations outside Hong Kong's central harbour area, which is protected from development by law. It embarked on a "public engagement process", in which the plan was outlined at seminars and exhibitions. Responses are being analysed with a view to shortening the list of 25 sites down to 10.

The trouble, says a range of experts, is that the department's assumptions are wrong, its reasoning faulty, and the process flawed. Take the Cedd's claim that Hong Kong's population (of 6.9 million) will reach 8.9 million by 2039. "I don't believe it," said Prof Paul Yip, Hong Kong's top demographer, from the University of Hong Kong's department of social work and social administration.

Hong Kong has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, at 1.04%, and a rapidly ageing population. The daily quota for 150 new migrants from mainland China is rarely full. Without a massive inward migration programme it is hard to see how it could produce such significant population growth.

As for the need for new land, the countryside is already scarred by storage of shipping containers and old factory areas are left to rot. The government has admitted that 200,000 flats are standing empty; more than 5,000 hectares of other land has also been identified for rezoning.

"Reclamation should be the last resort," said Roy Tam Hoi-pong, chairman of environmental pressure group Green Sense. The Hong Kong Institute of Planners says that reclamation "at an appropriate scale and level of overall sustainability is a possible option" but warns that study of a large number of criteria, including environmental and ecological, is necessary.

"The identification of 25 sites, prematurely released and belatedly presented, is confusing … 'island' sites in particular are extremely unlikely to be viable," it said in a submission to the government.

Government sources the Cedd's plan was a surprise to policy units usually involved in such significant planning processes. A 2007 government study called Hong Kong 2030 stressed the need for a more sustainable quality of life and warned against rampant reclamation.

"We're suffering from a lack of decision-making," said Peter Cookson Smith, architect, urban planner and president of the Institute of Planners.

Some allege a broader lack of vision, saying Hong Kong's land needs depend on its future relationship to the mainland. The border between the two different jurisdictions is becoming more porous, which is partly why mainland Chinese feel less need to live in more expensive Hong Kong. It also raises questions about why Hong Kong should build more land, when there is the huge space of China next door. For Barretto, the most disturbing aspect of the 25-site plan is that the government appears to have forgotten, or thrown out, the most basic principles of international practice for sustainable planning.

After researching the figures, local commentator Tom Holland said: "It's hard to conclude anything except that the planners and their construction industry cronies have run completely amok, crazed by the prospect of getting their hands on the government's huge fiscal reserves, and using them to build ever more grandiose, expensive and unneeded civil engineering projects. They need to be stopped."
Hong Kong's reclamation tradition

When British and other foreign traders' ships first sought safe harbour in Hong Kong in the 1840s, the island offered a mere strip of flat land which rose precipitously to the 550-metre peak. Reclamation - taking land from the sea – was envisaged from the start.

Begun in 1889, the first major project added almost 4.5 hectares of new land, creating what is now called Central, the primary business district A subsequent reclamation of what is now called Wanchai added another 4.8 hectares.

Since then, Hong Kong has grown exponentially. The government has been creating 500-700 hectares of land every five years, until 2005 when new environmental awareness and legal sanction cut the growth back to under 100 hectares over five years.

As of early 2011, about 6% of land in Hong Kong (6,824 hectares) has come from reclamation, the government says.

Traditionally, reclamation has been done by dredging, using rock and sand fill and taking out mud that could not be built upon. New techniques involve the use of large concrete blocks. This involves less dumping of mud, and makes better use of existing construction waste. Engineers say it also provides more stable land.

Hong Kong's international airport was built on new land made by taking marine mud away. If a third runway is agreed, the new land it will require will almost certainly involve the use of construction waste.

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Indonesia: Illegal Logging in Kalimantan ‘Cost State $35b in 2011’

Jakarta Globe 24 May 12;

Illegal forest clearing in Kalimantan potentially cost the state Rp 321 trillion ($34.6 billion) in losses last year, largely because law enforcement efforts on the ground remain weak, activists claimed on Wednesday.

Citing data from the Forestry Ministry, Indonesia Corruption Watch and the environmental group Save Our Borneo, the activists said in a joint statement that the province of Central Kalimantan accounted for nearly half the losses because of the large number of firms there operating with “flawed permits.”

The groups said some 282 plantation firms and 629 mining firms were responsible for the deforestation of at least seven million hectares in the province.

“The Forestry Ministry’s investigating team calculates that based on the assumption that one hectare of forest can yield 100 cubic meters of timber, and with a reforestation fee and levy of $16 and Rp 60,000 per cubic meter, the total amount of revenue that the state should have received was Rp 158 trillion,” the statement said.

The groups identified similar potential losses of Rp 121.4 trillion in West Kalimantan, Rp 31.5 trillion in East Kalimantan and Rp 9.6 trillion in South Kalimantan.

What makes Central Kalimantan’s case particularly egregious, the statement says, is that some 200,000 hectares of forest that have been cleared there fall inside concessions for 15 companies owned by the head of one the province’s districts and his family and cronies.

The groups said the district head had dished out concessions to a host of sham companies owned by people including his siblings and his driver.

“Save Our Borneo and ICW reported this matter in 2011 to the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission],” the statement said, adding that the groups would report similar allegations about forest concessions in East Kotawaringin district.

The problem, it went on, is that despite the number of reports filed to law enforcement officials, very little action has been taken.

“Enforcement efforts are not yet optimal because they are still based on using sectoral legislation such as the Forestry Law, the Environmental Law and the Plantations Law,” it said.

“If things remain on this tack, then it is almost certain forestry crimes, specifically the illegal granting of concessions, will be difficult to uncover.”

The groups called instead for the Anti-Corruption Law and the Anti-Money Laundering Law to be used to charge suspects. Among the advantages it cited was the possibility of prosecuting officials who issued illegal permits and stiffer minimum sentences and fines than those prescribed by the other laws.

“The Anti-Corruption Law can also be used against both individuals and companies, it can help in seizures and asset recovery, and it can be used against those who hamper the investigation process,” ICW said.

The groups said although the KPK and the Attorney General’s Office were already using these laws in illegal forestry cases, the number of prosecutions was still very low. The KPK has prosecuted just six such cases, for which 21 people were tried and convicted.

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Indonesia Defies Critics, Says Deforestation Has Declined

Jakarta Globe 24 May 12;

The Indonesian government reiterated its claim on Thursday that the country’s deforestation rate has drastically declined over the past two years, defying critics and environmental activists who say otherwise.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said Indonesia’s forests declined as much as 3.5 million hectares per year between 1996 and 2003, compared to 450,000 hectares per year between 2009 and 2011.

“This means that the moratorium on forest cutting has had an impact, and it’s proven to effectively reduce forest destruction,” Zulkifli said in Jakarta, as he briefed journalists on a map of forests protected under the moratorium. He added, nevertheless, that the moratorium did not affect investments in sectors such as plantations and industrial forests.

“A well protected forests doesn’t necessarily mean a declining economy. Industry can grow along with forests,” Zulkifli said.

The Indonesian government has come under fire after Greenpeace Indonesia released a report earlier this month saying the country may have lost five million hectares of forest since the moratorium on deforestation came into effect in May last year.

Greenpeace said such a loss occurred because the areas overlapped with existing coal and logging concessions, with Kalimantan and Papua hit hardest.

The moratorium is set to last for two years, and was enacted after Norway pledged $1 billion in aid to Indonesia as part of a larger UN-backed plan to reduce emissions produced by deforestation.

Norwegian environment minister Bard Vegar Solhjell told Reuters in an interview earlier this week that Indonesia’s progress in reforming its forestry sector would be insufficient to meet its pledge to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.


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Thousands of shellfish found dead in Peru

AFP Yahoo News 25 May 12;

Thousands of crustaceans were found dead off the coast of Lima following the mystery mass death of dolphins and pelicans, the Peruvian Navy said Friday.

The cause of death is under investigation, said Industry and Fishing Minister Gladys Triveno, warning that "it would be premature to give a reason for this phenomenon."

The Navy said it presented a report on the find to the Agency of Environmental Evaluation and Control to determine the cause.

Biologist Yuri Hooker of Cayetano Heredia University said the species found on Pucusana Beach, 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Lima, was a type of red krill about three centimeters (1.2 inches) long.

"They live mostly along the coast of Chile up to the coast of northern Peru. What is happening is that these crustaceans are being affected by the warming of Pacific waters in the north of the country," he said, adding that the phenomenon occurs "with some frequency."

Hooker explained that the warmer temperatures led the shrimp-like creatures that usually live far away from the coast to move in closer to land, where they died.

Nearly 900 dolphins washed up along Peru's northern coast between February and April. A government study said the marine mammals died of natural causes, while environmental groups insist the massive toll was linked to offshore oil exploration in the area.

Peruvian officials have suggested that the dolphins, along with 5,000 dead sea birds -- mostly pelicans -- died due to the effects of rising temperatures in Pacific waters, including the southern migration of fish eaten by the birds.

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Slow progress since Earth Summit 20 years ago

Mariette le Roux AFP Yahoo News 27 May 12

Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio pledged to save the environment for future generations, observers and policy makers agree swifter action is required to avert climate catastrophe.

But even as new warnings were issued this week of impending disaster -- more severe droughts, disease spread and land-effacing sea level rises -- climate negotiators gathered in Bonn continued to bicker over procedure.

"Let's consider climate change like you are in a car trying to stop before reaching a ledge. We are applying the brakes but we are still far away from decelerating enough not to fall from the ledge," Wael Hmaidan, director of activist group Climate Action Network, told AFP on the sidelines of the talks which ended Friday.

On Thursday, climate researchers said the planet could warm by more than 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 if countries do not raise their game.

The UN's target is a 2 C (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) limit on warming from pre-industrial levels for manageable climate change.

Paul Hare from German policy research group Climate Analytics said the gap between countries' promised interventions and the reality was "getting bigger."

And the International Energy Agency said CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion reached a new high last year, providing "further evidence that the door to a 2 deg C trajectory is about to close."

The Earth Summit had yielded the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which in turn led to the Kyoto Protocol binding 37 rich nations to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

"I would say that the climate negotiations at their twentieth anniversary are definitely moving in the right direction, but not at the speed and not at the scale" required, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said in Bonn.

Scientists who monitor progress under the name Climate Action Tracker (CAT) say warming of 3.5 deg C could cause many plant and animal species to die out, deserts to expand and agricultural production to plummet.

They say the scenario can be avoided if governments raise their commitments considerably, and fast -- cutting fossil fuel subsidies and boosting renewable energy production.

"The only thing that is creating the gap is a lack of political will," said Hmaidan.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said climate change posed the greatest threat to the well-being of people and ecosystems 20 years after the Rio conference.

"It is not too late to address this threat, but scientists tell us the window for effective action is rapidly closing. Without much more ambitious action now, we will be condemning our children and grandchildren to suffer the consequences of truly dangerous levels of climate change."

Countries agreed at UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa last December to draft a new climate pact by 2015.

Due to take effect from 2020, it should bind all countries to greenhouse gas emission cuts.

But gathered in Bonn for the past 11 days, negotiators tasked with laying the groundwork for the new deal got stuck in procedural bickering as battle lines were redrawn between rich nations and some in the developing world over apportioning responsibility for tackling global warming.

"The now-predictable drama and upheavals at the United Nations climate treaty talks underscored the precarious state of multilateral efforts to reach a new agreement to protect the world's climate," observed the Environmental Defense Fund.

Fast-growing economies like China and India, fearing emission cuts may slow their development engines, insist the developed world, which polluted more for longer, should bear a greater mitigation burden.

But the West and small countries most threatened by climate change are eager for the emerging polluters to step up to the plate.

Even as countries hurled accusations at one another in Bonn, all agreed on one thing: "it is getting very late", in the words of EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

Some progress has been made as the world prepares for the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development next month and the next round of UN climate talks in Qatar in December.

Twenty years ago, when United States climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing attended the Earth Summit "we met in a room for the entire world that was the size of the room here", he said -- gesturing at a press conference room in Bonn.

"The most recent meeting than we had in Durban, we had 10,000 people and we had global coverage and we had heads of state."

Every major economy in the world has now made a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Pershing pointed out.

"I think the world is recognising how much damage could be caused but also the importance of acting."

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