Best of our wild blogs: 23 Jul 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [16 - 22 Jul 2012]
from Green Business Times

Predawn adventure to Cyrene Reef with sharks
from Peiyan.Photography and wild shores of singapore

120720 Bukit Timah Hindhede
by Singapore Nature

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker eating fruit of Melastoma malabathricum from Bird Ecology Study Group

long tailed macaque(Macaca fascicularis) caught a white vented myna (Acridotheres grandis)ηŒ•ηŒ΄ζ“’ιΈŸ from PurpleMangrove

WBSE fished @ marina bay - July2012
from sgbeachbum and WBSE fished II @ marina bay - July2012

A. fenestrella of Endau Rompin & C. chaoi of Bishan Park
from Everyday Nature

Lesser Dog-faced Fruit Bat
from Monday Morgue

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Wildlife affected by excessive development

Straits Times Forum 23 Jul 12;

IN THE heartland area between Bukit Batok Road and the Kranji Expressway, opposite Bukit Batok West avenues 2 and 7, a large portion of the land belonging to the military has been slated for development by the Urban Redevelopment Authority master plan ('Preserving Singapore's green heartland'; July 14).

Already, the area opposite Brickland Road along the canal - the former Keat Hong camp - has been flattened for Tengah Build-to-Order flats.

Also, the woodland area opposite Teck Whye Avenue and the HDB estate has suffered a loss of greenery because of the construction of the Hillvista condominium.

I moved into the neighbouring estate 12 years ago for the greenery, which has been reduced over the years.

I have kept my eyes open for butterflies all these years and have noticed the disappearance of particular species around the area. What used to be common has become rather uncommon, and the rare ones are probably extinct in the area, such as the Jungle Glory butterfly, Thaumantis noreddin, which is now considered extinct on the main island.

I am speaking only of the butterflies, but this is indicative of the adverse impact of the clearance of woodlands on the biodiversity of the area.

Will the authorities consider the biodiversity involved, given that the area slated for development is a rather large piece of land? Clearing it could affect weather patterns in the west area (known for more rainfall), and give rise to flooding. And what about the birds, butterflies and other wildlife inhabiting or visiting the area en route perhaps to green areas elsewhere?

Steven Chong

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Flood prevention plans need to evolve: Environment Minister

Karen Ng Channel NewsAsia 22 Jul 12;

SINGAPORE: Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore has to "build in buffers", and be prepared to adjust its flood prevention plans as new climate data emerges.

Earlier this week, national water agency PUB announced plans to build a detention water tank and diversion canal at the Stamford Canal catchment to better deal with intense storms and flash floods.

Asked if such measures would also be considered for other canals, Dr Balakrishnan said as far as the climate is concerned, Singapore has to prepare for a more uncertain future.

"In the future that comes, we expect greater volatility and greater intensity of rain... We will have to upgrade our infrastructure accordingly," he said.

"There's a fair amount of uncertainty because you cannot predict the future... But you have to be prepared, you have to be ready to evolve as needs evolve accordingly," he added.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking at the National Environment Agency's 10th anniversary charity run.

Some 2,100 people took part in the event, which included a 10 kilometre run and 1 kilometre fun walk.

Held at the Gardens by the Bay, the event also raised over S$460,000 for the Children's Cancer Foundation.

Another feature of the charity run was a terrarium display, which set a new entry in the Singapore Book of Records with over 1,400 terrariums on show.

Every terrarium will be given to a child suffering from cancer as it symbolises hope and will allow the children to cherish nature.

- CNA/cc

Orchard Road anti-flood measures to meet future needs
David Ee Straits Times 23 Jul 12;

THE planned canal and water detention tank to prevent Orchard Road from flooding are intended to address the problem for decades, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

'We want to have a definitive solution to this problem,' said the Minister for Environment and Water Resources on the sidelines of a charity run at Marina Barrage. 'I believe having both (measures) will future-proof us for greater variability in the weather in the years to come.'

The minister declined to comment on the estimated cost of the measures. National water agency PUB will call for tenders by the end of the year.

Last Thursday, it confirmed that it would build a diversion canal and a water detention tank to ease pressure on the Stamford Canal, which serves Orchard Road and the surrounding areas.

The new canal, to be completed by 2017, will drain into the Singapore River. The underground water detention tank will be built near Holland Road by 2015, and will temporarily store rainwater in the area during heavy storms.

Together, both measures are expected to divert rainwater from almost 40 per cent of the Stamford Canal catchment area.

The moves are in line with the recommendations of an expert panel set up by the Government last year to tackle flooding.

Their report, released in January, recommended a long-term approach: adopt complementary measures that would both delay excess stormwater and divert it away from the Stamford Canal.

PUB chief executive Chew Men Leong said at the same event yesterday: 'One option by itself will not be sufficient.

'When you add the two solutions together, that enhances the overall flood resilience.'

Dr Balakrishnan stressed that these were long-term measures, planned for decades ahead.

'That's the way Singapore has to be. We always have to have a long- term view on things.'

The country's rainfall has increased by about 30 per cent in the past four decades, according to the panel's findings.

But the National Environment Agency (NEA) has said that it is difficult to forecast future rainfall patterns based on past trends. The picture ahead is expected to be volatile, said Dr Balakrishnan.

The inherent difficulty in predicting future rainfall patterns means that the country has 'to be ready to evolve as needs evolve,' he added.

'That's the way Singapore has to prepare for a more and more uncertain future as far as the climate is concerned.'

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Malaysia: New snail species found in Kenyir

Sean Augustin New Straits Times 23 Jul 12;

DISCOVERY: Scientist hopes Terengganu will preserve its forest habitat

PUTRAJAYA: SCIENTISTS have discovered a new snail species in Kenyir, Terengganu, and are urging for cautious development in the area so more studies can be conducted.

The land snail, named Kenyirus sodhii, was discovered by Universiti Malaya research associate Gopalasamy Reuben Clements in 2006 as he was walking in the forest one morning to survey new sites for snails and chanced upon a shell on a leaf.

A few days later, he found a live snail with a shell slightly larger than the old 50 sen coin.

Clements, who is also the co-founder of non-profit research group Rimba, knew he had stumbled upon a new genus and with the help of his friend, Siong Kiat Tan, one of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research curators, checked records of the different species of snails over the last six years to confirm the find.

Rimba was founded in 2010 and conducts research to help save threatened species as well as ecosystems in Malaysia.

Clements said the shape of the shell was so peculiar and that there was nothing closely resembling it in neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.

"This is why we had to put this snail in a new group. This is probably the first snail ever described from Terengganu and may be even the first species to be named after Kenyir."

The 33-year-old said that malacologists, or scientists who study snails, prefer visiting limestone hills as diverse species have been known to be found in such places, although it could be high time forests are explored as well.

Clements said he had previously found new species of snails in Pulau Tioman, Pahang and Ipoh.

"Although this discovery is astounding, it is not surprising because one has yet look in Terengganu's forests for snails. I hope to find a few more specimens as we do not know anything about its anatomy or behaviour."

Clements said the Kenyirus sodhii appeared to be endemic to the forest surrounding Lake Kenyir.

He said the name Kenyirus was chosen as a tribute to the beauty of Kenyir where it was discovered, and sodhii was a dedication to his late mentor, Professor Navjot Sodhi, who had not only sent students to conduct research in Kenyir, but groomed many researchers like Clements to become conservation scientists.

With the discovery, Clements hoped that Kenyir, which has been earmarked for eco-tourism, would be developed responsibly to allow further studies on snails and other wildlife to be done.

"My current research has shown that forest reserves around Kenyir are important habitats, not just for snails, but endangered mammals as well. I hope the Terengganu Tengah Development Authority Board will work together with scientists in the area before going ahead with developing the site."

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Indonesian Environment Ministry Targets Plantation Firms Accused of Sumatra Forest Clearing

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 23 Jul 12;

The Environment Ministry is investigating eight plantation companies in Sumatra for allegedly clearing nearly 4,000 hectares of forest using slash-and-burn methods.

Arief Yuwono, the minister’s deputy for environmental damage control and climate change, said on Sunday that the companies were believed to have burned down more than 3,800 hectares of forest.

“Two of the companies are in Riau, four are in South Sumatra and two are in Aceh,” he said.

He added that the ministry was also investigating some local officials involved in issuing permits to the companies.

The investigation comes as the Environment Ministry prioritizes measures to prevent haze as a result of forest fires on the island and particularly in Riau, which is set to host the 18th National Games in September.

Purwasto Saroprayogi, head of the ministry’s forest fire monitoring department, said the areas of top priority were Pelalawan and Rokan Hilir districts in Riau.

“We’re giving priority to these two regions because the number of forest fire hot spots detected there is quite high,” Purwasto said.

He added that there was a risk of more fires spreading in the province because of the hot spots.

He said that under the ministry’s Fire Danger Rating System, officials now had a better understanding of how the fires were spreading.

“Whereas before we could only monitor once every seven days, now we can do it once every three days,” Purwasto said.

As of July 15, there were 2,643 hot spots detected in Riau this year, or more than half of the 4,876 detected across Indonesia by a US satellite. South Sumatra accounted for 1,180 hot spots, while West Kalimantan had 1,053.

In Riau, most of the hot spots were concentrated in Pelalawan district, with 527, followed by Bengkalis and Rokan Hilir.

Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya warned that the number of fires would increase as the dry season continued, fanned in part by the “El Nino” phenomenon in October.

“Based on the information from the FDRS and predictions of decreased rainfall, there will be a high potential of forest fires in the eight most prone provinces of North and South Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, and [all of] Kalimantan,” he said as quoted by environmental website

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Asia fuels record elephant, rhino killings: WWF

Karl Malakunas AFP Yahoo News 23 Jul 12;

Releasing a report rating countries' efforts at stopping the trade in endangered species, WWF said elephant poaching was at crisis levels in central Africa while the survival of rhinos was under grave threat in South Africa.

In parts of Asia, rhino horns are highly prized for their use in traditional medicines -- some believe they can cure cancer -- while elephants' ivory has for centuries been regarded as a precious decoration.

Global efforts to stem the trade have been under way for years, but China, Thailand and Vietnam are allowing black markets in various endangered species to flourish by failing to adequately police key areas, according to WWF.

It said Vietnam was one of the countries of most concern, giving it a worst-possible "red" score for failing to stem the trade in rhino horns as well as tiger parts.

"It is time for Vietnam to face the fact that its illegal consumption of rhino horn is driving the widespread poaching of endangered rhinos in Africa," said WWF's global species programme manager, Elizabeth McLellan.

"It must crack down on the illegal rhino horn trade."

WWF said Vietnam was the top destination for rhino horns illegally imported from South Africa.

It described South Africa as the "epicentre" in an African rhino poaching crisis, despite strong government efforts there that began in 2009 to stop the killings.

A record 448 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2011, and this year could be even worse with 262 already lost from January to June, according to WWF.

The wildlife group accused the Vietnamese government of doing very little to stop rhino horns from being imported, describing penalties in Vietnam for buying them as not nearly strong enough to act as a deterrent.

It also said Vietnamese diplomats had been arrested or implicated in South Africa for trying to buy rhino horns.

WWF said Chinese authorities should be recognised for their strong and effective efforts to stop the rhino horn trade within their borders.

But it accused China and Thailand of being among the worst culprits in allowing the illegal trade of elephant tusks.

"Tens of thousands of African elephants are being killed by poachers each year for their tusks, and China and Thailand are top destinations for illegal African ivory," WWF said.

WWF urged China to improve its enforcement procedures and warn Chinese nationals they would face severe penalties if they were caught illegally importing ivory from Africa.

WWF said China banned using rhino horn for traditional medicines in 1993, and authorities had followed through with periodic crackdowns that were effective in stopping it being sold in pharmacies.

China has also made genuine efforts overall to stop the illegal trade of endangered species' parts, but elephants' ivory remained a big problem because of the huge demand in the world's most populous country, it said.

In Thailand, WWF said the main problem was a unique law that allowed the legal trade in ivory from domesticated elephants.

In reality, this was a "legal loophole" that allowed indistinguishable illegal African ivory to be sold openly in upscale boutiques, it said.

The conservation group said there were some bright spots around the world, with India and Nepal receiving a best-possible "green" score for their efforts to stem the trade in elephants, rhinos and tigers.

WWF said significant efforts had been made globally to save tigers following a summit in Russia two years ago that attracted leaders from the 13 countries with wild populations of the endangered animal.

Still, it warned more than 200 tiger carcasses were being detected each year on the global black market.

"With as few as 3,200 tigers remaining in the wild, every tiger poaching death is a major concern," it said.

Countries fail to protect endangered species from illegal trade
WWF 23 Jul 12;

Geneva – Poor performances by key countries are threatening the survival of wild rhinos, tigers and elephants, a new WWF report has found. The analysis, released as governments gather in Geneva this week to discuss a range of issues related to wildlife trade, rates 23 of the top African and Asian nations facing high levels of poaching and trafficking in ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts.

The report, entitled Wildlife Crime Scorecard: Assessing Compliance with and Enforcement of CITES Commitments for Tigers, Rhinos and Elephants, examines of the many countries considered as range, transit or consumer countries for these species. It gives countries scores of green, yellow or red for each animal, as applicable, as an indicator of recent progress. WWF has found that illegal trade persists in virtually all 23 countries reviewed, but the scorecard seeks to differentiate between countries where it is actively being countered from those where current efforts are entirely inadequate.

Worst scored countries

Among the worst performers is Viet Nam that received two red scores, for rhinos and tigers. Viet Nam is identified in the report as the top destination country for rhino horn, which has fuelled a poaching crisis in South Africa. A record 448 South African rhinos were killed for their horns in 2011 and the country, which itself receives a yellow for rhinos, has lost an additional 262 already this year. According to the report, many Vietnamese have been arrested or implicated in South Africa for acquiring rhino horns illegally, including Vietnamese diplomats.

“It is time for Viet Nam to face the fact that its illegal consumption of rhino horn is driving the widespread poaching of endangered rhinos in Africa, and that it must crack down on the illegal rhino horn trade. Viet Nam should review its penalties and immediately curtail retail markets, including Internet advertising for horn,” said Elisabeth McLellan, Global Species Programme manager at WWF.

Inadequate enforcement of domestic ivory markets in China is also highlighted in the report. China receives a yellow score for elephants indicating a failure by the country to effectively police its legal ivory markets. “The ongoing flow of large volumes of illegal ivory to China suggests that such ivory may be moving into legal ivory trade channels,” the report says.

China is urged to dramatically and consistently improve its enforcement controls for ivory and to communicate to Chinese nationals in Africa that anyone caught importing illegal wildlife products into China would be prosecuted, and if convicted, severely penalized.

Tens of thousands of African elephants are being killed by poachers each year for their tusks and China and Thailand are top destinations for illegal African ivory. Thailand receives a red score for its failure to close a legal loophole that makes it easy for retailers to sell ivory from poached African elephants.

“In Thailand, illegal African ivory is being openly sold in up-scale boutiques that cater to unsuspecting tourists. Governments will be taking up this troubling issue this week. So far Thailand has not responded adequately to concerns and, with the amount of ivory of uncertain origin in circulation, the only credible option at this stage is a ban on ivory trade,” McLellan said.

Record poaching in Africa

Elephant poaching is at crisis levels in Central Africa, where rhinos were likely poached to extinction. Last year witnessed the elephant highest poaching rates across the continent since records began. Early this year hundreds of elephants were killed in a single incident in a Cameroon national park. “Given the escalation of elephant poaching in Africa and the increased levels of organized crime involved in the trade, it is clear that the situation is now critical,” the report found.

Wildlife crime not only poses a threat to animals, but is a risk to people, territorial integrity, stability and rule of law. Regional cooperation is needed in Central Africa to counter the flows of illegal ivory and arms spilling across borders. WWF commends Central African governments for signing a regional wildlife law enforcement plan and urges them to make its implementation a top priority, allocating resources to the plan and improving the efficacy of prosecutions for those implicated in poaching or illegal trade.

“Although most Central African countries receive yellow or red scores for elephants, there are some encouraging signals. Last month Gabon burned its entire ivory stockpile, to ensure that no tusks would leak into illegal trade, and President Ali Bongo committed to both increasing protections in the country’s parks and to ensuring that those committing wildlife crimes are prosecuted and sent to prison,” said WWF Global Species Programme manager Wendy Elliott.

Best performers

Other bright spots from the report are green scores for India and Nepal for each of the three species groups. In 2011, Nepal celebrated a year without any rhino poaching incidents, which was largely attributed to improvements to anti-poaching and other law enforcement efforts.

WWF’s Wildlife Crime Scorecard is being released as member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) hold their annual Standing Committee meeting. The conservation organization is set to launch a global campaign to fight illegal wildlife trade, which is putting the future of elephants, rhinos and tigers at risk. Learn more at

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2009 Timor Sea Oil Spill ‘Just as Devastating as Gulf of Mexico’

Jakarta Globe 22 Jul 12;

Kupang, West Timor. A prominent US expert in oil spill recovery said in Kupang on Saturday that Indonesia needs to craft a program to deal with the lingering and largely over-looked effects of the 2009 Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea.

Dr. Robert Spies, who was the Chief Scientist for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, and who served as an adviser to US government after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, said the Timor Sea can still be restored, but only with “serious attempts” made by the Indonesian and Australian governments in coordination with the company who operated the Montara platform.

Serious attempts would include substantial money, much of which should come from Thai state-owned oil and gas company PTT Exploration and Production, Montara’s primary operator.

Spies said he's recently studied the impact of the Montara spill in the Timor sea, especially in Indonesian waters. He said the pollution caused by the Montara leak was just as severe as the Gulf of Mexico spill.

“Restoration programs could be made after hearing expert opinions involved in examining the effects of the pollution on the environment,” Spies said at a discussion on pollution and impact on the environment.

The Montara oil spill leaked an estimated 2,000 barrels a day from Aug. 21 to Nov. 3 2009 (or 74 days), according to the Australian Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. The Montara slick grew to almost 90,000 square kilometers and entered Indonesian waters, according to environmental group WWF.

A team led by the Environment Ministry said the oil slick covered 16,420 square meters of Indonesian maritime territory. The West Timor Care Foundation, which supports poor fishermen in eastern Indonesia, estimated the spill affected the livelihoods of about 18,000 fishermen. Businesses such as seaweed and pearl farms were also reportedly hit.

Spies said damage in the Gulf of Mexico was minimized thanks to quick action taken by American authorities in 2010; Spies said the US government was quick to launch environmental restoration programs, and asked British Petroleum to finance much of the environmental assessment.

BP was also asked to provide compensation for people directly impacted by the spill — namely fishermen.

Similar methods could be used for the Timor Sea pollution through coordination through the multitude of companies involved, Spies was quoted as saying by Antara.

The Motara platform was owned by Norwegian-Bermudan Seadrill, and operated by PTTEP Australasia (PTTEPAA), a subsidiary of PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) — that company was in turn a subsidiary of PTT.

Houston-based Halliburton was involved in cementing the well, and were also involved in cementing the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon well.

Jakarta Globe and Antara

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Flood risk rampant across Asia's factory zones

David Fogarty and Clare Baldwin Reuters 22 Jul 12;
* Industrial parks still being built in Asia flood zones
* Extreme flood risk in China worries Swiss Re
* China flood insurance sold as part of property package, without claims limit
* Competition pushing down China property insurance rates - broker

BANGKOK/HONG KONG July 23 (Reuters) - Global insurance companies are struggling to get a grip on their flood exposure in Asia nearly a year after one of the world's costliest disasters hit Thailand, with ex e cutives fearing an even worse event looms in the region.

Some firms learnt from the Thai floods, with new defences built to protect multi-billion dollar industrial estates in the country. Insurance premiums have also gone up, but factory construction in flood-prone areas remains rampant across Asia.

Insurance executives say the industry is vulnerable to another major flood, with scientists identifying the coastal plains of southern China as one area at greatest risk.

"When I go and look at these industrial parks and ports in some of the low-lying coastal areas, I just have to stand back and think: Who's insuring these things? Who's done the risk assessment?" said Adam Switzer, a coastal scientist at the Earth Observatory in Singapore.

"What I consistently see on the coasts throughout Asia is that we're still making the same sorts of mistakes."

The Thai floods hit nearly 1,000 factories feeding global supply chains - particularly in the auto sector - costing insurers an estimated $20 billion.

In the rush for development that has lifted millions out of poverty in Asia, many factories have been built along coasts, especially in river deltas. According to insurance industry executives, most construction was done without long-term historical data on floods and storms.

On top of that, rising sea levels, increasing rainfall and more intense s torms - together with more people and infrastructure - mean the risks have multiplied.

"We should be identifying these pockets of exposure earlier," said Scott Ryrie, Asia-Pacific vice chairman for Guy Carpenter, a global insurance industry services firm.

The goal, insurance executives say, is to break the cycle of paying for the same losses over and over again.

After the Thai floods, global reinsurer Swiss Re reassessed flood risk in emerging markets. The report's No. 1 risk was China, whose vast industrial estates are at the heart of global manufacturing, making everything from iPads to brake pads.

Among other Asian countries listed, Malaysia was 5, Indonesia 7 and India 10. Thailand was ninth.

Munich Re and Guy Carpenter have also reviewed flood risk models, particularly for industrial parks in Asia.

"A new risk awareness has to set in along the entire value chain," said Tobias Farny, Munich Re's Asia-Pacific chief executive. "The exposures present need to be defined, described and ring-fenced in order to become insurable."

Ryrie said insurers in many countries have contained risks by imposing tighter payout limits and pushing for better historical data to improve risk models.


At an industrial estate on the flat plains north of Bangkok, where Japan's Toshiba makes lighting and home appliances, workers rush to finish a 9.5-km (6-mile) concrete and earth dike that is 1.5 metres (5 ft) higher than the old one.

Behind them, a brown stain runs along the factory buildings where floodwaters lingered for two months, knocking out major foreign-owned manufacturing operations and triggering a flurry of business interruption claims around the world.

Many in the insurance sector agree that an even bigger loss is likely i n China, the motor of global manufacturing, where large areas of factory estates are vulnerable to flooding and storms.

Fierce competition among Chinese insurers, low premium prices and a lack of long-term disaster risk assessment mean insurance companies are potentially exposed to big losses.

"If we have a really extreme event in China, I am quite certain there would be some surprises for the insurance industry," said Jens Mehlhorn, head of Swiss Re's flood group. "The flooding we see currently in China is just average flooding. We haven't seen a 50- or 100-year flood event in the past 5 to 10 years."

The Pearl River Delta is one of China's biggest industrial zones. The western side of the delta, constructed on sediment-filled fish ponds and rice paddies, is flat for up to 100 km (60 miles) inland, and 40 percent is less than 2 metres (6.5 ft) above sea level.

The government has not published detailed maps showing China's most critical flood zones.

Meanwhile, competition in one of the world's biggest insurance markets has driven the cost of property cover 20 to 30 percent below what it is in other Asian markets, said Alex Yip, China chairman and general manager of insurance broker and corporate advisor JLT Lixin.

Price competition last year was so brutal that China's No. 2 insurer by market capitalisation, Ping An , recorded a nearly 200 million yuan ($31 million) loss on its corporate property and casualty underwriting, despite no major flood loss claims.

Ping An said in an email it cares more about the big picture than the profitability of individual policies. In 2011, Ping An's property and casualty division overall made a net profit of just under 5 billion yuan ($785 million).

Flood insurance in China is typically sold as part of a general property policy and does not have an upper claims limit, industry experts said. Rapid development and high levels of foreign investment mean the amount insurers are on the hook for in the next major flood has gone up.

"For floods and for earthquakes, to be honest, for international standards, the price is inadequate," said Zhang Qing, the Beijing-based general manager for State-owned PICC Property & Casualty Co's reinsurance business.

A recent study by Texas A&M University and Yale University shows the amount of developed land in low-elevation coastal areas in China is skyrocketing. In 2000, 13,500 sq km (5,200 sq miles) of low-elevation coastal land had been built up. By 2030, that is set to nearly quintuple to 63,600 sq km (24,500 sq m), an area nearly as large as the Netherlands and Belgium combined.

Another study, in the journal Irrigation and Drainage in 2010, said one third of China's farmland, two-thirds of its people, more than 60 percent of its cities and 80 percent of its GDP were threatened by floods.

Maryam Golnaraghi, chief of the World Meteorological Organization's disaster risk reduction division, said Chinese data is often not detailed enough to be useful - and that some government agencies feel information on water flows is too sensitive to share.


Thailand is Asia's most developed auto parts market and a hub for the likes of Toyota, Honda and Mercedes-Benz, making cars and car parts the country's No. 1 export this year. The floods disrupted more than 100 components makers.

Over the past year, property insurance rates in Thailand have doubled or tripled and flood cover greatly reduced or even refused in some cases, said Jiraphant Asvantanakul, president of The General Insurance Association of Thailand.

Manufacturers such as Toshiba are moving machinery to the second storey, setting up sister operations in other countries and finding back-up warehouses and suppliers, though the bulk of operations remain in Thailand.

"I think the factories will stick with Thailand because the supply chain network is still very strong ... it is not that easy to move," said Kobkarn Watanavarangkul, executive chairwoman of Toshiba's Thai unit.

Toshiba's factories are in the Bangkadi industrial estate, one of seven parks built on former rice paddies on floodplains north of Bangkok that were inundated last year, affecting companies such as Sony, Canon and Honda.

Close to where workers were toiling to build new flood defences to protect the complex was a bronze statue of an elderly couple standing on sandbags.

They are the estate's founders and the statue commemorates a flood in 1995 in which 1 million sandbags were used to fend off high waters, a reminder that this is not the first time the estate has been threatened.

Insurers and reinsurers are also worried about dense concentrations of factories in other parts of Asia, particularly in and around the Indonesian capital Jakarta, where floods in 2005 and 2007 hit large areas.

The low-lying coastal city has 13 rivers flowing through it, is subsiding in parts and faces rising sea levels. It is the nation's manufacturing base with U.S., European and Japanese firms operating factories.

In Cikarang, east of Jakarta, five industrial estates with more than 3,000 plants employ over 1 million people.

Farny of Munich Re said natural catastrophe awareness was growing only slowly among insured firms and governments.

"But it is growing," he said. ($1 = 6.3735 Chinese yuan) (Additional reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Orathai Sriring in BANGKOK, Tian Chen in HONG KONG, Andjarsari Paramaditha in JAKARTA, Chang-Ran Kim, Yoko Kubota and Taiga Uranaka in TOKYO, Kevin Lim in SINGAPORE and Norihiko Shirouzu in BEIJING; Editing by Michael Flaherty and Alex Richardson)

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