Best of our wild blogs: 22 Jun 12

Sharing Cyrene with MPA
from wild shores of singapore

Buckle down
from The annotated budak and Survival of the flittest

The 2009 Bibliography of the Biodiversity of Singapore
from Raffles Museum News

Ten Things We'll Miss
from Crystal and Bryan in Singapore

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Wild boar sighted in Bishan Park

Channel NewsAsia 22 Jun 12;

Trappers (R) at Bishan Park attempt to trap a wild boar sighted on Friday morning at the park (photo: Qiuyi Tan)

SINGAPORE: Police have cordoned off an area in Bishan Park where a wild boar was sighted on Friday morning.

A local pest control company, NParks and police officers are on site trying to trap the animal.

Wielding bamboo poles, the personnel have surrounded a bush of thick ferns growing next to a lily pond in the park, near the junction of Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 and Upper Thomson Road.

Channel NewsAsia understands a resident called the police after a child was chased by the animal in the park.

- CNA/wk

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Surge in wild boar numbers threatens nature reserve

Straits Times Forum 22 Jun 12;

THE Central Catchment Nature Reserve serves as a water catchment for the MacRitchie, Lower and Upper Peirce, and Upper Seletar reservoirs ('NParks defends wild boar decision'; last Saturday).

This is one of our vital national taps. So the preservation of the nature reserve is of paramount priority.

The amount of damage, both ecological and environmental, that the wild boars are doing to the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park at the moment is alarming.

As a regular park user, I have noticed the denudation of undergrowth along the boardwalk and its surrounding areas.

Before the wild boar population surged, I could hardly see through the secondary forest which blocked my view of the forest floor. Now, I have a clear view deep into the secondary forest. This is bad news and soon, the bigger trees may suffer from the destructive foraging by wild boars.

We cannot wait for the trees to be denuded before acting because the environmental damage may be irreversible. Currently, there is already some ecological impact in the boardwalk area. The ever present monitor lizards and skinks are becoming a rarer sight. The fairly common large-tailed nightjar that used to roost and nest on the forest floor cannot be found or heard; so too the once irregular appearance of the mousedeer and Malayan colugo (flying lemur).

And once the nature photography buff becomes just as rare, as is the case now, one can be certain that something is not quite right in the natural world.

Some suggest sterilisation, which is clearly not the answer because the current number of wild boars is at a tipping point, even if they do not multiply any more.

Assuming an average lifespan of five years, the timeframe is far too long for such a large population to decline to an ecologically sustainable population size.

Wild boars generally are hosts to a number of parasites like ticks which may eventually be transmitted to pets like dogs when the boars stray into housing estates.

Their guts may have parasitic worms which, through droppings, may leech onto people and pets.

The holes created by the wild boars digging and foraging may eventually end up as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

So, please let the National Parks Board manage this problem in peace.

Goh Juan Hui

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Shark's fin in Singapore safe to eat: AVA

Straits Times Forum 22 Jun 12;

I THANK Dr Yik Keng Yeong for his feedback ('Shark's fin: Different findings on mercury' in Forum Online; June 14). The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) regulates the import of food products into Singapore to ensure their safety.

All food products, including shark's fin products from Hong Kong and Thailand, are required to comply with our safety standards and requirements. Hong Kong and Thailand accounted for about 4 per cent of our total import last year.

As part of our routine surveillance programme, shark's fin products are regularly monitored and sampled. Results from our surveillance over the years have shown that mercury was either not detected in the shark's fin products or was at levels well below the limits permitted.

Consignments that fail to meet AVA's stringent requirements are not allowed for sale and will be destroyed.

AVA would like to reassure consumers that shark's fin products available locally are safe for consumption.

Dr Paul Chiew
Director, Laboratories Department
For Chief Executive Officer
Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority

Shark's fin: Different findings on mercury
Straits Times Forum 14 Jun 12;

BEING at the apex of the food chain, sharks accumulate vast amounts of toxic materials that have either been washed into the oceans or dumped there by man.

As confirmed by Singapore's Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA), the bulk of toxic materials is found in fish muscle ('Shark's fin not 'impregnated with mercury' ' by Mr Tan Keng Tat; last Saturday).

Nevertheless, no organ is spared, even if some selectively accumulate more toxins than others.

We cannot get too little of a bad thing, especially considering how little nutrient or nourishment value there is in shark's fin.

In contrast to the AVA's findings, in 2001, 70 per cent of shark's fin samples sent by conservation group WildAid to the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research were found to have extremely high levels of mercury.

The discrepancy between this finding and the AVA's was explained thus: The Thai shark's fin samples were imported from Hong Kong, whereas Singapore gets shark's fin from more than 20 countries, of which only 10 per cent come from Hong Kong and 1.4 per cent from Thailand.

This begs the following questions: Do sharks respect national borders? More importantly, do shark's fin aficionados inquire about the provenance of the shark cartilage they are devouring? And in the interim period of the last 11 years, just how has the situation evolved?

It would be edifying to get some answers from the AVA.

Dr Yik Keng Yeong

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The NEA's view on use of plastic bags

From Ong Seng Eng Director, Waste & Resource Management Department, National Environment Agency
Today Online 21 Jun 12;

We refer to the letter "Banning of plastic bags: What now?" (June 14).

The concerns over plastic bags relate to them being sent to landfills, where they can pollute the environment. In Singapore, most households reuse plastic bags to bag refuse.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) encourages reuse of plastic and other bags as part of our overall conservation efforts.

Our waste, including used plastic bags, is sent for disposal at the waste-to-energy incineration plants.

The disposal of plastic bags, therefore, does not pose an environmental problem as they do not end up in our landfill. However, we do find plastic bag litter, which could end up in our drains.

Also, from a resource conservation point of view, excessive use of plastic bags is a waste of resources.

Hence, while the NEA does not advocate a ban on plastic bags, we support the efforts of retailers and environmental groups encouraging consumers to either bring their own bags or reduce the use of plastic bags.

We should practise the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) for plastics and other recyclables.

Minimising waste and recovering resources from waste would help us optimise land use for waste collection and disposal facilities.

Banning of plastic bags: What now?
From M Lukshumayeh
Today Online 14 Jun 12;

I refer to the report "Etiquette 'not on pace with progress'" (May 30).

Mr Daniel Wang, former National Environment Agency Director-General for Public Health, had said: "Any proposal to ban plastic bags irks me. In Singapore, we burn our rubbish, so whether it's biodegradable or not, it doesn't make a difference.

"Secondly, because we encourage residents to bag their rubbish, sanitation is maintained."

This goes contrary to the hype about banning plastic bags and the push to have supermarkets charge consumers for use of these bags.

But taking into account Mr Wang's job experience, what he said made sense. Could the relevant authorities comment?

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Singapore 'Green' sale offers deals, discounts

Month-long event aims to promote retail of eco-friendly products
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 22 Jun 12;

OVER 50 retailers are taking part in Singapore's first 'green' sale.

The month-long event aims to tap into the growth in environmentally-friendly shopping.

It will offer deals on products such as vegan burgers, organic cotton clothes and cosmetics made without animal testing.

The sale has been organised by Greenstore, a website that reviews and promotes ecologically- sound goods in the Republic.

Site founder Eugene Tay, 34, said he hoped to encourage more Singaporeans to shop with the environment in mind.

He added that the two main barriers to this are a lack of information about eco-friendly products available here and the perception that they are expensive.

So far, more than 350 people have signed up to receive e-mail updates about discounts at the Green Singapore Sale, which runs from today until July 22.

Mr Tay said he will organise the event every year, as long as people are interested.

Details of the stores taking part and their deals will be posted at

Fourteen local groups and organisations will also help to promote the sale. They include Green Drinks, a monthly meeting for environmentalists here.

Ms Sharon Tay, who opened a boutique called The Naturally Better Company in Millenia Walk with her sister Joyce in April, said more Singaporeans are becoming eco-conscious.

The shop sells organic skincare products, and plant and mineral-based household goods such as anti-bacterial sprays. It will offer a storewide discount of up to 30 per cent during the sale.

'Customers who come into our store read the products' list of ingredients carefully and ask us many questions about them,' said Ms Tay, 36.

She started selling the products online in 2008 before opening the brick-and-mortar store.

'While green shopping is not mainstream yet, it's definitely growing in Singapore,' she said.

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Haze clears up but Miri air quality dips due to fire

New Straits Times 22 Jun 12;

KUALA LUMPUR: Air quality in the Klang Valley and other parts of country improved yesterday except in Miri, Sarawak, which showed a surge in the air pollutant index (API) in just mere hours, from moderate to unhealthy .

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

However, it said the API reading in Miri rose from 62 at 7am, to 164 at 11am, because of a fire which broke out at 10ha of peatland in Permai Jaya near the monitoring station.

"The fire is under control at the moment and the Fire and Rescue Department is continuing to fight the fire in the area," the department said.

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

At 5pm yesterday, the department's air quality monitoring stations nationwide recorded nine areas with good air quality, 40 with moderate readings and only one recorded as unhealthy.

Cheras and Batu Muda were recorded at 65 and 54, while Putrajaya's air stood at 51.

In Selangor, Port Klang recorded an API of 75, Shah Alam (60), Kuala Selangor (59) and Petaling Jaya (60).

Seberang Jaya 2 and Perai in Penang recorded API readings of 94 and 83.

Satellite images from the Singapore Meteorological Service showed there were 341 hotspots in Sumatra at on Wednesday.

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

On enforcement measures, the department said it had mobilised more officers to check factories and motor vehicle emissions.

The department reminded the public to refrain from open burning, putting out small fires and report any open burning to the Fire and Rescue Department at 999 or DOE's toll free line 1-800-88-2727.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department forecasted isolated rain in all states today and tomorrow except for Penang, Perlis and Johor.

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Penang's dying hills for all to see

Sharanjit Singh New Straits Times 22 Jun 12;

CONTRADICTING: DAP silencing any discordant note in its ranks

CHIEF Minister Lim Guan Eng was all steamed up as he huffed and puffed his way up to the midpoint of Penang Hill last week.

Lim, the DAP secretary-general, wanted to show that all was well with Bukit Bendera (as Penang Hill is also known) and other hills on the island.

"The hills in Penang are not dying. Even when you look down from here, you cannot see any development because we (the state government) have not approved any building development above 76.2m," Lim declared to a group of accompanying reporters.

One wonders which direction Lim was looking at when he shouted out that the hills were not dying, but certainly, Lim was not eyeballing the northeast side of the island.

For if he had turned to that direction, Lim could not have missed the blatant destruction that is ongoing on the hills -- from Mount Erskine in Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah onto Batu Ferringhi, Teluk Bahang and Balik Pulau. All the travellers' reviews that I have come across state that one can have a 360 degree panoramic view of the island from Penang Hill.

However, for reasons best known to himself, Lim did not seem interested in looking towards the northeast side.

In contrast, DAP assemblyman for Tanjung Bungah, Teh Yee Cheu, has been looking at what's going on there.

He has been infuriated with the destruction that is taking place in his constituency and has been shouting out loud against it.

Teh, too, took journalists on hill treks. However, unlike Lim, he had shown the true picture of how the once green hills have been stripped bare, slopes flattened and trees replaced with a concrete jungle.

Just a few days ago, he showed journalists how Mount Erskine was being "killed" in the name of development.

It was reported that a developer had been given approval to build three blocks of 38-storey buildings for The Peak Residences project and another 38-storey low-medium-cost apartment block adjacent to it.

Instead of being lauded for speaking up in the interest of his constituents, and just like what he predicted, Teh has found himself in trouble with his party.

He has been hauled up by the state DAP for highlighting the indiscriminate hillside development that is taking place all over the island. The first term assemblyman has been directed by DAP to explain his complaints.

It was reported in a Chinese daily that Teh might be shown the exit by DAP in the next general election for his "conflicting" comments.

Penang DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow was reported as saying that the party had, in a meeting last Friday, instructed Teh to clarify his recent comments.

DAP's decision to haul up Teh has not gone down well with residents in Tanjung Bungah, who have leapt to the defence of their assemblyman.

Mount Pleasure Residents Interest Group spokesman Dr P. Sundramoorthy said if DAP took any action against Teh, it would just lend credence to allegations that developers had taken over Penang.

"The state government must explain if it is acting against Teh because of pressure from developers. Otherwise, there can be no excuse for DAP to haul up the assemblyman who is just speaking up and acting in the best interest of his constituents," he said.

Sundramoorthy said he was shocked over how DAP was treating the issue, considering the fact that the current state government had gone around claiming it was administering the state in an open, transparent and accountable manner.

DAP's contention that Teh should have raised the issue of hillslope development using internal channels also smacks of hypocrisy, considering how local authorities had failed to do anything until issues were highlighted in the press.

Teh has revealed that a 49-storey "super condo" is being proposed in Tanjung Bungah and that the developer is submitting planning permission to the local authority. Surely he cannot be hauled up and ordered to keep his mouth shut for exposing this.

But those who have been following recent developments would not be surprised with how DAP treats dissent within its ranks.

Reveal details of all hillslope projects, state govt told
Winnie Yeoh 22 Jun 12;

GEORGE TOWN: Two Barisan Nasional leaders have hit out at the state government for only wanting to reveal details of hillslope projects approved in the state from 1985 till March 2008.

They have demanded that the state government reveal technical reports on all hillslope projects approved from 1985 until this year.

State Barisan publicity bureau committee member Tang Heap Seng said there should not be a selective approach.

“Since the state government wants to declassify the information and files, it is only appropriate that they include the latest approved projects,” he told a press conference at the state MCA headquarters here yesterday.

He was responding to state Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow’s statement that the state would soon reveal the names of state executive councillors, local councillors and high ranking state officials who attended meetings to approve 37 projects on land above 76.2m from 1985 to March 2008.

Chow said the move was to refresh the memories of the previous state government officials, and at the same time clear the air on how the projects were approved and by whom.

David Yim, who is Penang Barisan chairman Teng Chang Yeow’s special officer, also questioned the motive of the state government in revealing the documents only till March 2008.

“Is this the kind of transparency that they are preaching about?” he asked.

He also urged Penang Municipal Council president Patahiyah Ismail to provide more details on the approval given to two projects in Sungai Ara.

“She has stated that one of the projects was first approved in 1996 but council records indicate that the project was approved in February this year.

“There’s also another housing project there which is being undertaken on a former school land which was converted to state land in 2003.

“Under council policy, land cannot be converted for housing, commercial or industrial use.

“However, houses are being built at the site,” he said.

Yim said basic information on approved hillslope projects was available on the council’s website but there was a stark difference between the ones approved before March 2008 and after that.

“For those projects approved before 2008, the date of submissions, purposes, the name of applicants, consultants and the date of approvals have been provided.

“But for those approved after 2008, only the lot numbers, districts, locations and the name of applicants are available,” he said.

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Venezuela Bans Shark Finning, Establishes Shark Sanctuary

Douglas Main Yahoo News 22 Jun 12;

Some much-needed good news for sharks has come from Venezuela this week: The South American country announced it is banning shark finning in its waters and has established a new shark sanctuary.

The country became the last in the Americas to outlaw the practice of cutting off the fins of live sharks and tossing the animals back into the ocean to slowly die.

The country also has created a sanctuary where several important shark species breed, outlawing commercial shark fishing there. The sanctuary consists of 1,440 square miles (3,730 square kilometers) of the Caribbean Sea surrounding the Los Roques Archipelago, a popular tourist destination with pristine beaches and coral reefs, according to a statement from the Pew Environment group.

The new set of measures was decreed this week by Venezuela's minister of land and agriculture, according to Pew's senior adviser on global shark conservation, Max Bello.

"It's a very important step to help protect sharks in the area in the near and long term," Bello told OurAmazingPlanet. [Images of the protected sharks]

Shark conservation key

Protecting their nurseries is important for conserving sharks, said David Shiffman, a University of Miami doctoral student who studies sharks. Sharks spend their first few years of life in these shallow, near-shore waters, where there's plenty of food and few predators. But it's also the point in their lives where they are closest to people and most likely to be caught, Shiffman said.

Sharks are highly susceptible to overfishing because they are long-lived, reproduce infrequently and have few offspring. Scientists estimate that up to 73 million are killed annually for their fins, primarily due to increased demand for shark fin soup, particularly in China and Southeast Asia.

"Scientists and fisheries managers universally agree that shark finning is incredibly wasteful and unsustainable," Shiffman told OurAmazingPlanet. "It also makes the job of fisheries managers harder because they don't know what shark the fins come from."

Shark fins unsafe

Various studies have shown that shark fins are unsafe to eat, containing high levels of mercury and a neurotoxin implicated in neurodegenerative conditions called BMAA, or Beta-methylamino-L-alanine.

While Venezuela still permits shark fishing outside the sanctuary, the new rules state that sharks must be landed with fins attached — or, stated another way, any fins brought back must be attached to the rest of the animal.

Scientists have identified Los Roques, located about 80 miles (128 km) off the Venezuelan coast, as an important breeding ground and nursery for several species, including the lemon shark and the Caribbean reef shark, according to Bello. These young sharks grow up to populate the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean, he said, so measures enacted there can have wide-ranging effects.

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Experts report highest elephant poaching and ivory smuggling rates in a decade

TRAFFIC 21 Jun 12;

Geneva, 21st June 2012 – Elephant poaching levels are the worst in a decade and recorded ivory seizures are at their highest levels since 1989, according to a report published today by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The findings, largely based on information submitted by governments, will be presented and discussed at the 62nd meeting of the CITES Standing Committee to be held in Geneva from 23 to 27 July 2012.

The report (PDF) analyses data from the CITES programme on Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), IUCN’s data on the status of elephant populations, the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) managed by TRAFFIC, and the CITES trade database managed by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).

These authoritative sources of information have shown a very close correspondence between trends in elephant poaching and trends in large-scale ivory seizures, detecting essentially the same patterns at different points in the illegal ivory trade chain.

Commenting on the report, the CITES Secretary-General, Mr John E. Scanlon, said: “We need to enhance our collective efforts across range, transit and consumer states to reverse the current disturbing trends in elephant poaching and ivory smuggling. While being essential, enforcement efforts to stop wildlife crime must not just result in seizures – they must result in prosecutions, convictions and strong penalties to stop the flow of contraband. The whole ‘enforcement chain’ must work together.”

According to ETIS data, three of the five years in which the greatest volumes of ivory were seized globally occurred in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

In 2011 alone, there were 14 large-scale ivory seizures—a double-digit figure for the first time in 23 years, when ETIS records were first compiled. They totalled an estimated 24.3 tonnes of ivory; more than in any previous year.

Large-scale ivory seizures (those involving >800 kg of ivory in a single transaction), typically indicate the participation of organised crime.

China and Thailand are the two primary destinations for illegal ivory consignments exported from Africa according to the seizure data. Seizures of large ivory consignments in Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam since 2009, were believed to be in transit to China and Thailand.

Some African and Asian countries have made significant efforts to enhance enforcement. For example, China conducted earlier this year a major operation which resulted in the seizure of 1,366.3 kg of ivory and the arrest of 13 suspects.

Most of the ivory smuggling containers leave the African continent through Indian Ocean seaports in East African countries, primarily Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania.

“Evidence is steadily mounting which shows that African elephants are facing their most serious crisis since international commercial trade in ivory was generally prohibited under CITES in 1989”, said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s Elephant and Rhino Programme Leader and the Director of ETIS.

These findings are matched by data on poaching levels in Africa from the CITES MIKE programme. MIKE has documented a steady increase in levels of elephant poaching across the continent since 2005, with the levels in 2011 being the highest since monitoring began in 2002.

Poaching levels are increasing in all countries where African elephants occur, and may be leading to dramatic declines in some populations, but particularly in Central African countries, where poaching levels are highest. This was brought to international attention earlier this year by the killing of hundreds of elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park in Cameroon.

“MIKE analysis shows poaching to be highest where human livelihoods are most insecure and where governance and law enforcement are weakest. It also suggests that poaching is driven by demand for ivory in East Asia. The number of African elephants poached in 2011 alone could well run into the tens of thousands,” said Julian Blanc, who coordinates the MIKE programme.

Information collected by IUCN corroborates the MIKE findings that poaching is an immediate danger to elephant populations across the continent. There are disturbing indications that the illegal killing of elephants has increased in recent years in Asia too, although data are hard to obtain.

“There is a pressing need for governments and other stakeholders involved with wildlife conservation to properly assess the amount of Asian elephant ivory that is entering trade”, said Simon Hedges, Co-chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

An additional pressure on Asian elephants, also apparently increasing, is the illegal international commercial trade in live wild elephants for the circus trade in China and the tourist trade in Thailand.

The critical situation in Africa demonstrates the urgent need to implement the African Elephant Action Plan, which was created by all African elephant range States under the auspices of CITES in 2010. The plan envisages investing USD 100 million over three years into elephant conservation efforts, and an African Elephant Fund was launched in August 2011 at the 61st meeting of the CITES Standing Committee.

“Having sustainable elephant populations in Africa will require a shared vision and a highly strategic and collaborative investment of time and resources along the entire ivory supply chain. Without this we will all lose what we cherish the most – the icons of Africa – our elephants,” said Holly Dublin, Chair of the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group, at a recent African elephant range States meeting.

At the international level, creative and innovative responses to this crisis are required. The use of modern traceability systems, including DNA forensics in cases of wildlife trafficking has already proven to be very effective. DNA evidence has been used successfully in a number of rhinoceros-related cases in South Africa and it is routinely forming a part of numerous criminal investigations. In any case, enforcement efforts to stop wildlife crime must be co-ordinated. The whole ‘enforcement chain’ must work together. This is why the work of the recently-established International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) is essential to support and coordinate enforcement actions across international borders.

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Discord overshadows Rio environment summit

Gerard Aziakou AFP Yahoo News 22 Jun 12;

Discord overshadowed debate about the world's environment at the Rio+20 UN summit, while celebrities clamored for a sanctuary to protect the riches of the Arctic.

On its penultimate day, UN chief Ban Ki-moon defended the first large-scale conference on sustainable development in a decade as "the beginning of a journey."

The event "will lead to a more sustainable future for ourselves and for generations to come," he said.

But the gathering -- which has drawn officials from around the world -- came under fire from the leftist presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador, along with indigenous peoples, who said capitalist greed lurked beneath its promotion of the green economy.

Bolivian President Evo Morales described the green economy as "a new colonialism" that rich nations sought to impose on developing countries.

"Countries of the north are getting rich through a predatory orgy and are forcing countries of the south to be their poor rangers," he said.

"They want to create intervention mechanisms to monitor and assess our national policies using environmental concerns as an excuse."

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, also pressed African countries to protect their mineral wealth from transnational companies.

In an interview with AFP, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador accused rich countries of "looting the planet, consuming environmental assets freely."

Indigenous peoples gathered for a counter-summit issued a declaration describing the green economy as "a crime against humanity and the Earth" by dollarizing nature and stripping communities of their rights.

Greenpeace, meanwhile, announced that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, actress Penelope Cruz and director Robert Redford had joined a campaign for a "global sanctuary" around the North Pole.

The celebrities are among the first 100 names on a planned million-signature scroll the activist group want to place on the seabed beneath Earth's northernmost point.

The goal is to counter nationalist claims on the North Pole and preserve the heart of the Arctic Ocean from a carve-up for resources.

The shrinkage of Arctic ice through global warming has led to jostling over sea routes and access to the sea bed, believed to be rich in hydrocarbons and minerals.

At Friday's close, the 190-nation summit is due to endorse a lengthy statement vowing to tackle Earth's environmental problems and entrenched poverty.

"This is a very good document, this is the vision on which we can build our dreams, our visions and it is important that the member states are united and work together," said Ban, who on Thursday also unveiled five objectives to put an end to world hunger.

But the Elders, a group of respected former leaders, environmental activists and poverty alleviation campaigners, slammed the draft as lacking ambition.

Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and ex-UN high commissioner for human rights, described it as "a failure of leadership" while former Norwegian premier Gro Harlem Brundtland said its "omission of reproductive rights is a step backwards."

"The failure of Rio+20 is a call for action which will give the people more energy to mobilize in the future," said Greenpeace political director Daniel Mittler, who called the summit an "epic failure."

Also Thursday, Ban unveiled five objectives of a "Zero Hunger Challenge" to ensure all the Earth's population "enjoys their right to food."

Separately Thursday, Paraguay's opposition-controlled Congress voted to start impeachment proceedings against President Fernando Lugo for his role in deadly clashes between police and squatters.

The brewing crisis prompted South American presidents at the conference to hold emergency talks and rush foreign ministers to Paraguay.

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