Best of our wild blogs: 23 Jun 12

NParks launches biodiversity monitoring of Pasir Ris mangroves
from wild shores of singapore

Life History of the Dark Glassy Tiger
from Butterflies of Singapore

Hard at work at Chek Jawa
from wild shores of singapore and Peiyan.Photography

The BESG and its impact on birdwatching in Singapore
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Chek Jawa Boardwalk outing on the eve of Father's Day
from Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

Night walk on Cyrene
from Psychedelic Nature

Pulau Semakau intertidal walk rOCks !
from Sengkang Babies

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Wild boar population needs to be managed, says minister

S. Ramesh Channel NewsAsia 22 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has weighed in on the subject of wild boars in Singapore.

Writing in his blog on housing matters, Mr Khaw says the wild boar population needs to be managed and re-homing them is, unfortunately, not an option.

On Friday morning, he says two wild boars wandered into the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and charged at a CISCO security officer and a child.

Luckily, he says, they were not seriously injured.

He explained in his blog post that Singapore is a modern 'City in a Garden'.

And he hopes that all species of animals, birds, insects, trees and flowers can have their place under the sun in their natural habitat and not caged up as if in a giant zoo.

This, he says, is a very stretched target.

Singapore may never achieve it, but it forces the people to be creative and to think out of the box to try to see if Singaporeans can co-exist with as many species of living things as possible, without endangering themselves.

Mr Khaw says his priority is protecting Singapore's babies, that they will be safe and grow up well, happy and be able to fulfil their dreams.

That is why the Ministry has to act on stray dogs and wild boars occasionally.

Mr Khaw adds that the Ministry will be as humane as it can, and the need to manage their population remains.

Last month, NParks and AVA jointly rounded up a pack of stray dogs at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West.

Some have been re-homed, but the rest are awaiting a good home.

Meanwhile, the stray dogs in Punggol continue to worry residents and park users there.

Mr Khaw notes that many Singaporeans are dog lovers but feeding strays indiscriminately and hindering efforts to manage the stray population are not the ways to express this compassion.

Instead, they can come forward to adopt the stray dogs that were rounded up.

- CNA/de

Wild boar incident: Population 'needs to be managed'
Today Online 23 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE - As two wild boars were sighted at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park yesterday morning, with one of them charging at a CISCO security officer and a child, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post that the wild boar population must be managed.

"Rehoming them is, unfortunately, not an option," he added.

His comments come amid a debate over ways to curb their growing numbers, which negatively impact the environment, according to the National Parks Board (NParks).

At about 8.30am yesterday, the boars wandered into Pond Gardens at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park from the Lower Peirce area, where the population "has grown to levels beyond what is ecologically sustainable", said NParks Director (Conservation), Mr Wong Tuan Wah.

When an NParks staff arrived at the site half an hour later, one of the wild boars dashed back towards Lower Peirce, while the other charged at a security officer on patrol and a five-year-old boy.

The boy, who was hit from behind, was knocked off his feet and landed about a metre away, said Mr Wong in a statement. Both the officer and child were not seriously injured.

Mr Wong said NParks contacted Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and the police cordoned off the area from other park users. The boar was put down with a dart gun and removed from the park after a one-hour operation.

Noting the wild boar population at Lower Peirce could double by year-end, Mr Wong said it represented "an increasing risk to public safety".

NParks is now consulting with Wildlife Reserves Singapore, government agencies, plus nature and animal welfare groups to explore the most appropriate method to manage the wild boar population at Lower Peirce.

Other measures suggested by the public, such as sterilisation and erecting barriers, can be considered, but "cannot replace the need to manage the wild boar population", added Mr Wong. "While our decision may not please everyone, we believe it is necessary," he said.

In his blog post, Mr Khaw raised the "very stretched target" of having people co-exist with "as many species of living things as possible without endangering ourselves".

But he highlighted his "priority" goes towards "protecting our babies". "That is why we have to act on stray dogs and wild boars occasionally. It is to protect our babies. We will be as humane as we can, but the need to manage their population remains," said Mr Khaw.

Last month, NParks and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore worked with several animal welfare groups to round up and rehome 10 stray dogs at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West.

Protecting kids is top priority: Minister
Straits Times 23 Jun 12;

NATIONAL Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday defended the government policy of rounding up stray dogs and culling wild boars, citing the danger the animals pose to children.

While he welcomes a diversity of animal life in Singapore, the animals must not endanger humans, Mr Khaw wrote in a post on his ministry's blog.

'In a limited space of just over 700 sq km, it is a zero-sum game and we need to prioritise,' he added. 'My priority is towards protecting our babies.'

He also said two wild boars had wandered into the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and charged at a security guard and a child yesterday morning.

His comments follow news reports two weeks ago that some animal lovers are opposed to culling wild boars to curb their population.

They proposed that sterilisation be used instead.

Mr Khaw, in a nod to their sentiments, said: 'We will be as humane as we can, but the need to manage their population remains.'

For this reason, the authorities are also rounding up stray dogs in parks, he wrote.

While some feel strays should be allowed to roam freely in parks, Mr Khaw said residents living near these parks have reported these dogs barking aggressively, howling late at night and chasing park users. 'An accident was waiting to happen,' he said.

He also said that since stray dogs in Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West were rounded up last month, residents there have been 'happier'.

He urged dog-lovers not to feed strays, saying a better way to show compassion is to adopt a stray instead of buying a dog from a pet shop.


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Two hurt in wild boar attack in Bishan

Creature believed to be from Lower Peirce charged at guard, boy in park
Stacey Chia Straits Times 23 Jun 12;

A WILD boar believed to be from the Lower Peirce area yesterday wandered into Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, where it charged at a security guard and a boy aged five.

It was later put down with a dart gun.

The guard, Mr Arnold Rodriguese, 36, hurt his right hand.

The unnamed boy, who was butted from behind, fell and landed a metre away, but was not seriously injured, said Mr Wong Tuan Wah, director of conservation at the National Parks Board (NParks).

He added that a second boar was spotted by NParks staff running back towards the Lower Peirce area.

Mr Rodriguese, who is from security company Certis Cisco, was on duty with two colleagues at the park's Pond Gardens at around 8.30am when he saw the boar.

A Certis Cisco spokesman, responding to questions from The Straits Times via e-mail, said its officers had reported this to NParks and national water agency PUB.

But just as an NParks officer arrived at the scene, the boar charged at Mr Rodriguese, said the Certis Cisco spokesman.

Right after that, the boar headed for the boy, who was near the playground.

The incident comes a week after NParks' announcement about the need to manage the wild boar population here on the back of a rise in its numbers.

A debate then ensued about the wisdom of culling the animals, with animal activist groups such as the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society against it.

The Nature Society and two university professors, backing NParks, said the boars posed a danger to the regeneration of the forests here because of their tendency to eat the seeds of primary forests.

Mr Wong said: 'This morning's incident underscores the urgency of managing the wild boar population. We cannot wait for a more serious incident to happen before taking action.'

He said that yesterday's incident was not an isolated one.

Other human-boar run-ins have been reported, including collisions with vehicles and a pet dog being mauled to death.

As a single female boar can produce four to eight piglets a year, the population of boars in Lower Peirce could double by the end of the year, said NParks.

Mr Wong said NParks was in talks with Wildlife Reserves Singapore, government agencies and nature and animal welfare groups on managing the boar population.

The forested area in Lower Pierce is home to an estimated 100 boars.

Mr Tony O'Dempsey, who chairs the Nature Society's Vertebrate Study Group, said boars are not aggressive by nature, but all wild animals will attack if provoked.

'From the animal's point of view, it may think it is cornered, even though you may not know you are cornering it,' he said.

Mr Ong Say Lin, 25, a biology graduate from the National University of Singapore who studied wild boars, said he was surprised by yesterday's incident.

'Wild boars usually evade people, but in a few rare instances, are quite comfortable with people,' he said.

An NParks spokesman said signs have since been put up around the park reminding the public to stay away from wild boars and not to feed them or use flash photography.

Wild boars spotted at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 22 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE: Two wild boars spotted in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on Friday morning triggered off more than three hours of operation by the authorities to hunt them down.

The National Parks Board (NParks) says one boar had charged at a security officer and a child.

The five-year-old was knocked off his feet from behind, and landed about a metre away. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.

Authorities say the two wild boars wandered into the park early in the morning.

One dashed off into the nature reserve of Lower Pierce when officers arrived. The other remained, and hid in a bush.

Men, including those from a local pest control company, worked to lure the animal out.

Eventually, just before 3pm, officers from the Wildlife Reserves (Singapore) shot the boar with a dart gun.

MediaCorp understands the boar has been put down.

Ong Say Lin, Researcher at the National University of Singapore, said: "I can say that yes, their distribution is more extensive than expected. One of the hypotheses is that they have been swimming over from Johor Bahru, or Pulau Tekong and Pulau Ubin. Those are very likely sources of the wild boar migration.

"Also, right now wild boars, we can see them at the West Coast, East Coast, at Pasir Ris, Changi and the Jurong area and also in the north. So it's very likely they are coming from the northern islands and Malaysia."

NParks says wild boar numbers at Lower Pierce have grown beyond what's ecologically sustainable.

And their appearance at Bishan Park is another reason why they will have to take urgent action to control the population.

But some residents at Old Upper Thomson Road, right next to the nature reserve and its wildlife, say the pigs are part of the charm of the neighbourhood.

"They've never been an issue to us. They usually appear late at night, or during evening time, and they're very shy of people."

"Culling seems a bit drastic, and kind of, permanent?"

Blogging on the issue, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan backs NParks' decision to cull the animals.

He said the wild boar population needs to be managed and re-homing them is, unfortunately, not an option.

- CNA/wk/de

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NParks, Panasonic study mangrove biodiversity at Pasir Ris Park

Straits Times 23 Jun 12;

The National Parks Board (NParks) and Panasonic Asia Pacific are working together on a mangrove biodiversity monitoring study in Pasir Ris Park's mangrove forest.

The initiative, which started in March, includes 16 biodiversity monitoring sessions to be conducted over a two-year period. This is also the first time such an effort is undertaken in Singapore.

Covering an area of 6ha, the mangrove forest at Pasir Ris Park is one of the few mangrove sites left in Singapore. Results of the study will provide NParks with valuable information to aid the long-term conservation and management of Singapore's mangrove forests. NParks said in a statement on Saturday.

The partnership between NParks and Panasonic is in line with the City in a Garden vision to involve the community in the conservation of Singapore's natural heritage.

Through this project, volunteers can cultivate a better appreciation of the biodiversity in Pasir Ris Parks' mangrove forest. Children from as young as 10 can help monitor and collect information about mangrove trees, snails and mudskippers.

Mangrove study to aid conservation
Leslie Kay Lim Straits Times 24 Jun 12;

Volunteers in mud-proof boots and gloves are to descend on Pasir Ris Park mangrove forest as part of a new wildlife survey.

Around 60 people - mostly employees at Panasonic and their families - will visit the area roughly every 45 days in the two-year study. They will gather data on mangrove trees and creatures such as snails and mudskippers. The data can then be used in conservation work.

The project is a joint effort between Panasonic and the National Parks Board (NParks). Both organisations have collaborated on nature tours and tree-plantings in the past, but decided mid-last year to deepen their partnership.

'We want to make Singapore a city in a garden... but we can't do it alone,' said NParks general manager Chia Seng Jiang. He said the manpower provided by Panasonic would help the board manage the mangroves, and the data collected would build on a 2006 survey by the National Biodiversity Centre.

Led by NParks representatives, the volunteers will examine the plants and creatures, looking at factors such as abundance and general health. Snails and mudskippers were selected as they are indicator species which reflect the mangrove forest's overall condition.

The survey is part of a broader conservation programme at Panasonic which includes a $15,000 donation to NParks' Garden City Fund, said its general manager, Mr Low Beng Huat.

The outings to the mangrove forest are important because they create a greater awareness of the environment, added Mr Low. 'It's an opportunity not only to appreciate nature but also let the younger generation understand the importance of nature in Singapore.'

Siblings Lye Jia Qi, 14, and Lye Jia Hao, 11, said digging for snails was an unusual experience.

'We're from the city so it's important to encourage them to venture out,' added their father, Mr Lye Puay Foon, 44, whose wife works at Panasonic.

NParks, Panasonic to study Pasir Ris Park's mangrove forest
Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 23 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) and electronics firm Panasonic Asia Pacific are working together to monitor Pasir Ris Park's mangrove forest.

It's the park's first such mangrove biodiversity monitoring study.

Covering an area of six hectares, the mangrove forest at Pasir Ris Park is one of the few mangrove sites left in Singapore.

It's a popular attraction that draws nature lovers and families alike.

The study, which started in March, will be conducted over two years.

Volunteers include Panasonic's employees and children, some as young as 10 years old.

They will help NParks researchers collect data of mangrove trees, snails and mudskippers in the forest.

Results of the study will provide NParks with information on the long-term conservation and management of Singapore's wetlands.

- CNA/ck

NParks and Panasonic embark on first mangrove biodiversity monitoring initiative at Pasir Ris Park
NParks Media Release 23 Jun 12;

Singapore, 23 June 2012 - The National Parks Board (NParks) and Panasonic Asia Pacific (Panasonic) are working together on a first mangrove biodiversity monitoring study in Pasir Ris Park's mangrove forest. As part of this study, which commenced in March 2012, 16 biodiversity monitoring sessions will be conducted over a two-year period. Apart from contributing $15,000 in cash and in kind to NParks' Garden City Fund for the study, Panasonic aims to provide 60 volunteers per monitoring session. Results of the study will provide NParks with valuable information to aid the long-term conservation and management of Singapore's mangrove forests. This partnership is in line with the City in a Garden vision, which is about involving the community to conserve our natural heritage.

Covering an area of six hectares, the mangrove forest at Pasir Ris Park is one of the few mangrove sites left in Singapore. It is also a popular park attraction - scores of nature lovers and families visit the mangrove forest every month to experience and learn about its rich biodiversity.

Through this project, volunteers can cultivate a better appreciation of the biodiversity in Pasir Ris Parks' mangrove forest. This project also reaffirms Panasonic's commitment to creating greater awareness and furthering environmental causes as its employees and children assist NParks' researchers in the monitoring sessions. Children from as young as 10 years old will help monitor and collect data of the mangrove trees, snails and mudskippers.

Mr Low Beng Huat, General Manager of Environment & External Affairs Group, said, "Panasonic is involved in comprehensive environmental preservation through various biodiversity conservation projects globally. This monitoring initiative at Pasir Ris mangrove forest is part of the broader Panasonic Conservation Programme. We recognise that mangroves are important to our ecosystem and are excited to collaborate with NParks to ensure their conservation. Also, it serves as a good opportunity for our employees and their children to better appreciate nature and preserve the environment."

"We are delighted to be collaborating with Panasonic to actively protect our ecosystem. It is important for us to continue in our efforts to conserve and enhance the rich diversity of our mangroves through monitoring initiatives and surveys. Active management of our mangroves will help enhance the health of the forest and the educational experience for all park visitors," said Mr Chia Seng Jiang, General Manager, Parks.

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'We want a greater sense of home'

Poll shows Singaporeans also wish for a more liveable city
Phua Mei Pin Straits Times 23 Jun 12;

AHEAD of the World Cities Summit that Singapore will host next weekend, The Straits Times asked Singaporeans what they would like to see in their city.

Most of the 50 surveyed long for a greater sense of home and community.

They highlight conservation of green and heritage spaces, a slower pace of life, lower cost of living, better care for the poor and disabled, and avenues for citizens to be engaged in the life of their city.

Many also hope for a more liveable city. For six of those interviewed, that means more bike paths - to encourage a healthy lifestyle and less dependency on cars.

Other items on the wish list include more green oases, farmers' markets, urban farms, community plazas, animal-friendly places, and more variation in building styles.

New York City was cited often as a model for Singapore to look to for inspiration. That is apt, as New York is the recipient of this year's Lee Kuan Yew World Cities Prize, which will be awarded at the summit.

Green business owner Eugene Tay, 34, wants more exchanges like the one over the Rail Corridor, where citizens are given the room to act, and where the people themselves generate ground-up initiatives for shaping their environment.

Future Cities Laboratory researcher Jason Lim, 32, raises as examples a competition in New York calling for ideas to revitalise a polluted canal, and the municipal government's partnership with community groups to turn a disused railway track into what has become a famous park called The High Line.

Green activist Olivia Choong, 33, sees these as ideas not just for building a city, but for building a community. 'The more citified we become, the more we disconnect from each other. We need these to make the city more liveable and the community stronger.'

Older Singaporeans like history buff Jerome Lim, 47, understand but bemoan the city's rapid pace of change, and long for better preservation of the city's history.

Pointing to the transformation of the Marina Bay area in recent years, he says: 'I remember the walks I used to take there as a boy with my parents. That is all gone, replaced now by this futuristic- looking city. It has a certain appeal, but a lot of people are struggling to accept that.'

Cultural studies academic Liew Kai Khiun, 39, says: 'Maybe the authorities should move from... 'removing, relocating and replacing' places to... 'repairing, reinforcing and rooting' communities.'

Others call for a lower cost of living and a slower pace of life, through decreased taxes, more public holidays and policies supporting work-life balance.

But for Ms Sandra Ho, 25, a teacher in a private school, and recent graduate Lin Hongxuan, 25, their key concern is for others. They would like to see better access to public transport for the disabled.

Singapore Institute of Architects president Theodore Chan, 52, thinks it is natural for Singaporeans to focus on the intangibles over the city's built aspects.

'We have done the hardware very well. We're no longer talking about bread and butter pressures. Now we take a step back and talk about refinement.'

From July 1, Singapore welcomes city planners and mayors from around the world to the third World Cities Summit.

They will trade best practices and the latest innovations in city planning and management.

Additional reporting by Matthias Chew

Ideas for a better city: What would make Singapore more liveable for you? Send us a photo you snapped ? in Singapore or any other city in the world - that symbolises a quality or feature you admire. Tell us what that picture means to you, and why you would like to see it in Singapore. Please e-mail your photos, with your name, age, occupation and caption to

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Being green & sustainable means living in dense, well-planned cities

Channel NewsAsia 22 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE: Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said being green and sustainable in the future is about living in dense, well-planned, well-implemented cities.

Dr Vivian added that these cities are where political, economic and social goods can be distributed fairly and cost-effectively.

Dr Vivian noted that this insight by the UN Habitat was remarkably apt for Singapore.

Dr Vivian, who is attending the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio De Janeiro, made this point at a Global Town Hall discussion. The session discussed the future sustainability of urban environments.

Dr Vivian cited Singapore's experience in converting strategic constraints like water shortage into a strategic opportunity. Singapore companies now go all over the world to sell our technologies and implement systems for water recycling and desalination.

On another point, the United Nations has estimated that by 2050, 80 per cent of the world's population will be urbanised. Dr Vivian noted that the balance of power will lie in the cities and said that there are great opportunities there.

Dr Vivian cited several critical ingredients for this to happen.

Firstly, honest competent governments. The political system, he stressed, has to work, have legitimacy and have support from people.

Second, a long-term perspective is needed as almost every worthwhile project cannot be completed in one electoral term.

Dr Vivian said there needs to be a political system and politicians that are able to look beyond one cycle, up to 50 years down the road. Without that perspective, vision cannot be translated into reality.

The third ingredient is money. Dr Vivian said if plans are well made, there are ways to raise funds from the private sector to invest in projects that make commercial sense rather than having them funded entirely out of government taxation.

Lastly, focussing on the politics of opportunity rather the politics of envy. Dr Vivian noted that any successful city will create a certain amount of inequality. He said the real issues are access to fairness and justice, equality in the eyes of the law, access to clean air and safe water, access to education and jobs, and social mobility.

Sharing Singapore's experience, Dr Vivian said there is no subsidy for consumption. Everyone pays the full price but the less well-off receive targeted assistance. Fossil fuels and water are not subsidised.

The exception is subsidising the ownership of assets. He explained that everyone would have a chance to buy a flat because that is an asset.

- CNA/ck

S'pore has to remain at forefront of sustainable development: Dr Balakrishnan
Channel NewsAsia 23 Jun 12;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore has to ensure that it remains at the forefront of new developments in sustainable development.

He said it must also position itself to pursue new opportunities that will arise in the Green Economy of the future.

Dr Balakrishnan made these points at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 22 June.

He said the summit has succeeded in setting out a clear agenda for action to ensure that the world pursues the path of sustainable development.

He said countries need to build on what has been achieved at Rio+20 and continue working closely together.

Dr Balakrishnan said the United Nations (UN) and its bodies need to take on the mandate given to them to set clear and visionary directions to guide countries towards sustainable development.

On their part, countries should take the opportunity to re-look their national policies and capabilities to take stock of how they can work closely with the UN.

Dr Balakrishnan said they also need to share best practices and experiences in sustainable development.

He said he's happy that the summit generated consensus on the road ahead for sustainable development.

He said although there was broad agreement on the overall direction, much work lies ahead.

These include fleshing out the details of the Sustainable Development Goals to strengthen global governance of the environment, as well as implementing the Green Economy.

- CNA/ck

Dense cities can be green, says minister
Vivian Balakrishnan tells Rio summit that the key is to build upwards and leave space for trees
Robin Chan Straits Times 24 Jun 12;

Singapore has shown that dense cities can be green - and ironically, it has achieved this by building upwards, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

In aiming to preserve land for greenery and create a 'city in a garden', the Republic made long-term plans to be high-rise, urbanised and compact.

'Although five million people live within an island 30km across, 47 per cent of our land is covered by trees,' he told delegates at the Rio+20 summit that has just ended in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. 'We have to go high-rise in order to preserve land and trees.'

He was making the point that cities can be environmentally-friendly, and they even have an advantage in providing water and other services, and in keeping pollution down.

'The paradox of a city is that dense, compact, connected, integrated cities are in fact the most sustainable and green way of life in the future.'

It was a point he made at two side events at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which ended on Friday. Dr Balakrishnan, who was representing Singapore at the forum, was a panellist at the UN Habitat's forum on future cities and urban policies, and also attended a town-hall discussion on the sustainability of urban environments.

The 10-day forum was billed as the biggest UN summit on sustainable development in a decade, and concluded with representatives from more than 190 nations inking a declaration to eradicate poverty and ensure a sustainable future. The summit came 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit, which saw leaders pledge that the world should live within its environmental means.

At both events, Dr Balakrishnan noted that Singapore's constraints also offered opportunities. Its small size, for instance, not only made it easier and cheaper to provide services such as piped water and education, but also encouraged it to be greener.

'Pollution is not an option,' he said. 'We cannot afford to pollute our own backyard, because my backyard is your front yard. Therefore the easy option of pushing things which are pollutive, toxic or damaging to a corner, where no one would know about it for many years, is not available.'

He also spoke about how the lack of resources had prompted Singapore to find innovations in water purification and recycling. But he also shared the challenges of running a city-state, noting that it had to address social issues such as racial integration and inequality in wealth and opportunities.

'There are quite a lot of things going on in cities, but at the core it is about getting politics right, making long-term plans and innovative urban design,' he said.

But he also stressed that Singapore had its unique circumstances, and different countries had to find their own way.

In a statement made at the end of the summit on Friday, Dr Balakrishnan also made this point - that there is no 'one-size-fits-all approach' in the global push for environmental protection and sustainable development. At the same time, he stressed his support for the goals laid down at Rio+20.

'To support the global sustainable development agenda, all our national strategies must be coordinated and supported by a forward-thinking and effective global governance regime.'

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The smell of success: How did Lorong Halus go from this... this?

In building Singapore's newest reservoirs, PUB transformed part of a 30-year-old rubbish dump into an idyllic park for all
Cheong Suk-Wai Straits Times 23 Jun 12;

WHEN Mr Lee How Hay was a child, his evenings were redolent of an acrid odour.

The stench was from the eastern bank of the Serangoon River, right across from his father's Punggol chicken farm.

That part of the riverbank is known as Lorong Halus, which became a dumping ground in 1970. Rubbish trucks tipped tonnes of raw household waste there daily. By the time the Government closed it down in 1999, the dump spanned 234ha, or more than 100 football fields.

Mr Lee, now 57, and the assistant director of national water agency PUB's best sourcing department, recalls: 'We really got to smell Lorong Halus even though we weren't exactly living at the river's edge. The smouldering smell came from methane gas building up in the piles of rubbish.'

Relief came in the late 1970s when his family moved to Ang Mo Kio. But little did Mr Lee know that 30 years later, he would be responsible for transforming a 9ha corner of that dump into one of Singapore's most idyllic spots, and one clean enough for a reservoir to be next to.

This transformation is just one of many innovations by PUB which have made it a giant among water managers globally. From July 1 to 5, PUB will again host and share its expertise at Singapore International Water Week, which draws delegates from around the world to share and learn ways to ensure clean water for all. It takes place at the same time as the World Cities Summit.

The makeover of Lorong Halus began in 2006, when PUB decided to dam Singapore's last two main rivers, Punggol and Serangoon, to form the 16th and 17th reservoirs. If PUB pulled it off, those two new reservoirs and Marina Reservoir at Marina Bay would increase water catchment areas from half to two-thirds of Singapore. That is massive for a city-state which relies primarily on rainfall for its water.

Now, living across a dump is one thing, but having one's drinking water mixed with leachate, or water leaching from a waste dump, is quite another. To that, Mr Tan Nguan Sen, 56, director of PUB's catchment and waterways department, says: 'If it were a fresh dump, we wouldn't dare do such a thing. But because it has been around for more than 30 years, the waste there has become inert.'

PUB sampled the leachate assiduously before transforming the dump, and found 'negligible levels' of the most worrying contaminants, that is, heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium.

So it was all systems go for the reservoir, but PUB went one better: Why not transform the dump into wetlands for everyone to enjoy as a park?

As Mr Tan puts it: 'We wanted to turn our challenge into an opportunity, and so we found a way to treat the leachate as well as create an attraction for everyone and a habitat for birds and butterflies too.'

So PUB got its contractor Koon Construction to dig shallow earth basins at a flat part of that 9ha corner of Lorong Halus. Koon then lined these basins with waterproof membranes. Tall grasses, or reeds, and water lilies - plants which are long known as natural super-filters - would be grown in these basins to purify the leachate that would soon be pumped out of the ground and into these basins. The leachate- and reed-filled basins are the wetlands you see today.

PUB roped in wetlands ecologist Michelle Sim, 41, to work with local engineering design firm CPG Consultants to identify nine species of plants in all that were reliable enough to purify the leachate by sucking all the nitrogen and phosphorus out of it. Otherwise, Dr Sim says, these substances would encourage algae to bloom and turn water a sickly green.

Dr Sim previously helped Malaysia set up the 200ha wetlands in its administrative capital Putrajaya.

PUB could easily have used chemical instead of plant filters, but chose the natural way, which was cheaper to boot.

'The only reservation we had,' Mr Tan admits, 'was how effective the plants would be in filtering the leachate because we'd never tried out such filtering in Singapore.'

Today, the wetlands are so safe that PUB has even turned them into an educational destination for students from surrounding schools, such as North Vista Secondary. They trim the thriving reeds.

This haven of flora and fauna is also a new haunt for anglers hoping to reel in snakeskin gourami, perch and fighting fish.

PUB made all that happen in 21/2 years.

Work to safeguard the Serangoon Reservoir first from the leachate began slightly earlier, in July 2007, with Mr Lee, his boss Koh Boon Aik, and their team 'bashing through' jungle-like thickets of tall grass, including lots of lallang.

The entire dump was overgrown because over the years, truckloads of soil would be dumped regularly on the raw waste to tamp it down into the ground, which was soon overrun by weeds.

After slashing their way through metre by metre, PUB contractors Downer EDI and Ryobi-Kiso used a machine with a giant vertical chainsaw to cut into the riverbank like a serrated knife through bread. Concurrently, that same machine broke up the cleared land while mixing cement and clay-like bentonite with the loosened soil.

This blitzed mixture dried fast to form a wall which was 0.8m thick, 18m deep and 6.4km long. This underground wall is what is keeping the leachate out of the reservoir today.

There was high drama at one point when the river had to be dredged to accommodate the wall. The dredged riverbed had to be dumped at a granite bund out at sea, but Indonesia suddenly stopped exporting granite to Singapore then. With no bund, Mr Lee had to halt work for almost half a year.

Another contractor, Swee Builders, built 125 wells with pumps and pipes all along the riverbank, to suck water out of the ground every time it rained. Otherwise the pooling rain would put pressure on the wall.

The pumps and pipes direct the rain-cum-leachate uphill to five tanks nearby, which sit on a grassy old rubbish mound. These deep tanks are off-limits to the public and are used to remove ammonia and particles from the leachate. The leachate is then piped downhill into waiting reed beds of cattails, papyrus and vetivers. These total 160,000 clumps in all and come from Thailand.

Of the three reeds, vetivers are usually the most effective filters, but more drama ensued when Dr Sim found them wilting from too much salt and too little phosphorus in the leachate. Luckily, planting more cattails saved the day.

After a final filtering by water lilies, the leachate is discharged into Singapore's sewage, not potable water, system.

If you worry that some leachate will still find its way into Serangoon Reservoir, Mr Tan stresses that water from the reservoir is pumped out to Upper Peirce Reservoir and monitored for quality before it is tapped for drinking.

In any case, says PUB director George Madhavan, 51, who oversees public communications and community relations, 'the reservoir actually starts outside your house. If you litter your surroundings, rain might wash your litter into the drains and carry it right into the reservoir'.

Today, Lorong Halus has left its fetid past behind.

Mr Lee says: 'What is meaningful to me is not so much the wetlands as it is that I was involved in starting two new reservoirs to increase water supply for Singaporeans.'

Read more!

40 years of container shipping

Launch of then-controversial mode of shipping was milestone for S'pore
Alvin Foo Straits Times 23 Jun 12;

IT HAPPENED 40 years ago, but PSA Corp operations supervisor Martin Verghese, 68, still remembers the day vividly.

It was June 23, 1972, and Singapore was about to welcome the first all-container ship to its port.

Mr Verghese was on edge: He was among the initial batch of crane operators who would be unloading the vessel at PSA's new Tanjong Pagar Terminal.

He said: 'Everybody was eagerly awaiting the ship's arrival - the mood was tense. It was a significant milestone for Singapore.'

The MV Nihon had made its maiden voyage with 300 containers from Rotterdam to Singapore non-stop to be on time for the opening of the new port.

Captain Mervin Lewis, the senior PSA pilot who guided the MV Nihon into Singapore, recalled: 'We realised that something special was taking place that day - we had a glimpse of the future.'

Fast forward to today - the 40th anniversary of container shipping - and more than 404 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers have been handled in Singapore. Placed end to end, they would span the distance from Earth to the Moon more than 6.4 times.

The idea of container shipping came from American entrepreneur Malcolm McLean, when he was watching dock workers manually load cotton onto vessels.

As he recalled in his memoirs: 'Suddenly, the idea came to me. Wouldn't it be great if my trailer could simply be lifted up and placed on the ship without the contents being touched?'

Initially, converted truck trailers were used, evolving into today's containers, known as TEUs.

PSA International group chairman Fock Siew Wah told The Straits Times: 'The celebration reminds us of the transformational effect of a bold decision taken more than 40 years ago.'

He was referring to the decision of then PSA chairman Howe Yoon Chong to build Singapore's first container berth, which became operational in 1972.

Constructing a container port was controversial in the 1960s, as shipping experts were sceptical of the demand, and no container ship operator had made a commitment to building such vessels for the Europe-Far East run. But today, Mr Fock said: 'Singapore is a leading global container hub port and the pride of our nation, fulfilling its vital role of facilitating world commerce and trade.'

It did not take Singapore too long to make its mark.

Business was slow in the 1970s, but trade rose in the 1980s.

In 1982, Singapore achieved one million TEUs in a single year for the first time, and became the world's busiest port by shipping tonnage. In 1990, it exceeded five million TEUs and became the world's busiest container port for the first time, in terms of TEUs handled. By 2000, it was handling 17 million TEUs a year.

Last year, volumes reached over 29 million TEUs, making Singapore the world's second-busiest container port after Shanghai.

Along the way, home-grown technology has given Singapore an edge over its regional rivals.

The innovations include Portnet, a one-stop 24-hour paperless electronic link for the port and shipping community, introduced in 1984. Another is Citos, a planning system that coordinates and integrates all PSA port operations.

The accolades have been numerous, with PSA clinching Best Container Terminal in Asia for 23 years at the annual Asian Freight & Supply Chain Awards.

Economists note that container shipping has become a highly significant part of Singapore's economy and the backbone of the maritime sector in the region.

CIMB regional economist Song Seng Wun said: 'Despite pressure coming from other ports, Singapore will still be important as a key regional player. That's unlikely to change in the near term.

'The business will still expand as consumption and two-way trade is growing in this region. The only question is space and capacity constraints.'

But Singapore is not resting on its laurels.

Two new phases of the Pasir Panjang Terminal are being developed to boost handling capacity to 50 million TEUs by 2018. PSA is also working on automated guided vehicles for future container terminals - to reduce manpower and improve port productivity.

PSA's milestones
Straits Times 23 Jun 12;

1968: Singapore begins building three container berths at East Lagoon (Tanjong Pagar Terminal).

1972: Arrival of the MV Nihon, Singapore's first container ship on June 23. Operations begin at first container berth.

1982: Achieves one million twenty-foot equivalent units of containers (TEUs) in a single year. Singapore becomes the world's busiest port by shipping tonnage.

1984: Introduces the first version of Portnet, a one-stop 24-hour paperless electronic link with local port and shipping community.

1987: Widening and dredging of terminal to allow simultaneous departure and arrival of container ships.

1988: Implements Citos, a proprietary planning system to co-ordinate and integrate PSA's entire port operations.

1990: Passes five million TEUs a year mark to become world's busiest container port for the first time.

1991: Keppel Terminal starts operation following reorganisation of the original Tanjong Pagar Terminal into Keppel and Tanjong Pagar terminals.

1994: Achieves 10 million TEUs in a single year.

1997: PSA corporatises and renamed PSA Corporation Limited. Hits record of 100 million TEUs handled since start of container operations.

2000: Pasir Panjang Terminal officially opens.

2003: PSA International Private Limited becomes the main holding company for the PSA Group. Officially launches Cosco-PSA Terminal at Pasir Panjang Terminal.

2004: Achieves 20 million TEUs in a single year. Total container volume crosses 200 million TEUs.

2005: Enters into a joint venture with Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) to jointly manage and operate a container terminal for MSC at Pasir Panjang Terminal.

2006: MSC-PSA Asia Terminal officially opens. Emma Maersk, the world's largest container ship with a nominal capacity of 15,550 TEUs, calls at Pasir Panjang Terminal.

2007: Enters into a joint venture with NYK and 'K' Line to operate Singapore's first dedicated car terminal called Asia Automobile Terminal (Singapore) (AATS) at Pasir Panjang Terminal.

2008: Enters into a joint venture with PIL to operate a dedicated container terminal called PIL-PSA Singapore Terminal at Keppel Terminal.

2009: Pasir Panjang Automobile Terminal, which houses AATS, starts work.

2011: Container volume handled exceeds 400 million TEUs, hitting more than 29 million TEUs in 2011 alone.

Read more!

Anti-flood measures may submerge Thai provinces

Straits Times 23 Jun 12;

BANGKOK - Flood-prevention measures in Thailand might lead to the submerging of several provinces in the central part of the country during monsoons this year, experts have warned.

Research has shown that while dykes and embankments, built after last year's devastating floods, may save regions such as Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi from the effects of the floods, heritage cities like Ayutthaya will be under more than 3m of water, they warned.

The findings were presented by consulting firm Team Group at the Knowing and Fighting Against Flooding seminar here yesterday.

The group's managing director, Mr Chawalit Chantararat, said a team of experts had used a model based on last year's volume of water in order to make this prediction, The Nation newspaper reported.

Unusually heavy monsoon rains caused a deluge that swept across much of central and northern Thailand for months in the middle of last year, leaving more than 600 people dead and damaging millions of homes and livelihoods.

The floods, which cost more than US$5 billion (S$6.5 billion) in estimated damage, were a huge wake-up call for the authorities to finally make long overdue investments in the capital's drainage system.

Preventive measures in place since will only divert floodwaters to other areas, experts said, even though the amount of rainfall this monsoon may be the same or less than last year, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Thailand: How to move floodwater through Bangkok
IRIN 19 Jun 12;

BANGKOK, 19 June 2012 (IRIN) - As flood season revisits Thailand, experts and policymakers look to 2011, which brought the worst floods in half a century, to glean lessons about how they might safely move floodwater through Bangkok, the Thai capital, should they need to.

“One thing we realized from last year’s flood is that our city’s drainage capacity is not enough,” said Chusit Apirumanekul, a climate information application specialist at the Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC). “We need to do something from the lessons that we learned.”

Flooding is an annual occurrence in Thailand, most of which lies in the drainage basin of the Chao Phraya River flowing from the confluence of the Ping and Nan rivers in the north. In 2011 over 500 people died in the flooding that swept down to the centre of the Thai kingdom and the World Bank put the economic losses at US$45 billion.

In October the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DPPM) reported that more than 2.4 million people in 28 of Thailand's 76 provinces were affected. But it was the duration of the floods that stands out in the memories of most residents. Much of flooding that struck the Southeast Asian nation started in late July 2011 and did not fully subside until January 2012.

High seasonal rainfall in the hilly north fed a gathering tide that slowly snaked down through the central provinces to the Gulf of Thailand. In Bangkok, a megacity of more than 10 million inhabitants and the nation’s industrial heartland, the water ran into a substantial bottleneck, stopping it from getting to the sea.

Since then the Thai government has spent millions of dollars on prevention measures to avert a similar disaster, mostly on dredging canals and building dykes and floodwalls around industrial estates.

IRIN asked experts in Thailand and abroad what the authorities could do to drain floodwater from the city more effectively if these measures failed.

Drainage capacity

“We have a big flood every five years in Jakarta [capital of Indonesia],” said Doddy Suparta, a water expert at Mercy Corps, a disaster relief NGO based in Indonesia’s “mega-delta” city, whose more than 10 million inhabitants are familiar with the risk of flooding.

In the rainy season water comes flowing into Jakarta from hilly regions that lie east and west of the city. “We had a major flood in 1997, then in 2002, and then again in 2007,” Suparta said.

To tackle this recurring problem, Jakarta’s authorities have undertaken the East Flood Canal Project, building a 23.5km canal to carry the overflow from seven major rivers - the Ciliwung, Cililitan, Cipinang, Sunter, Buaran, Jati Kramat and Cakung - to the sea.

In addition, the Jakarta Emergency Dredging Initiative to deepen and rehabilitate 11 major floodways and canals in the city will be completed by March 2017. The World Bank is providing $140 million for the project, with the Indonesian government supplying the remaining $50 million required.

In Bangkok the municipal authorities maintain more than 1,100 canals. “The drainage system was not created to deal with floods like this [in 2011]. The canals that we use to get floodwater out of the city were originally made for irrigation purposes almost 200 years ago,” the ADPC’s Apirumanekul told IRIN. “If you want to drain the water [from the city] fast, you need to increase the drainage capacity from the upstream part of the Chao Phraya River basin to the Gulf of Thailand.”

Super “floodway”

At Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok the Unit for Disaster and Land Information Studies, led by Thanawat Jarupongsakul, has proposed a 200km “super floodway” of widened canals to protect parts of the country from future flood disasters, and provide an emergency expressway for excess water, allowing it to pass through the city to the ocean.

The project, with an estimated cost of $1 billion, would link existing irrigation canals to help drain runoff, as well as raise roads leading to and from Bangkok six metres off the ground to act as dykes, preventing canal spillage. Jarupongsakul estimated that the proposed floodway could hold 1.6 billion cubic metres of water, and drain 500 million cubic meters of water daily.

This system would not only be cheaper than building a new waterway, but would also be energy-efficient by using the power of gravity to keep the water moving.

However, Lertchai Srianant, a water management officer in Thailand’s Royal Irrigation Department, noted that “The government has a plan to use a large retention area in the upper part of the Chao Phraya basin to store excess water, so the water level in the river will not be higher than the dykes at any point.”


Bangkok and Jakarta both use giant pumps to speed up the process of drainage. “North Jakarta is the lowest part of the city, so the water ends up going there. We have several big centrifugal pumps in that area. When the water reaches a certain height, the pumps turn on automatically and push the water out into the sea,” said Suparta from Mercy Corps.

A similar pump is located in central Bangkok, from where it diverts water that collects in a smaller basin that cannot drain naturally into the Gulf of Thailand, and pushes it into an underground tunnel so it can run into the ocean.

“When the water enters an area inside the dykes protecting inner Bangkok, the only way to remove it is by pumps. There’s quite some pump capacity, but by the time the water reaches the pumps there’s already been some significant damage,” said Adri Verwey, a veteran flood management consultant from the Netherlands who is assisting in projects for the Vietnamese and Brazilian governments.

At the height of the 2011 floods some residents on the outskirts of the Thai capital, where the water stayed high for months, called for the dykes protecting central Bangkok to be broken to allow floodwater to drain away through the city into the ocean.

“Bangkok is lower than mean sea level. This means that once water gets into the centre of the city it will not drain out easily,” Apirumanekul warned. “And since water in the city drains out through the Chao Phraya River, if the level of the river is high at that time, it could take a very long time and cause a lot of damage.”

Read more!

Smoky Haze From Indonesian Fires Engulfs Southeast Asia

Liz Gooch New York Times 22 Jun 12;

KUALA LUMPUR — For much of the year, this city’s iconic Petronas Towers, the world’s tallest twin buildings, are gleaming landmarks visible far from the city center. But last weekend, the 88-story structures in the Malaysian capital were shrouded in a smoky haze that prompted doctors to warn people with respiratory problems to wear face masks.

The haze, attributed mostly to fires burning on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, has become a recurring summer blight, engulfing parts of Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore and leaving a litany of health and economic costs in its wake.

Experts say that some progress has been made in the 15 years since one of the worst forest fires in the region’s history, traced to the clearing of land by burning in Indonesia, brought members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, together with pledges to combat the problem. But far more must be done before the area will see clearer skies, experts say, including better law enforcement and cooperation among governments.

The haze that hit Kuala Lumpur last weekend was the worst so far this year, according to Halimah Hassan, director general of the Malaysian Department of Environment, with readings on the air pollution index exceeding the unhealthy threshold of 100.

By Monday, winds had begun pushing the haze toward northern parts of the country. Asean’s Haze Action Online Web site reported that the smoke was also affecting southern Thailand.

The skies over Kuala Lumpur were clearer on Friday, and pollution levels in the capital had dropped back to mostly moderate levels. But unhealthy levels were reported in Miri, a city in Sarawak State on the island of Borneo, because of a fire that started Thursday.

Ms. Halimah warned that the haze could continue to be a problem over the coming months, given predictions of dry weather and southwesterly winds until September.

The environment department has imposed a blanket ban on open fires in Malaysia and increased efforts to control local sources of air pollution. However, Ms. Halimah said that fires in Indonesia were primarily responsible for pushing the air pollution index to unhealthy levels.

A major source of smoke, researchers say, are fires set on palm oil and rubber plantations, primarily in Sumatra, to get rid of old trees and to clear land for new plantations.

The 1997 fires in Indonesia smothered Southeast Asia in its worst haze in recent decades, with another severe episode occurring in 2005, said Euston Quah, a professor of environmental economics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The 1997 haze caused $4.5 billion in damage to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand, when a range of factors like health costs and declines in tourism were considered, Mr. Quah said. In response, Asean members developed a Regional Haze Action Plan to monitor and combat the pollution caused by land and forest fires. In 2002, they signed the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

Ten years later, Indonesia remains the only country in the regional bloc not to have ratified the agreement. However, at an Asean meeting in May, environment ministers noted that Indonesia had begun the process of ratification, according to a statement on the Asean Web site.

Mr. Quah said he believed Indonesia had taken so long because it was not ready to meet the terms of the agreement. For example, he said, Indonesia would have to demonstrate a speedy response from all levels of government when fires broke out, a challenging task in the huge archipelago.

A statement by the Meteorological Service Singapore said that Asean members had been urging Indonesia to ratify the agreement. “With haze being a perennial challenge for the Asean region, we believe more should be done to combat the land and forest fires in the region,” it read.

At the May meeting, the Asean environment ministers noted that Indonesia had reduced the number of hot spots, areas with the potential for uncontrolled fires, but environmental experts say that better law enforcement is needed.

While clearing land by burning is now banned in Indonesia, Mr. Quah said that he was not aware of a single case in which a plantation owner had been prosecuted for a fire lighted on his property. He said the government should also provide incentives for villagers to report fires before they get out of control.

“If they report fires early, then they should be rewarded, either with gifts in kind or money so that we can control the small fires quickly,” he said.

Mr. Quah noted areas of progress: For example, Malaysia provided Indonesia with firefighting equipment and firefighters, while Singapore supplied satellite-imaging equipment to detect hot spots. Malaysia and Singapore have also “adopted” provinces in Indonesia to help them with land management, he said.

Kurnia Rauf, director of the forest fire control division in the Indonesian Forestry Ministry, said that tracking down the people responsible for illegal burning was difficult. “They set fires to open the area for planting because it’s much faster and easier,” he said.

He added that his division was trying to educate people about hot spot indicators. Local forestry officials were also leading ground checks, he said, and people can report hot spots to the forest fire control task force via cellphone.

Anthony Tan, executive director of the Center of Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia, an independent research organization in Kuala Lumpur, urged a broad view of the problem. He said that, while blame was typically directed at Indonesia, fires in other countries also contributed to the haze. “Asean as a bloc has to look at this problem as an Asean problem,” he said.

Sara Schonhardt contributed reporting from Jakarta.

Read more!

Malaysia: Male elephant captured

Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah New Straits Times 23 Jun 12;

SNARED: Part of herd that damaged villagers’ crops

PASIR PUTIH: RANGERS from the Kelantan National Parks and Wildlife Department caught a male elephant, believed to be part of the herd which damaged the crops in Kampung Gong Genor here over the past few months.

The male elephant named "Awang Genor" was captured when it was spotted roaming in a jungle near the village about 11am on Thursday.

Department director Rahmat Topani said five rangers led by Kuala Krai chief Syahrulnizam Shamsu Sharif went to the jungle after receiving information from villagers on the animal's presence.

He said the two-tonne Awang Genor was believed to be part of a group of eight elephants which had been rampaging in Kampung Limau Manis in Machang early this year.

He said the elephant, aged between 10 and 15, was the seventh caught by the department this year.

The rest were captured separately in Jeli, Machang and Kuala Krai.

Rahmat said Awang Genor would be sent to the National Park as soon as possible.

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Philippines: Marine sanctuary to save rare double-barrier reef

Cris Evert Lato Inquirer Visayas 22 Jun 12;

LAPU-LAPU CITY—Fisherman Gilbert Alcoser grew up thinking that if he could not catch fish with nets, he should use dynamites.

Following unquestioningly what his father, Capriano, had told him on the island-barangay of Caubian, an hour away by boat from Lapu-Lapu City, he was unfazed even when some of his neighbors were killed or lost their hands due to dynamite fishing.

“It was normal. It just happened,” Alcoser said. What scared him though was when fish catch was low; he must earn enough money to support his wife and three children.

“We did not realize that we were depleting our rich marine resources because of dynamite fishing. It is alarming because the majority of us are fishermen and we support our families with this job,” said Alcoser, 34, president of United Fishers of Caubian or Nagkahiusang Mananagat sa Caubian (Namaca).

In 2007, Namaca sought help in restoring the dying marine ecosystem. This led to the establishment of Minantaw Marine Park Sanctuary (MMPS), one of the initiatives in conserving the Danajon Double Barrier Reef (Danajon Bank).

At that time, members of Project Seahorse Foundation for Marine Conservation (PSF) were already moving around Bohol and Mactan, educating fisherfolk about the importance of marine conservation.

Critical fishing area

“We were campaigning for the conservation of the Danajon Bank, which is a critical fishing ground for thousands of fishers from the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Leyte and Southern Leyte,” said PSF social development officer Rosemarie Apurado.

The Danajon Bank is the only double-barrier reef in the Philippines and one of only three reefs of this kind in the Indo-Pacific region. It is home to over 200 species of coral reefs, thousands of invertebrates, over 500 fish species, and hectares of sea grass and mangroves.

It is 130 kilometers long and has a total area of 272 square kilometers. It represents 1 percent of the country’s total coral area, with the Caubian area as the largest (143 sq km).

“You can just imagine the richness of marine biodiversity, but very few people know about the Danajon Bank,” PSF biologist Hazel Panes said.

Since the 1950s, fishermen have been practicing destructive fishing methods in the bank, resulting in coral deaths that led to declining fish catch, PSF social development officer Rosemarie Apurado said.

The foundation reported that since 1995, the rate of depletion and destruction of coral reefs had been estimated at

10 percent a year, increasing to 30 percent a decade later.

Marine sanctuary

In 2008, PSF, Namaca, the local government of Lapu-Lapu and Chevron Philippines Inc. (CPI) established the 214.6-hectare MMPS.

“We have a terminal in Lapu-Lapu City and we know that there is an ongoing campaign to save the reef,” said Donald Campbell, Chevron’s global manager-downstream and technology of the public and government affairs.

Chevron donated P3.5 million to establish MMPS, the first multiuse marine protected area in the country.

The sanctuary has four zones: regulated fishing (62 ha), seaweed farming (55 ha), sustainable use (37 ha) and strictly no-take or core (50 ha).

A guardhouse also serves as a visitors’ learning center. Facts about the Danajon Bank and its rich marine environment can be found in the center.

More visitors

Raissa Bautista, CPI manager for policy, government and public affairs, said the project partners were encouraging more visits to MMPS. Most of the visitors are from resorts, social development organizations from Mindanao, local government units from Zamboanga and Mandaue City, and Mactan Export Processing Zone, she said.

“The vision for MMPS is to become a well-managed dive destination so that nearby villagers can have an alternative source of livelihood. The Danajon Bank’s true value lies on the preservation of its marine habitats for ecotourism,” Bautista said.

Panes said the foundation had been given assurance of the continuous rehabilitation of the reef with the presence of MMPS. Commercially valuable species, such as rabbit fish, crabs, squids and seaweeds, are gradually returning, she said.

“We are seeing the effects now more than four years since it was established,” Panes said.

Namaca members serve as fish wardens to ensure that illegal fishing activities in the area are stopped. According to Romeo Matbagon, chair of Barangay Caubian, community members now report offenders to police authorities, even if they are relatives or close friends.

“We have to do what is right. Otherwise, we will run out of food and livelihood. Personally, I’d rather cut family ties than exploit our resources. We, as fish wardens, are doing this for ourselves, our children and our future,” Matbago said.

Read more!

Rising sea levels to hit California hard by 2100

Deborah Zabarenko PlanetArk 22 Jun 12;

(Reuters) - Seas could rise higher along the California coastline this century than in other places in the world, increasing the risk of flooding and storm damage, dune erosion and wetland destruction, the U.S. National Research Council reported Friday.

Rising sea levels have long been seen as a consequence of climate change, because as the world warms, glaciers melt and contribute water to the Earth's oceans. At the same time, ocean waters tend to expand as they heat, pushing sea levels higher.

The report looked at how much seas could rise by 2100 along the U.S. West Coast, and found that the water off California's coast from the Mexican border to Cape Mendocino could rise between 16.5 inches and 66 inches by century's end, compared to what they were in 2000.

The high end of the range is higher than the projection for the global rise in sea levels, which runs from about 20 inches to 55 inches, scientists said in the report.

That global range is higher than predictions made in 2007 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: between 7 inches and 23 inches, with an additional 6.7 inches if rapid changes in ice flow are part of the calculation.

But melting ice and expanding oceans are not the only forces at work, said Robert Dalrymple, a professor of civil engineering at Johns Hopkins University who headed the panel of scientists who contributed to the report.

"There are two components of regional sea level rise," Dalrymple told reporters in a telephone briefing. "What is the land doing in terms of moving up and down, and what is the sea level doing in terms of moving up?"

As global seas rise, some land may rise too, due to the movement of tectonic plates or the rebounding of land that used to be covered by ancient ice sheets. Without the heavy ice to weigh it down, some areas in northern Washington are rising, the report said.

"If the land is rising, then to the residents on that land, it looks like the sea level is falling," Dalrymple said.

Other factors include periodic ocean circulation patterns El Nino and La Nina, the scientists said.

Sea level rise as projected increases risk of damage from floods and storms, which ride into land on higher ocean water. It also endangers wetlands and could force dunes and bluffs to retreat as rising waters erode them, the report said.

While the projected sea level rise for northern California, Oregon and Washington state is lower than for the rest of California, the researchers cautioned that an earthquake of magnitude 8 or more could cause waters to rise by an additional 39 inches (1 meter).

This kind of strong earthquake, which could cause parts of the coast to quickly subside, is a possibility off the northern West Coast, the scientists said. Such quakes occur every few hundred to 1,000 years.

The study was commissioned by various state agencies of the three states, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey.

(Reporting By Deborah Zabarenko; editing by Todd Eastham)

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Under-fire UN summit issues environment, poverty blueprint

Richard Ingham AFP Yahoo News 23 Jun 12;

The biggest UN summit on sustainable development in a decade approved a strategy on Friday to haul more than a billion people out poverty and cure the sickness of the biosphere.

But critics branded the plan a cruel failure, saying it had been gutted of ambition by national interests.

The gathering of 191 UN members crowned a 10-day forum marking 20 years since the Rio Earth Summit, where leaders vowed the world would live within its environmental means.

In a sprawling 53-page statement, the three-day summit voiced dismay at entrenched poverty and mounting ecological stress.

"We... renew our commitment to sustainable development, and to ensure the promotion of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations," it said.

Entitled "The Future We Want," the statement highlighted the many perils facing a planet whose human population is set to surge from seven billion today to 9.5 billion by 2050.

The long list includes climate change, desertification, fisheries depletion, pollution and deforestation, and the danger that thousands of species will go the way of the dodo.

"Sustainable Development Goals" will replace the UN's Millennium Development Goals from 2015, although defining the aim will be left for future talks -- a process likely to be long and fiercely fought.

The strategy also promotes the green economy, a concept that breaks new ground in official UN terminology yet is viewed suspiciously by many developing economies.

But the statement also reflected the worries of advanced economies battling a deep financial crisis.

Despite the demands of developing nations for $30 billion in help, the text stipulated no funding figures to achieve sustainability goals.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the outcome "provides a firm foundation for social, economic, environmental well-being."

"It will guide us, all of us, towards a sustainable path. It is now our responsibility to build on it."

President Dilma Rousseff told a press conference that Brazil, the host country, had secured the compromise after months of haggling.

"The consensus is a point of departure, not arrival," she cautioned.

"With this document, nations move forward. We cannot allow anyone to remain behind. The next conference will have to be a leap forward."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the document "marks a real advance for sustainable development. We know this is one of the most pressing matters of our time."

But others said a historic opportunity had been thrown away.

"The two defining challenges we face today are eradicating global poverty and managing the risks of climate change," said British economist Lord Nicholas Stern, author of a landmark study into the costs of global warming.

"But the conference has failed to acknowledge the compelling evidence about the scale and urgency of action required."

A registry that was opened during the conference showed that nearly 700 commitments, mobilizing $513 billion, had been made for sustainable development by governments and businesses, the UN said on Friday.

It gave no details about whether the funding was new or the criteria for determining whether the projects were sustainable.

In the green movement, many activists branded Rio+20 a disappointment to rank alongside the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, a near-fiasco.

"Rio+20 has been a failure of epic proportions," said Greenpeace's executive director, Kumi Naidoo.

"We must now work together to form a movement to tackle the equity, ecology and economic crises being forced on our children. The only outcome of this summit is justifiable anger, an anger that we must turn into action."

Ban had named the Conference on Sustainable Development as the cornerstone of his plan for fairer, cleaner growth, the "No. 1 priority" of his tenure.

But talk of a summit that would draw as many 130 heads of state or government to give a push to his goals was way off the mark.

In the end, less than half of the UN's rollcall of countries sent their leader, with the remainder represented by deputies, ministers or simply chief negotiators.

Absentees included US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

20 years on, civil society leads in Rio
IUCN 22 Jun 12;

Governments are leaving the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit (Rio +20) with a big deal but little action. Groups of civil society and business have proved they can lead the way towards a sustainable future.

“It’s a relief that the outcomes of Rio+20 refer to some basic issues of planetary survival – reducing poverty and reviving nature’s health,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “I’m pleased to see that nature based solutions for the problems facing poor people, forests, oceans and water were firmly on the agenda. It’s only by investing in nature that we can create a green economy and a sustainable future for everyone.”

“But the deal signed here in Rio lays out aspirations rather than specific mandatory goals on issues like food security, water and energy. IUCN would like to see the Sustainable Development Goals deal with the crises facing people and nature through the implementation of the Aichi targets in The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. We need development goals that apply nature based solutions to address climate change and enhance people’s livelihoods.”

"Contrary to 1992, Rio+20 did not lift global environmental governance," says Poul Engberg-Pedersen, Deputy Director General of IUCN. "The three 1992 conventions were courageous innovations that, however, are still struggling with implementation. The main governance innovations from Rio+20 are another UN Forum with limited power and a promise of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

“We will contribute to the SDGs and actively support the existing conventions. But decisive innovations in governance must now come at the local and national levels, aimed at landscapes and seascapes where public and private powers and citizens meet to determine in practice the governance of nature's use. IUCN will use its global membership and convening power to facilitate effective and equitable natural resource governance, often in transboundary contexts."

“We had hoped for a more ambitious outcome,” adds Cyriaque Sendashonga, IUCN’s Director of Global Policy. “I hope that the work of civil society and businesses will inspire governments to agree on goals and set the right incentives. We are impressed by the initiatives announced by many local authorities and hope these will carry through into national and international action. We would also like to congratulate the Brazilian Government for its hard work in bringing all countries together to finalise the agreement here in Rio.”

“Rio + 20” as opposed to Rio in 1992, welcomed a strong business participation,” says Gerard Bos, Director of IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme. “During the corporate sustainability forum, more than 2000 participants showcased their current actions and discussed how to scale this up.”

“Business did recognize the role played by civil society and NGO’s, in the last 20 years, to push them to integrate environmental and social aspects in their corporate strategies. Today, progressive business have moved beyond the legal license to operate and integrate social and environmental dimensions to their business models. They will push through more multi-sectoral partnerships and coalitions with civil society and policy makers to scale this up in order to create new level playing fields for all business. We think there is a key role for IUCN to play in this effort to create a just world that values and conserves nature.”

On oceans, Rio sends a clear and urgent call that business as usual is no longer acceptable.

“Ocean health and fisheries are deteriorating. It’s time to move toward business “unusual”. We must honour previous commitments to end overfishing, eliminate harmful subsidies, stop destructive fishing practices, and safeguard coral reefs and other vital habitats for marine life,” says Kristina Gjerde, IUCN’s Senior High Seas Advisor.

The decision to delay a decision on managing oceans beyond national jurisdiction is a deep disappointment. IUCN is committed to work with governments to promote immediate action to safeguard marine biodiversity within and beyond national jurisdiction.

On energy, Rio showed us that inspiration for changing the planet’s future will come less from agreements among world leaders and much more from partnerships that mobilise innovation, investment and action.

“The UN Secretary General’s initiative on Sustainable Energy for All is showing the way, with the governments, the UN, business and NGOs working together to bridge their differences and find a common purpose in changing the planet’s energy path,” says Mark Smith, Director of IUCN’s Water Programme.

The road from Rio now goes on to IUCN’s World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea (6-15 September 2012). With State and NGO members working together, the IUCN Congress will develop and apply the agreements made in Rio.

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