Best of our wild blogs: 1 Sep 12

Wild Pigs (With Wings) Hog Headlines in Singapore
from Cicada Tree Eco Place

Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol. 60 (2)
from Raffles Museum News

Partially Leucistic Javan Mynas
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Malaysia, Johor: Pengerang folk get public hearing over petrochemical projects

Ahmad Fairuz Othman New Straits Times 1 Sep 12;

LAND ACQUISITION: Those unhappy with compensation can air their grievances, says MB

JOHOR BARU: THE state government will begin land acquisition award hearings next week to settle matters affecting more than 3,000 residents in Pengerang, following the development of oil and gas (O&G) projects in the area.

The first two projects are the Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid), and Pengerang Independent Deepwater Petroleum Terminal, located within the proposed Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC).

Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said the public hearings, from Sept 3 to Sept 14, would enable villagers to state their case on government compensation for their acquired land and properties.

"The compensation offered will be based on valuation conducted by the Valuation and Property Services Department based on prevailing market prices. It will not be arbitrarily decided by the state government," he said in a statement yesterday.

All compensation will be paid in cash.

The Johor government is offering a special housing ownership scheme at a new resettlement area for villagers whose houses are affected.

All the new houses come with 557sq m (6,000sq ft) of land each, and the villagers need to pay a nominal fee of RM1.

Ghani said the villagers would be able to use the compensation they received for the affected houses to offset the costs of owning the new houses.

Agricultural land at 0.81ha per lot will be offered at minimal premiums to those whose lands were acquired for the development projects, based on certain prerequisites.

Ghani said the government's compensation package would be fair and reasonable, adding the entire exercise would be undertaken in a transparent, effective and timely manner.

He said families unhappy with the quantum of compensation offered were free to seek redress from the courts.

The state government will acquire some 8,094ha of land in Pengerang for the development of the PIPC.

About 2,550ha will be developed by Petronas Rapid, while 544ha will be for the Pengerang Independent Deepwater Petroleum Terminal, which is a joint venture between Dialog Group, Royal Vopak and Johor's State Secretary Incorporated.

These are the first two projects to be developed in PIPC.

Future potential investors and supporting industries will take up the remaining land in PIPC.

This massive development is the state government's initiative to transform Pengerang into a oil and gas hub.

It will involve the relocation of 3,122 people from 927 families currently residing at the affected areas.

Phase One of the relocation exercise will begin in March next year with three villages.

The three villages are Kampung Sungai Kapal, Kampung Teluk Empang and Kampung Langkah Baik.

By October, four villages will follow suit. The four villages are Kampung Sebong, Kampung Batu Mas, Kampung Jawa and Kampung Sungai Buntu.

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Malaysia: Settlers living in fear of wild elephants

New Straits Times 1 Sep 12;

JERANTUT: Fear is a sentiment shared by more than 500 Felda settlers of Sungai Tekam Utara, here, following the emergence of 10 wild elephants which stormed through their oil palm plantations recently.

They claimed that the animals had been roaming in their areas since January and destroyed more than 2,000 oil palm trees with losses amounting to RM300,000.

A settler, Mohamad Zin Jaafar, said the latest incident occurred three days ago when a herd of elephants destroyed about 50 newly replanted oil palm trees.

He said the animals ate leaves and uprooted new oil palm trees after destroying the old trees last month, leaving him with losses of more than RM120,000 since early this year.

Kampung Sungai Tekam Utara Village Development and Security Committee chairman Mohd Rashid Abas said they would meet with Wildlife and National Parks Department next week to find the best solution to the problem. Bernama

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Indonesia: Orangutan Death Leaves Questions

Jakarta Globe 31 Aug 12;

The World Wildlife Fund on Thursday lamented the death of an orangutan that suffered burns in West Kalimantan, with activists saying the condition of the endangered animal had been improving.

“The WWF is sad and regrets it. It should not have happened,” WWF-Indonesia conservation coordinator Chaerul Saleh said in Jakarta.

Chaerul said the male orangutan, aged 16 or 17 years old, was expected to recover as soon as it was moved to the International Rescue, Rehabilitation and Conservation Center in Ketapang district.

The orangutan sustained burns after residents tried to drive him out of their plantation area on Sunday. Residents had sought help from the local Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) to tranquilize the animal but it escaped. The residents then fumigated the coconut tree where the ape was hiding, but the tree caught fire.

West Kalimantan WWF coordinator Hermayani Putra said she was saddened by the ape’s death but they had done everything they could to save him.

“The orangutan died at 10:30 p.m. and the joint team has decided to take him to Pontianak for an autopsy,” Hermayani said.

Hermayani said a veterinarian told her the burns sustained by the orangutan weren’t very serious but dehydration and stress could have led to the animal’s death.

“His condition was improving yesterday afternoon. But to determine the exact cause of death of the orangutan, an autopsy will be conducted,” she said.

Hermayani added that the WWF would launch an investigation to find out what drove the animal out of its habitat and into the plantation.

The population of orangutans continues to decline as more and more of their habitat is destroyed to make way for new plantation areas or illegal logging. The population of orangutans in the Kalimantan provinces is estimated at 50,000.

Music group Sidepony on Wednesday held a “Save” orangutan concert in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, and wrote a song called “On the Brink of Extinction.”

“We wrote the song to raise the public’s awareness about the need to protect orangutans, to prevent them from becoming extinct,” said the group’s frontman, Dian. “One of the ways of doing this is by protecting them from illegal logging and [forest] burning.”

Bassist Bian said the idea to hold the concert came from news reports they saw every year about orangutans being hunted.

“We will donate the proceeds to the West Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency to prevent orangutans in West Kalimantan and Kalimantan in general from being hunted,” Bian said.


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Philippines authorities to look into whale shark feeding

Jessa J. Agua Cebu Daily News Inquirer News 1 Sep 12;

A team of divers from the state fisheries agency will monitor whale shark feeding in Oslob town to frame recommendations on whether or not to stop the activity.

According to Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources -7 (BFAR-7) Assistant Regional Director Alan Poquita, they formed a six man technical team to study the impact of whale shark feeding in Oslob.

Monitoring methodology and definite schedule have yet to be determined, Poquita added.

Oslob Mayor Ronald Guaren confirmed the agency has coordinated with the town for a future site visit.

“We will provide them with local guides and necessary equipment,”Guaren said.

Though whale shark conservation is beyond their mandate, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) earlier ordered its marine-related departments to coordinate with local government unit and the BFAR in ensuring that the largest fish species is protected.

With the possibility of livelihood decline among fisherfolk involved in Oslob’s whale shark tourism, DENR “can provide assistance to the fishermen through the integrated coastal resources and management projects by providing alternative opportunities through eco-tourism enterprises,” said DENR-7 spokesman Eddie Llamedol.

The local government unit of Oslob can “anytime pass an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of whale sharks, supplementing the existing ordinance,” he added.

But the mayor emphasized what they are doing is not feeding per se.

“We just give them some food so they will surface for the tourists to see,” Guarin.

Unlike caged animals in the zoo, these whale sharks are free to swim whenever and wherever, he said.

“I respect the opinions of these scientists but I don’t believe we are altering their behavior. We are not even sure if they will come back after feeding them,” he added.

Samantha Craven of the Lamave whale shark research project in an e-mail to Cebu Daily News explained the potential long term issues of fish feeding as cited in the group’s summary report for the month of April to May.

“The feeding makes a positive association between humans, boats and food. The whale shark is unable to distinguish between different types of boats and therefore is able to approach any boat in search for food, even if this is outside the interaction area. This means there are increased chances of propeller wounds from motorized boats,” Craven said.

She added they are also looking at the impact of the Oslob whale shark tourism to the fishes’ behaviour as they are not known to have social relations unlike dolphins. Fish health issues are also being looked into by Craven’s group.

Barangay Tan-awan captain Faustino Hudar said he does not believe that people are harming the whale sharks.

He said the newest nature attraction has helped uplfit the lives of residents through this new livelihood.

The Philippines is one of the earliest countries to have laws protecting whale sharks when it enacted Fisheries Administrative Order 198 in 1998.

The order prohibits killing, harming and trading of whale sharks.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) included the gentle giants in its Red List or vulnerable list.

Those included in the list are classified as an endangered species.

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Solomon Islands: Epicentre of international dolphin trade

Dolphin tale
Rory Callinan Sydney Morning Herald 1 Sep 12;

The Solomon Islands has become the epicentre of the international dolphin trade.

Anchored in the cerulean shallows of a tiny islet in the Solomon Islands is a curious rectangular pool made from fishing nets. From a distance, it could be a swimming enclosure for a tropical tourist resort, and the image is enhanced by the tree house artfully perched in the rainforest overlooking the beach.

But this complex on Mbungana Island, about one hour's boat ride from the capital, Honiara, is no idyllic tourist retreat. Held captive inside the underwater enclosure are five wild dolphins - Tursiops aduncus or Indo-Pacific bottlenoses - beloved by dolphin handlers the world over for the ease with which they can adjust to captivity, and be taught marine-park tricks.

As I approach the pen by boat, four tough-looking Solomon Islanders rush from the bush, one with axe in hand, ordering me and my fellow crew members to moor elsewhere. They call their boss while we watch their prisoners rise excitedly out of the water, as if looking for escape, then flop back down, resigned to their fate.

The guards ban us from approaching the pen: security is tight when you're involved in one of the world's most controversial live-animal exports. At any time, these animals could be scooped out of their native waters, shipped to Honiara, then placed in a coffin-sized tank in the hold of a cargo jet to be flown to a tourist marine park in China or the Middle East and sold for up to $100,000 each.

In the past few years, the oceans around this cluster of islands, about 1600 kilometres north-east of Townsville, have become a sort of ground zero for the live trade in wild dolphins. "Ten years ago nobody would have thought you could sell dolphins, and now it's a new, valuable resource," says John Roughan, a former academic and political scientist who has resided in the Solomon Islands for 55 years. "If we keep doing it, though, we're not going to have any left."

The tradition of dolphin hunting in the islands dates back hundreds of years, to when fishermen from coastal villages would paddle their flimsy canoes far out to sea to "call" the creatures and drive them into the shallows. There, they would be dragged onto the beach and eaten, their teeth used as currency for dowry negotiations or as jewellery.

It was this tradition that first attracted Canadian dolphin trainer Chris Porter to the islands in the early 2000s. Establishing the first dolphin-export business, he claimed he was ''saving" animals from being killed by locals.

His timing was good: the country was in disarray, still recovering from a breakdown in law and order, and regulation was minimal. The Solomon Islands was not, at the time, a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which classifies Indo-Pacific dolphins as an Appendix II species - not necessarily threatened, but subject to strict control to "avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival".

In 2003, Porter captured 94 Indo-Pacific dolphins and exported 28 to Mexico, an action that put him and the Solomon Islands on a collision course with conservationists and animal-rights activists. By 2010, Porter had renounced the trade and returned to Canada. Many thought the endeavour would end there, but three new dealers emerged, meaning more wild dolphins than ever are being quietly whisked out of the country.

When Good Weekend visited the Solomon Islands recently, a government-sponsored conference on dolphin dealing and hunting was in session in Honiara. The government has flagged a ban on the trade, but is yet to scrap the export quota of between 40 and 50 dolphins a year.

Research had been presented suggesting the quota had depleted the local dolphin population and was unsustainable. The conclusion is disputed by dealers like Dr Badley Anita, a Solomon Islander who is the boss of the Mbungana Island operation and also the islands' principal vet.

Asked why his five animals on Mbungana Island are off-limits to scrutiny, Anita says, "We are researching diseases and you cannot go near them. The whole idea of export is to sustain our [captive breeding program]." He rejects all concerns that his veterinary qualifications conflict with any role in dolphin export. "It's just like any Australian vet who supervises live cattle export."

While Anita's operation is low profile, another dealer, Francis Chow, has a different approach. He has set up the town's only dolphin tourist attraction by bulldozing a semicircle of earth out into the ocean and stringing a net across the opening. The pen is just behind the office of the country's Prime Minister, Gordon Darcy Lilo, and visitors must transit past the usually open boom gate of the Prime Minister's compound to access the complex.

Overlooking the pool, Chow has built a coffee shop, complete with viewing platform, as well as a bar on a jetty that overlooks the pool. When I visit, three wild bottlenose dolphins float motionless in the pen behind a net strung across the opening of the enclosure, surrounded by crowds of gawking children who occasionally toss rocks or litter into the water.

Chow vigorously defends his right to export the animals and makes no secret of his desire to continue. ''If they [the activists] want to give me $10 million, I will stop it," says Chow, who claims to have been approached by buyers from all over the world, including an operation looking to use the animals for military purposes. His pen is a popular stop for dolphin activists, who have tried to release the animals and once buzzed the pond with a camera-equipped aerial drone until Chow's workers downed it with a hail of stones.

One of those activists is Earth Island Institute campaigner Ric O'Barry, once a dolphin trainer for the popular 1960s TV show Flipper. He feels for the animals involved: "They are miserable. They have a high mortality rate and when they die, [the traders] simply dump them and get more."

Such claims do not appear to overly concern Prime Minister Lilo, who has so far declined to say if the trade will be halted should research show it is detrimental to the species. "The laws of the country are very tough," he says. "You can't have anything exported illegally."

Dr Marc Oremus, a marine ecologist based in New Caledonia who has just completed a lengthy study of the bottlenoses in the islands, is adamant the quota is unsustainable. "If you keep removing populations from the wild at the rate that is authorised, you will have a depletion of the population until it completely disappears."

But when presented with scientific evidence, the dolphin catchers are not impressed. Says the third dolphin dealer, Solomon Islander Robert Satu, "I know where there are 20 right now. As soon as I get the approval, I will catch them and export them."

At his home in a fishing village on the outskirts of Honiara, the distinguished-looking chief poses in a traditional dolphin-tooth necklace that wraps around his neck and waist like an ammunition belt. He reveals that more than a dozen dolphins died to provide the teeth he's wearing today.

Over the shrieks of an agitated captive eagle - a must for any Solomon Islands chief - he boasts he is the best dolphin catcher in the world. "Some people might think it is cruel," he says, "but, for me, I think it is a new business, a new trade."

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Spineless creatures under threat, from worms to bees: study

Alister Doyle Reuters Yahoo News 1 Sep 12;

OSLO (Reuters) - The vital tasks carried out by tiny "engineers" like earthworms that recycle waste and bees that pollinate crops are under threat because one fifth of the world's spineless creatures may be at risk of extinction, a study showed on Friday.

The rising human population is putting ever more pressure on the "spineless creatures that rule the world" including slugs, spiders, jellyfish, lobsters, corals, and bugs such as beetles and butterflies, it said.

"One in five invertebrates (creatures without a backbone) look to be threatened with extinction," said Ben Collen at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) of an 87-page report produced with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"The invertebrates are the eco-system engineers," he told Reuters. "They produce a lot of the things that humans rely on and they produce them for free."

The report said that invertebrates, creatures that have no internal skeleton, faced loss of habitat, pollution, over-exploitation and climate change.

The 'services' they provide - helping humans whose growing numbers threaten their survival - include water purification, pollination, waste recycling, and keeping soils productive. The value of insect pollination of crops, for instance, has been valued at 153 billion euros ($191 billion) a year, it said.

A 1997 study put the global economic value of soil biodiversity - thanks to often scorned creatures such as worms, woodlice and beetles - at $1.5 trillion a year.


Other services include seafood from mussels and clams, silk spun by worms and the purple dyes from a type of snail that were used exclusively in the robes of Roman emperors.

The study said the level of threat was similar to that facing vertebrates - creatures with internal skeletons - including mammals like blue whales and lions as well as reptiles and birds. A 2010 IUCN study found that one fifth of vertebrates were at risk.

Collen said people have wrongly tended to ignore spineless creatures, thinking of them as small, abundant and invulnerable to human pressures. Until now, conservation spending has focused on high-profile species such as eagles, tigers and polar bears.

"This report tries to put invertebrates on the map," he said. Invertebrates make up almost 80 percent of the world's species.

The report focused on the current state of the planet. The projected increase in the world's human population to 9 billion by 2050 from 7 billion now and other factors such as man-made climate change could make things worse for invertebrates.

The report, which assessed 12,000 species in the IUCN's Red List of endangered species, called for a switch to "green accounting" to ensure that the benefits of services provided by small creatures are built into national accounts such as GDP.

($1 = 0.8001 euros)

(Reporting By Alister Doyle, editing by Tim Pearce)

'Spineless' animals under threat of extinction
Ella Davies BBC Nature 31 Aug 12;

A fifth of animals without backbones could be at risk of extinction, say scientists.

Almost 80% of the world's species are invertebrates, meaning they lack a spinal column.

Reviewing over 12,000 species known to be threatened, biologists found that freshwater ones are most at risk.

Researchers urged for comprehensive studies of those vulnerable, to help inform conservation and protect species.

Human pressures, ranging from habitat disruption to increased temperatures, were key concerns according to the report published by the Zoological Society of London.

"We knew that roughly one fifth of vertebrates and plants were threatened with extinction, but it was not clear if this was representative of the small spineless creatures that make up the majority of life on the planet," said Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL's director of conservation.

"The initial findings in this report indicate that 20% of all species may be threatened.

"This is particularly concerning as we are dependent on these spineless creatures for our very survival," he said.

The majority of the world's estimated 126,000 freshwater species are invertebrates including molluscs and insects, such as dragonflies.

Of those included on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Species, 35% are considered threatened and 131 species are listed as Extinct.

Spineless creatures that rule the world
IUCN 31 Aug 12;

One-fifth of the world’s invertebrates may be threatened with extinction according to ‘Spineless,’ a report published today by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), in conjunction with IUCN.

Digging up earthworms, chasing butterflies and collecting clam shells could become a thing of the past if enough isn’t done to protect invertebrates. And if they disappear, humans could soon follow. These critters form the basis of many of the essential benefits that nature provides: earthworms recycle waste nutrients, coral reefs support a myriad of life forms and bees help pollinate crops.

“The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) is currently trying to expand the number of invertebrates species assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™,” says Dr Simon Stuart, SSC Chair. “The early results of this work are included in the Spineless book. I very much hope that the expansion of conservation-related information on invertebrates will give these species a much higher conservation profile in future.”

More than 12,000 invertebrates from The IUCN Red List were reviewed by conservation scientists—who also discovered freshwater species to be under the highest risk of extinction, followed closely by terrestrial and marine invertebrates. The findings from this initial group of global, regional and national assessments provide important insight into the overall status of invertebrates. Together they indicate that the threat status of invertebrates is likely very similar to that of vertebrates and plants.

Invertebrates are at risk from a variety of threats and what starts off as a local decline could lead to a global extinction. Recognizing the growing pressures on invertebrates is critical to informing more effective conservation. Molluscs, such as the Thick Shelled River Mussels (Unio crassus), suffer from pollution from agricultural sources and dam construction, which affects the quality of the water they live in. Crayfish such as the Noble Crayfish (Astacus astacus), are at risk from the impact of invasive species and diseases.

“Invertebrates constitute almost 80% of the world’s species, and a staggering one in five species could be at risk of extinction,” says Dr Ben Collen, Head of the Indicators and Assessments unit at ZSL. “While the cost of saving them will be expensive, the cost of ignorance to their plight appears to be even greater.”

The highest risk of extinction tends to be associated with species that are less mobile and are only found in small geographical areas. For example, vertebrate amphibians and invertebrate freshwater molluscs both face high levels of threat– around one-third of species are at risk. In contrast, invertebrate species which are more mobile, like dragonflies and butterflies, face a similar threat to that of birds, and around one-tenth of species are at risk.

“The ecology of vertebrates and the threats posed to them are reasonably well documented, and there is often more effort to conserve them—but the conservation attention paid to creepy crawlies lags far behind that of charismatic and well known animals like tigers, elephants and gorillas,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation. “We ignore the loss of invertebrates at our peril, as they provide many of the ecosystem services from which humans benefit.”

Invertebrates are the engineers of the many benefits which humans accumulate from an intact and fully functioning environment; however human demand for resources is continually increasing the pressure on invertebrate populations. This book paints a clear picture of how biodiversity is changing, and will enable experts to implement successful conservation plans for those invertebrates which are struggling to survive.

ZSL will be presenting ‘Spineless: Status and Trends of the World’s Invertebrates’ at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju on 7 September.

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No repeat of floods this year: Bangkok

Thai government reassures investors and showcases preventive measures
Nirmal Ghosh Straits Times 1 Sep 12;

BANGKOK - With flood water in the north and north-east of Thailand well below last year's level, the country seems unlikely to suffer a repeat of the disastrous late 2011 deluge, a top government scientist said in a bid to allay investor concerns.

Meanwhile, the government has beefed up the capacity of the system to handle large quantities of water flowing down from the north to metropolitan Bangkok, said Dr Anond Snidvongs, director of the Bangkok-based scientific research unit SEA-START.

The government yesterday invited foreign ambassadors and the media to an elaborate exhibition on its 380 billion baht (S$15 billion) flood-management strategy, designed to boost confidence in a sceptical public and investor community.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who opened the three-day exhibition and conference, pledged "concrete measures and massive investment".

"We are determined to protect our people and communities, our industry and economy from the threat of floods," she said.

In an interview, Dr Anond, who is assistant secretary of a national water and flood management committee, stressed that the 120 billion baht spent so far was designed to "adapt to the current climate rather than the future".

The work has included raising roads and dykes, and dredging canals. Industrial estates in particular - seven of which were inundated last year for weeks on end - have been building massive dykes. The government has also repaired old water gates installed decades ago.

Climate change is a huge challenge for Thailand, where much of the capital - a crucial economic hub not just for the country but also the region - is below sea level and sinking gradually.

But political bickering continues to mar the government's response and confuse the public.

The exhibition was held partly to counter "all the negative talk", said Mr Nirut Kunnawat, deputy secretary-general to the Prime Minister.

The squabbles have been between the powerful Royal Irrigation Department and the government's minister for science and technology Plodprasop Suraswadi, over the release of water from dams in the north.

The irrigation department has warned that the government is releasing water too early and may not have enough in hand to cope with a possible summer drought next year. The minister insists that is not the case.

A scheduled controlled release of water next week to test the improved drainage system in eastern Bangkok has been met with open scepticism from Bangkok's governor M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, who last year tussled with central government agencies over flood control and drainage.

In an opinion piece in the Bangkok Post yesterday, the paper's deputy news editor Kultida Samabuddhi wrote: "Nothing is scarier than seeing the country's water management heavyweights engaged in a war of words instead of working together."

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Asia's megacities, heed flood warnings

changyong rhee Straits Times 1 Sep 12;

ARE Asia's recent floods the result of bad luck, bad weather, or bad design?

Manila was left paralysed, with a third of the city under water and thousands evacuated from their homes. A few weeks earlier, the worst floods to hit Beijing in 30 years killed 77 people and affected nearly one million others. A year ago, Thailand's floods caused the deaths of more than 600 people. The country lost 1 per cent of its gross domestic product when Bangkok was inundated.

Simple bad luck? The scourge of climate change? Or uncontrolled urban sprawl?

The answer is "all of the above".

Asia is on the move, with economic growth attracting millions to its cities. Urbanisation is happening at an unprecedented scale and speed. Infrastructure simply can't keep up. And climate change and erratic weather are altering the way cities need to function.

Asia added one billion people to its urban population in the last 30 years. That's more than every other region in the world combined. Moving from a 10 per cent to 50 per cent urban population took Latin America 210 years, North America 105 years, and Europe 150 years. It took Asia only 95 years. In fact, in China, the transition happened in just 60 years.

But the biggest difference is not simply speed - it's how these cities have grown.

"Megacities" - home to more than 10 million citizens - are proliferating in Asia at breakneck speed. Among the 25 densest global cities, 17 are in Asia. The three most densely populated large cities in the world are in South Asia. By 2025, 21 of the world's 37 megacities will be Asian.

This pace of urbanisation has not only led to traffic snarls and massive pressure on resources like water and sanitation, it has also created slums - 61 per cent of the world's slum dwellers are in Asia - and contributes to rising crime.

Air pollution has also reached levels that seem barely liveable. A staggering two-thirds of Asia's cities can't come close to pollution standards set by the European Union. Half a million Asians die each year because of pollution, a situation that is only likely to worsen, considering CO2 emissions grew 97 per cent in Asia in the first eight years of the new millennium and are expected to triple by 2050 if nothing is done.

What this means is simple: crowded cities whose growth in numbers is not matched by a growth in infrastructure are vulnerable: susceptible to crime, pollution, and, among other risks, flooding. More than 550 million urban Asians are considered already at risk of coastal and inland flooding in 2010. This is projected to rise to 760 million by 2025.

But there is hope.

The problems are huge, fast accelerating, and expensive to fix. But green urbanisation, if managed properly, can also provide solutions.

Bigger cities whose growth in services outpaces that of industry will ultimately face less pollution, since the service sector is cleaner.

Building decent infrastructure can allow manufacturers to relocate: where North Americans and Europeans have suburbs, Asia can keep its vibrant downtowns and instead provide incentives and transportation links to enable manufacturers to move to satellite cities, keeping dirty industry at bay.

Asia is not without good examples. In Delhi and Shanghai, metros connect to satellite cities. In Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, eco-cities are becoming the trend. Singapore has shown it can be both compact and "smart".

Building green technology is no longer for the future - it's starting now. There are pilot bio- digester plants in the Philippines; pilot waste-to-energy plants in Singapore; and pilot biomass energy production in Thailand.

Baoding City in China created 20,000 green jobs in the past three years alone. South Korea plans to have more than a million green jobs by the end of next year and Japan's green sector expects to create more than two million jobs by 2020.

Asia's urbanisation challenges are unique - and its solutions will be too. For instance, mass transport systems must link satellite cities to ports and megacities without excessive reliance on private vehicles, otherwise Asia's cities will only be trading one form of pollution for another.

Perhaps the bigger challenge is protecting the poor and managing urban migration. This will take a delicate mix of innovation, public fortitude, and more than a little common sense. Issuing land titles, removing slumlords, and providing rudimentary basic services can help.

Asia should not ignore the warning signs of recent floods. This is not just bad luck, nor is it merely bad weather.

It is a reminder that policymakers and the private sector must act now to ensure the green urbanisation opportunities of today are not lost to the Asian megacities of tomorrow.

The writer is Chief Economist at the Asian Development Bank.

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