Best of our wild blogs: 19 Jun 12

Fishy and seagrassy at Tanah Merah
from wild shores of singapore

Siemens seawater project at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal
from wild shores of singapore

Ears apart
from The annotated budak

Yikes! Yishun home invaded by breeding wasps
from Lazy Lizard's Tales

Read more!

Satellite images show 163 hotspots in Sumatra

Andrea Filmer The Star 18 Jun 12;

PENANGITES woke up to a hazy Father’s Day which worsened as the day progressed, leaving the state on the brink of the ‘unhealthy’ Air Pollutant Index (API) level.

At 7am, the worse API reading in the state was seen in Seberang Prai at 88. It inched to 90 at 11am, before jumping to 98 at 5pm — just three points short of the ‘unhealthy’ category that begins at an API reading of 101.

The situation was only slightly better in Prai that went from 82 (7am) to 83 (11am) and finally recording an API reading of 88 at 5pm.

On Penang island, University Sains Malaysia started off with a reading of 73 at 7am which progressed to 80 at 5pm.

According to the Department of Environment website, the majority of the recorded pollution in the air at all three locations was particulate matter, also known as PM10.

The NOAA-18 satellite, which hovers over Borneo island, recorded a total of 163 hotspots in Sumatra as of 4.15pm yesterday, which is widely seen as a cause of the worsening haze.

A check with the Malaysian Meteorological Department showed that visibility in the state had also deteriorated during the day.

In Bayan Lepas, visibility started at 6km (8am to 1pm), then fell to 5km (1pm) and finally sunk to 4km (2pm to 5pm).

On Penang mainland, visibility was recorded at 6km (8am to 4pm) before falling to 5km around 5pm.

The Meteorological Department’s official portal also showed that no respite from Mother Nature is in sight with the weather forecast predicting no rain for the whole of this week.

Clearer skies over Klang Valley
New Straits Times 19 Jun 12;

AIR QUALITY: As Sumatran forests burn, rain provides relief here

THE haze blanketing Klang Valley the past few days appeared to have eased yesterday with a slight drop in Air Pollutant Index (API) readings.

The Department of Environment (DOE) website showed that the API readings for Klang Valley and other parts of the country were still within the moderate range of below 100.

As at 5pm yesterday, the air quality was moderate in 88 per cent of the country and good in other areas.

DOE classifies API readings of between 0 and 50 as "good", 51-100 as "moderate", 101-200 as "unhealthy", 201-300 as "very unhealthy" and more than 300 as "hazardous".

Seri Manjung and Tanjung Malim in Perak, Prai in Penang, Alor Star and Sungai Petani in Kedah, and Tanah Merah in Kelantan recorded a reading of between 86-97.

DOE director-general Halimah Hassan said the haze was expected to continue as the Sumatran forest fires were still raging.

"The southwesterly wind is blowing from more than 163 hotspots (on Sunday) detected in Sumatra," she said.

Although the haze could only be cleared after prolonged heavy rain, she said isolated rain and showers expected over Selangor in the next few days would provide relief.

On open burning cases here, Halimah said 29 cases of small fires were reported since last Thursday.

The total ban on open burning was imposed on Saturday in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

On the enforcement measures, she said DOE had mobilised more officers to check factories and motor vehicle emissions. The hot and dry weather is expected to continue until September.

Satellite images from the Singapore Meteorological Services showed 310 hotspots in Sumatra at 4.05pm yesterday, almost double the number detected on Sunday.

In Peninsular Malaysia, however, only eight hotspots were found.

Meanwhile, Education Ministry director (day school management division) Datuk Mazlan Mohamad encouraged students to wear face masks, reduce outdoor activities and keep themselves hydrated at all times.

He said schools should follow the ministry's circular issued in 2010 on steps to be taken to ensure the health and safety of students located in hazardous API reading zones. Currently, he said, the ministry had not been directed to provide masks to schools.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airports (Sepang) Sdn Bhd said the condition was not bad enough to consider flight diversions.

General manager Mohammad Suhaimi Abdul Mubin said diversions would only be advised when visibility at KLIA was below 400m.

"Despite the haze at KLIA, visibility is still good at 800m till today," he said, adding there had been no flight diversions to date.

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd said the sudden high demand during the haze had caused a temporary water shortage in Selangor, but the situation was now under control.

Corporate Affairs executive director Abdul Halem Mat Som said the water disruption and low water pressure was because of the high demand for water on hot days.

"Our reservoir levels dropped faster than usual. We urge consumers to use water wisely," he said.

Haze plagues Malaysia; could Singapore be next?
my paper AsiaOne 18 Jun 12;

KUALA LUMPUR - Klang Valley residents were given a respite from the haze after it rained yesterday.

Coupled with strong winds, the haze, which had risen to unhealthy levels since last Friday, appeared to have lifted somewhat, Bernama reported yesterday.

As at 5pm yesterday, the Department of Environment (DOE) website showed only Kuala Selangor (109), Port Klang (114) and Shah Alam (103) having unhealthy air-pollutant readings. Petaling Jaya had moderate air quality at a reading of 90.

Readings of 101 to 200 are deemed unhealthy, while good air quality is 50 and below.

Most other areas in the country recorded moderate to good air quality.

In Johor, the readings yesterday ranged from 40 to 54, while Singapore's Pollutant Standards Index edged up to 51 as of 4pm yesterday.

Singapore's National Environment Agency has said the island could experience brief periods of slightly hazy conditions should the fires in Indonesia persist and if the wind conditions change to take the smoke further south.

A satellite image issued by the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre showed 80 hot spots in Sumatra, compared with nine last Friday, according to Bernama.

The Malaysian authorities are thus stepping up vigilance against the haze nationwide, as southwesterly winds continue to carry smoke from central Sumatra to the west coast of peninsular Malaysia.

The DOE has imposed a blanket ban on open burning in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, The Star newspaper reported yesterday.

DOE director-general Halimah Hassan said exceptions would be given only for religious and funeral rites, and grills or barbecues.

The offence carries a penalty of up to five years' jail or a fine of up to RM500,000 (S$200,600), or both.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry opened an operations room in Putrajaya last Saturday to monitor the haze and keep schools informed on whether to stay open.

"The department will decide whether to close schools only when the API (Air Pollution Index) approaches 300. An operations room has been set up in Putrajaya to monitor the situation," Education Ministry director-general Abdul Ghafar Mahmud told The New Straits Times.

An API reading of more than 300 is rated as "hazardous".

However, the situation was not so bad as to require flight diversions, Malaysia Airports told The Star last Saturday.

Read more!

Singapore's 'supertrees' spark green thoughts

Saira Syed BBC News 18 Jun 12;

Kenneth Er, chief operating officer of Gardens by the Bay and a forest ecologist, explains what the project seeks to achieve

They look like they belong on another planet with their wiry canopies and greenery where the bark should be, but the man-made "supertrees" that sit against the backdrop of Singapore's central business district mimic the qualities of trees here on earth.

Seven of the 18 structures are fitted with solar panels that convert sunlight into energy.

They are part of an energy-efficient green space called Gardens by the Bay that has cost 1bn Singaporean dollars ($784m; £504m).

"It provides a green lung for the city rather than just having high rises everywhere," says Kenneth Er, chief operating officer on the project and a forest ecologist.

He hopes that people leave the garden with a sense of "how to recreate nature's balance".

Emissions debate

The desire to raise awareness of the environment comes at a time when Singapore's green credentials are very much up for debate.

A 2012 World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) report says Singapore has the biggest per person carbon footprint in the Asia Pacific region.

"If everyone in the world enjoyed the same level of consumption as the average Singaporean, we would need close to 3.5 planets to meet the demands placed on our resources," according to the WWF.

It's a view that doesn't sit well with the government because the report attributes emissions to the country where carbon is consumed, instead of where it is produced.

The WWF explains that if a car is made in Japan but exported to Singapore, its carbon emissions are counted under Singapore not Japan.

However, Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan tells the BBC that the measure is unfair because Singapore is a resource-poor nation that must import almost everything the population needs.

"If you look at our utilisation of resources, the way we generate electricity and way we organise our transportation system, we're not perfect yet but we've actually done more than our fair share," he says.

Some 80% of Singapore's power generation comes from natural gas, the cleanest of the fossil fuels, according to the Energy Market Authority.

It says some of its oil refineries and petrochemical companies, which account for 50% of all carbon emissions and are a major industry driving the economy, have also made the switch to natural gas.

"Singapore's total emissions at a global level only accounts for 0.2% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, a very small almost insignificant number," Mr Balakrishnan says.

The International Energy Association's latest publication, which also measures by production, puts Singapore behind countries such as Brunei, Korea and Taiwan in terms of per person emissions.


Nonetheless, Singapore is committed to reducing its carbon emissions. Authorities are promising a 7-11% cut by 2020.

The goals seem particularly ambitious given that Singapore says a total abandonment of fossil fuels is very difficult for the country because it is "alternative energy disadvantaged".

Hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, tidal and even solar are not viable renewable energy sources for Singapore, according to Melissa Low from the Energy Studies Institute, a government-linked think tank.

"Because of our geographical region and size, we are unable to adopt these types of renewables on a large scale," she says.

Ironically, Singapore's government has helped develop a burgeoning clean technology sector, but given that many of these innovations cannot be used within the country, it is rendered an almost purely commercial venture.

"Singapore is a test bed and the companies use their performance in Singapore as their calling card overseas," says Mr Balakrishnan.

"It is desirable for companies to look at sustainable development and the green economy as a business opportunity."
'Extremely vulnerable'

But the famously forward-planning country knows that it must safeguard itself against the possible effects of climate change.

Being a hot, densely populated, low-lying island state, it is "extremely vulnerable" to sea level rise, coastal erosion and a warming climate.

"When we talk about climate change in the case of Singapore, this is not just a negotiating or debating point," says Mr Balakrishnan.

"This is a reality."

He says the government is taking steps to mitigate risks, mandating that all reclaimed land, which much of the central business district is built on, must be 2.25m above the highest recorded tide level.

Drainage systems are also being reviewed to deal with changing weather patterns that could cause flooding.

Alongside those measures is the government's recent initiative to get Singaporeans to change habits and cut consumption.

Last week, the National Climate Change Secretariat released a national climate change action plan that stresses that individuals need to do their part through lifestyle changes such as using fans instead of air conditioners.

That, though, has been met with some cynicism, with one micro blogger, Johnny Wong, commenting on Twitter: "Yeah switch off aircon in parliament."

Read more!

Vietnam: Phu Quoc coral starts to bleach

Vietnam News 18 Jun 12;

HA NOI — Nearly 57 per cent of the sea area around Kien Giang Province's Phu Quoc Island is affected by coral bleaching.

Experts said the bleaching is caused by increased water temperature, water pollution, use of chemicals and coral exploitation.

The bleaching was revealed in research recently conducted by the Institute of Oceanography in central coastal Nha Trang Province.

Phu Quoc Sea Conservation Zone managers have taken measures to protect the reefs, including raising people's awareness, increased security and surveillance, scientific investigations and observation of water quality and ecosystems.

Phu Quoc, in the Gulf of Thailand, is Viet Nam's largest island, with a total area of 574sq km. The island receives about 280,000 tourists each year and is forecast to have 2 million tourists by 2020.

Within the zone, the west of Hon Thom and Ganh Dau communes are affected by the highest coverage of coral bleaching, with around 90 per cent. In the core areas of Hon Vong, Gam Ghi and Hon Xuong, 20-40 per cent are affected.

During the past three years, authorities have confiscated two tonnes of coral illegally removed, including many rare species. Coral exploitation has been difficult to control.

The zone has a water surface area of over 26,800ha, of which 3,000ha are under strict management, nearly 13,600ha are reserved for ecosystem recovery and over 10,300ha are planned for further development.

The area is located in the northeast, southeast and south of the An Thoi Archipelago under Phu Quoc District, with 6,800ha stretching to Ham Ninh and Bai Thom communes reserved for seagrass conservation and over 9,700ha for coral conservation stretching over Hon Thom Commune.

There are currently 108 species of corals, 135 species of coral reef fish, 3 types of migrating fish, 132 types of molluscs and 6 types of marine mammals living in Phu Quoc sea area. — VNS

Read more!

Plastic map to save baby turtles

The University of Western Australia Science Alert 19 Jun 12;

A PhD student at The University of Western Australia is creating the first map to show the distribution of floating marine plastics in Australian waters, and models that chart the likely pathways of these plastics and sea turtle hatchlings.

"The early life of sea turtles occurs at the ocean's surface, where there's an increasing amount of floating plastics that are proving fatal to hatchlings," PhD student Julia Reisser said.

Ms Reisser, who is also a CSIRO researcher, has been studying sea turtles for nine years and in 2010 she broadened her research to include marine plastics.

"My work is identifying the places contributing most to the increase in plastics in Australia's oceans and how this links to sea turtle life cycles," Ms Reisser said.

"We're quantifying plastic pollution hazards and its distribution throughout Australia's oceans, and contribute to a national marine debris audit being undertaken by CSIRO's Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship."

The research is been undertaken onboard the Marine National Facility vessel Southern Surveyor, which is owned and operated by CSIRO, and available to all Australian scientists. Securing research time on board is highly competitive and allocated to quality science projects that are internationally peer reviewed and in the national interest. Once major voyages are allocated, the transit time between these is offered to early career researchers and students under the ‘Next Wave' program.

"It's an incredible experience as a PhD student to be the Chief Scientist onboard Southern Surveyor for a transit voyage, and to have access to a research vessel equipped with modern laboratory facilities and deep-water research technology," Ms Reisser said.

The Southern Surveyor will be replaced in 2013 by Investigator, a new state-of-the-art 93.9-metre research vessel capable of spending up to 300 days a year at sea, and able to support scientific research across the oceanographic, climate, geological, fisheries and ecosystems disciplines.

Read more!

Global research centre on ocean acid launched

AFP Yahoo News 18 Jun 12;

The UN nuclear agency announced on Monday the creation of a new centre in Monaco to help coordinate international efforts to research and combat the serious environmental problem of ocean acidification.

"During the past five years, numerous multinational and national research projects on ocean acidification have emerged and significant research advances have been made," the International Atomic Energy Agency said,

"The time is now ripe to provide international coordination to gain the greatest value from national efforts and research investments," said Daud bin Mohamad, IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Sciences and Applications.

The growing amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through human activity are being absorbed in the planet's oceans, increasing their acidity.

According to experts, ocean acidification may render most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050 if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, the IAEA said.

This could lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening food security for millions of people as well as the multi-billion-dollar fishing industry, it added.

The new centre, due to be opened this summer, will be overseen by national and international bodies including the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and leading scientists and economists in the field.

Read more!

Rio+20: CEOs pledge sustainability, urge 'green revolution'

Gerard Aziakou AFP Yahoo News 19 Jun 12;

Business leaders gathered at a Rio+20 conference Monday pledged sustainable policies and joined a call for world leaders to usher in "a green industrial revolution" to save the planet.

Two days before a UN summit on sustainable development opens here, 1,200 CEOs wrapped up a four-day meeting with more than 150 voluntary commitments to greater energy efficiency, reforestation and a lower carbon footprint and other green policies.

Forty-five chief executives vowed to make water security a strategic priority and called for decisive action by governments.

"Problems related to water availability, quality and sanitation are undermining development in many regions of the world -- exacting an enormous human cost while also undermining critical life-giving ecosystems," they said.

Signatories include chiefs of global companies such as Pepsico, Coca Cola, Nestle, Saint-Gobain, Royal Dutch Shell, Akzo Nobel, Bayer, Heineken and Pernod Ricard.

Roughly 800 million people around the world lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation, according to the United Nations.

The UN Global Compact, the sponsor of the business forum, said it tallied more than 150 "time-bound, measurable commitments" on which companies are required to report annually.

The commitments centered on the forum's six core themes: energy and climate, water and ecosystems, agriculture and food, social development, urbanization and cities, economy and financing.

US chemicals giant Dupont pledged $10 billion to research and development and announced plans to launch 4,000 new products by late 2020 to produce more food, enhance nutrition and curb food waste.

US technology titan Microsoft vowed to achieve net zero emissions for its data centers, software development centers, software development labs, offices and employee air travel by boosting energy efficiency and buying renewable energy.

Global clothing retailer H&M said it would upgrade to 100 percent sustainable cotton -- organic or recycled -- in its cotton garments while US sporstwear giant Nike set a target of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals across its entire supply chain by 2020.

And South Africa's state-owned utility Eskom and US Duke Energy pledged to assist the development of an electrification roadmap to ensure 500 million people across Africa and developing countries have access to energy by 2025.

The Global Compact, which rejects charges by critics that it is a mere marketing tool for big business, said the commitments will serve as a testing ground.

Meanwhile, former British premier Tony Blair, in a speech screened at the Rio+20 conference, joined other statesmen and corporate chiefs in appealing to world leaders to usher in a "green industrial revolution".

"By the end of the decade, the low carbon market could triple in value to over US$2 trillion," said the signatories of an open letter published on the eve of the G20 and Rio+20 summits.

The letter called for a coordinated policy shift to save the world economy and the climate.

"At a time when government and business leaders everywhere are calling for strategies that deliver growth, we have an historic opportunity before us to lead the world out of recession and into a more stable, sustainable future," the signatories said.

They backed the launch in Rio of a Clean Revolution campaign, a major initiative by the Climate Group and other public and private sector partners for a "green growth" push out of global recession.

The Climate Group works with business and governments around the world to promote clean technologies and policies, with the aim of expanding clean technology markets and reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

The three-day Rio+20 summit, coming 20 years after the first Earth Summit is expected to bring together 130 world leaders for a fresh appraisal of the health of the planet. But US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be absent.

Factbox: The Rio+20 development conference
Valerie Volcovici Reuters Yahoo News 18 Jun 12;

(Reuters) - More than 50,000 representatives of governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations are expected to descend on Rio de Janeiro this week for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, where they will try to pave a common path toward greener and fairer growth.

The conference aims to secure fresh political commitment from world leaders for "sustainable development" that takes into account economic growth, social development and environmental protection.

With the world population projected to increase from 7 million currently to 9 billion in 2050, the summit may offer an opportunity to help map out avenues for economic growth without the continued depletion of natural resources and harm to the environment.


U.N. Secretary General Ban-ki Moon said earlier this month that Rio+20, as the summit is informally known, will be a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to make progress towards a sustainable economy. Among the outcomes he said he expects:

* Agreement on a path to an "inclusive green economy"

* Agreement on defining "sustainable development goals with clear and measurable targets and indicators"

* Progress on implementing goals through renewed commitments on trade, finance, and technology transfer.

Negotiators so far have made little progress on a final declaration for the summit, which their heads of state will review and debate during plenary meetings from June 20-22.


Twenty years ago, the Earth Summit, held in the same Rio convention center, resulted in five key documents. Two of those were landmark, legally binding treaties on biodiversity and climate change.

Although Rio+20 is expected to be bigger than the 1992 summit in terms of projected attendance and scope, the ambition level of the conference is low as the world grapples with other priorities like the economic crisis in Europe.

Unlike the 1992 gathering, U.N. officials have stressed that Rio+20 will not yield any legally binding treaties.

The conference is expected to produce three key outcomes: a negotiated political document pledging international cooperation on sustainable development; a list of recommendations from civil society; and a list of countries' sustainable development initiatives and pledges.

The United Nations has said the conference will focus on more than a half dozen areas of "priority attention," including energy, sustainable cities, food security, agriculture, water and oceans.


The world has changed dramatically since the first Earth Summit. For one, emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa play a bigger economic role than they did two decades ago.

"We have moved from a unipolar to a multipolar world. The type of leadership the emerging economies within the developing world show at Rio+20 will be important to the outcome," said Manish Bapna, acting president of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think tank.

He said the summit comes as the majority of the world's middle class moves toward urban areas of the developing world, particularly in Asia.

He cited a recent study by consulting firm McKinsey, which projected that the middle class worldwide will grow from 1.8 billion in 2010 to 4.8 billion in 2022.

"The majority of people (in the middle class) will live in the developing world and in cities. How they commute, what they eat and what they buy - it's the choices they make that will decide a sustainable pathway," he said.

(Editing by Will Dunham)

Read more!