Best of our wild blogs: 24 Sep 12

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [17 - 23 Sep 2012]
from Green Business Times

Help needed for bulk purchase of Southern Shores guidesheet
from wild shores of singapore

Track and feel
from The annotated budak

Grey Heron with chick under its wing or is it a tumour? – Part 2
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Red-eared Slider
from Monday Morgue

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PM quizzed on ideal population size at forum

He says it's difficult to give a concrete number as the situation is evolving

Phua Mei Pin Straits Times 24 Sep 12;

A DISCUSSION on the country's ideal population size became the highlight of an hour-long televised forum with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night.

And while he said it was difficult to pinpoint a concrete number, he estimated that Singapore would be able to house about six million people in the future.

Said PM Lee: "It's very hard to give a concrete figure because the situation is evolving. We're gradually increasing our land area, and if we rebuild our older towns, then we can accommodate more people.

"Today our population is over five million. In the future, six million or so should not be a problem. Beyond that, we'll have to think more carefully."

That number falls in line with the 6.5million figure that has been used as a government planning parameter since 2007. With the population standing at 5.26 million as at December last year, and frustration about currently overtaxed public infrastructure, concern has been rising over Singapore's population size.

The question followed a frank exchange with 30 Singaporeans on issues ranging from pre-school education to the state of the Chinese community.

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing, Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Law Sim Ann were also on the panel at the forum conducted in Mandarin.

Participants were upbeat about the prospects of future generations, and in full support of Mr Lee's call for less stress on children and more games-based learning at pre-school level. But several people voiced a reluctance to start families.

These sentiments spoke to a need for immigration to make up for the low birth rate, which Mr Lee said was difficult for the Government. "We know that we have a low birth rate... but we haven't found a perfect answer. Actually, a lot of societies have not found it. Until we find that solution, one of the ways we can address this issue is by bringing in more immigrants," he said.

But he said he knew that many Singaporeans may not agree, so took a poll of the audience.

Asked if Singapore should continue to bring in new immigrants, 67 per cent of the 30 participants said yes. To this, Mr Lee remarked: "Not bad. That's two to one."

About 77 per cent of the group also said Singaporeans can accept foreigners.

Company chairman Thomas Chua said foreigners helped drive economic development, but financial consultant Vincent Tan thought immigrants would leave if advantages moved elsewhere.

Mr Lee said he could understand if some Singaporeans held strong views about the impact of immigration, but he could not accept Singaporeans behaving ungraciously towards foreigners, as could be seen in anonymous anti-foreigner postings online.

"There may be real problems, and these need to be solved. But at a human-to-human level, there needs to be mutual respect," he said.

The 6 million question
With improvement to old towns, increasing land area, it's possible to accommodate 6 million people, says PM Lee
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 24 Sep 12;

SINGAPORE - With older towns being rebuilt and efforts to increase Singapore's land area, a population of six million is possible, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Mandarin dialogue with 30 participants televised yesterday.

Asked by moderator Chun Guek Lay what Singapore's ideal population should be if it is to continue its economic progress, Mr Lee replied: "It's very hard to give a concrete figure, because the situation is evolving."

He continued: "We're gradually increasing our land area, and if we rebuild our older towns, then we can accommodate more people. Today our population is over five million. In the future, six million or so should not be a problem. Beyond that, we'll have to think more carefully."

Speaking during the segment devoted to immigration, Mr Lee said it was a way of addressing Singapore's low fertility rate - which was 1.2 last year - although newcomers need to assimilate and tensions may sometimes arise.

Two-thirds of the dialogue's participants agreed in a poll that immigrants should be let in to make up for low birth rates, while nearly eight in 10 felt Singaporeans are accepting of foreigners. Some felt that new immigrants bring with them fluency in another language and professional networks, while others like financial consultant Vincent Tan felt that they were here for the benefits.

Mr Li Ye Ming, who was originally from Shanghai, felt that the impression of new immigrants not assimilating can be over-magnified when they are not distinguished from foreign workers or tourists - transient groups that cannot be expected to fully understand local norms.

Members of Parliament (MPs) and sociologists contacted by TODAY said Singapore could reach a population of six million in the medium term, but stressed that infrastructure like transport and housing had to keep pace with any growth in numbers.

Noting the slowdown in citizenships and permanent residencies granted in recent years, Holland-Bukit Timah MP Liang Eng Hwa felt that population growth in the next 10 years would be much slower than in the previous decade.

From a high of 79,167 permanent residencies granted in 2008, only 27,521 were granted last year. Citizenships granted also decreased from 20,513 in 2008 to 15,777 last year, according to an issues paper published by the National Population and Talent Division in July.

With the completion of major construction projects, foreign worker numbers could also dip, said Mr Liang.

The issue of population is a matter of juggling many internal and external factors and finding an optimal position, said National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

These factors include ensuring adequate jobs, amenities and social services, an eye on reducing the age-dependency ratio and maintaining economic growth, as well as domestic politics and external economic and security conditions, he added.

Fellow NUS sociologist Paulin Straughan said urban transformation was "critical" to ensure quality of life. This can be done by learning from cities with higher population densities, bearing in mind that many of these cities have less crowded suburbs for urbanites to retreat to on weekends, she said.

The Government must also work to prevent excessive social inequality by boosting the skills of Singaporeans and improving their wages and job opportunities, said Associate Professor Straughan.

Ang Mo Kio MP Ang Hin Kee, meanwhile, felt that if marriage and procreation policies are enhanced, a balance could be achieved between immigration and organic population growth.

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Malaysia: Task force to defend Pengerang residents’ rights

The Star 24 Sep 12;

JOHOR BARU: PAS has set up a task force to defend the rights of the Penggerang residents involved in the Rapid project located within the proposed Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC).

The party’s vice-president Salahuddin Ayob said that he would head the taskforce known as Mantap and he would act as a watchdog for the project to ensure the rights of the 25,000 people affected by the project were taken care of.

“We are not against development in the area but we want the people to be treated fairly when it comes to compensation, relocation of their homes and cemetaries, their livelihood and their future.

“We will set up an operations room in Pengerang and will work with non-governmental groups to raise this issue nationally, at parliament and even internationally,” he said, adding that they would also be working with Greenpeace on the matter.

He said some 10 NGOs were willing to work with them and he hoped to have a dialogue with Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman as well as officers from the State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) about the project.

“We want the state government to have a proper action plan as people are already being forced to evict their homes, especially in Sungai Kapal, to make way for the project,” he said, adding that the first phase was to build a power station for the project.

On the matter, UPEN director Elias Hasran said the Johor government did not issue eviction notices to villages affected by the PIPC project.

He advised the villagers to ignore the rumours as they were not legally binding.

He added that residents affected by the project would be relocated to the new resettlement scheme Taman Bayu Permai on a 156.61ha site which would be ready by March next year.

At another event, Salahuddin presented a personal donation to the family of lorry driver P Chandran who died while under police custody in Kuala Lumpur early this month.

His brother Gunalan alleged that the police refused to allow any family members to meet 47-year-old Chandran when he was arrested on Sept 6.

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Indonesia: Thick Haze Paralyzes Jambi Airport

Jakarta Globe 24 Sep 12;

Jambi. Thick smoke from ground and forest fires have severely curtailed visibility and forced the closure of the Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin airport in Jambi city on Monday, an airport executive said.

The airport was closed for landing as visibility was down to 500 to 1,000 meters. The day's first scheduled flight at 6:00 a.m. had to be delayed by about 30 minutes.

The first flight scheduled to land at the airport, a Lion Air flight from Jakarta that should have landed at 7:30 a.m., was not able to do so and was diverted to the airport in Palembang.

Alzog Pendra, the operations manager of the Jambi airport, said they have warned aircraft against forcing to land if visibility was not permitting.

The thick haze began to disrupt the flight schedule at the Jambi airport on Sunday, Alzog said.

On Sunday, the same first flight from Jakarta operated by Lion air also failed to land because of the low visibility and was diverted to Palembang in neighboring South Sumatra. But similar low visibility due to haze in Palembang' Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin airport forced the plane to return to Jakarta instead.

A Garuda flight from Jakarta that had been due to arrive on Sunday morning only managed to land in Jambi at 1 p.m. after visibility improved.

An air pollution control index showed that in Jambi city, the air was entering the level of serious pollution, with smoke and ash at 90 particles per million over the past three days.

Bambang Priyanto, the deputy mayor of Jambi, said he has asked the city's health office to begin distributing free masks to the public because of the worsening air quality there.

"We have prepared some 70,000 masks in anticipation of the smoke," he said. The city, Bambang added, was also currently considering whether to temporarily close down schools, especially for kindergarten and primary schools.

Suara Pembaruan

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Malaysia: Primates at Sabah’s Imbak Canyon at risk of being hunted

Stephanie Lee The Star 24 Sep 12;

KOTA KINABALU: A lesser-known conservation area in Sabah is proving to be an important wildlife habitat with a 15-day research expedition finding movements of orang utan in the area.

Researchers are now worried that the primates and other wildlife in the Imbak Canyon are at risk of being hunted by encroachers in the 30,000ha conservation area that is about the size of Penang island.

The survey programme’s consultant Dr Rahimatshah Amat said cameras stationed at several locations caught images of limbs very similar to that of an orang utan, as well as proof of encroachment and poaching activities.

“Though there is no full picture of the primate itself, the image of a hand caught on some of our cameras along the eastern part of Imbak Canyon towards Danum Valley indicated a population of the animal,” he said.

He said colonies of the orang utan were also discovered along the west side of Imbak Canyon along with the movements of individuals during the survey conducted from July 5 to 20.

“However, we are not sure whether these movements were those of the primates or people,” said Rahimatshah, who is also chief technical officer (Borneo programme) of the World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia.

A joint patrol will be held by the Sabah Wildlife Department and other agencies such as Sabah Foundation and Petronas to look into the matter.

“There are signs of activities non-compatible to the conservation area as well as sightings of dogs there. By right, dogs should not be present within any conservation area. When there are dogs, it means people are present, too,” he explained.

Sabah Foundation group conservation and environmental management division group manager Dr Waidi Sinun said Imbak Canyon was increasingly becoming a refuge for wildlife.

“An ideal location for the setting-up of a research centre for this purpose has been identified and is expected to be ready by next year,” he said.

Waidi said Petronas, through its public awareness programme, contributed almost RM6mil for the Imbak Canyon conservation area.

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Indonesia: North Sumatra Fishermen See Mangroves in Their Future

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 24 Sep 12;

Fishermen in North Sumatra’s Langkat district have begun replanting mangroves on 1,200 hectares of coastal land previously cleared for oil palm plantations.

Activists from the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen’s Association (KNTI) and the Fisheries Justice Coalition (Kiara) said at a press conference in Jakarta on Sunday that they hoped to restore the mangrove ecosystem in Pangkalan Berandan subdistrict and possibly set aside 300 hectares as a conservation area.

Tajuruddin Hasibuan, head of the KNTI’s Sumatra chapter, said fishermen in seven villages in the area were involved in the initiative.

“When you consider how important the mangrove ecosystem is to the traditional fishermen, you need to consistently fight against the expansion of oil palm plantations in the area,” he said.

“We realize that what we’re doing is just the start, and that there are other areas where plantations are expanding and mangrove swamps are deteriorating.”

He said that in the village of Lubuk Kertang alone, around 2,000 hectares of mangrove swamp have been cleared for plantations since the 1990s. During that period, Tajuruddin said, the fishermen’s catches had declined significantly.

Selamet Daryoni, the advocacy and education manager at Kiara, urged wide public support for the fishermen’s initiative to protect both their environment and their livelihoods.

“Saving Indonesia’s mangroves is a concrete solution toward improving fishermen’s welfare and ensuring food security,” he said. “If they can increase their catch, then that will help boost protein intake among the local community.”

Mida Saragih, Kiara’s awareness manager, hailed the campaign as more meaningful than international discussions on climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, which she said were either tied up over funding disagreements or focused on complex and esoteric concepts such as carbon trading that did not address urgent problems.

“The government should do more to emphasize local solutions and initiatives during these international negotiations,” she said.

“It also needs to underline the urgency of addressing coastal degradation, not just in the Langkat district but all across the country.”

Activists previously calculated that mitigation and adaptation efforts for the maritime sector alone will require up to 5 percent of the state budget, but that the entire budget for the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is just 0.3 percent of the state budget.

The issue of funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts for developing and at-risk countries is expected to be high on the agenda at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Doha in November.

Activists in Indonesia have criticized the lack of details on specific allocations or on progress in emissions-reduction initiatives already being carried out, and remain largely skeptical of any breakthrough being made in Doha.

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Mangroves tigers under threat?

Krishnendu Mukherjee The Times of India 24 Sep 12;

PATHARPARA/JAMESPUR: Shyamal Mondal of Jamespur can still recall the gory day of 1995 in his village, when a tiger was brutally beaten to death after it strayed into the house of a fellow villager Binoy Mridha.

Like Mondal many in this village feel the days, when retaliatory killings of tigers was a usual sight, are not lost in the history. Late and a paltry payment of compensation and less interaction with the foresters during the tiger strayings have pushed the villagers to the edge.

A villager in Patharpara, which witnessed three incidents of tiger straying last week, said some were even contemplating poisoning the big cat once it's back to take away the kill. And the poison, too, is easily available.

"The pesticide the farmers apply in the field are quite strong and was used in the past to poison the tigers. Thiodan and demicron are two common pesticide which were applied before by villagers on dead goats. A tiger always comes back to claim its kill. The poison is mixed with molasses before applying on the kill. The sweet taste attracts the mangrove tigers more," said a villager in Patharpara, adding that another poison which was often used by the villagers was cartap hydrochloride.

Retaliatory tiger deaths were last reported from the mangroves in 2001 - at Pakhirala under Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR) area and Kishori Mohanpur under South 24-parganas forest division. However, the villagers suspect the trend may soon make a comeback with conservation efforts going for a toss.

"We are not being paid the compensation on a regular basis. At times, we don't even receive any compensation," said Subrata Mondal, adding that for compensation against a full-grown goat they receive a paltry Rs 700 instead of the market price of about Rs 3000.

A neighbour of Subrata, Sita Mondal, said the foresters do not even come in time when informed about tiger attacks. "Last Wednesday, when the tiger had killed 4 goats in our village, the officials were at least three hours late to reach," she said.

However, foresters have their take. "The treasury is not releasing funds since last five months. The entire conservation efforts have taken a hit for that. Not only compensation, payments for boats and fuel are also stuck due to that," said STR field director Subrat Mukherjee. Another forest official revealed that over Rs 5 lakh is lying due for last three months on account of fuel charges, while boat owners are supposed to receive Rs 3 lakh as three months' payment.

"If the forest officials fail to check repeated cases of tiger straying, we will have to resort to the extreme step - retaliatory killing. Next time, may be, we won't bother to inform the foresters if a tiger strays. We will take action on our own," said a villager.

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Dozens of rare sharks being sold for fin soup in Dubai market

Colin Simpson The National 23 Sep 12;

DUBAI Rare sharks are being sold at Deira fish market so their fins can be hacked off to make soup.

Peter Jaworski, a vet in Dubai, counted 140 sharks during a single visit to the market. They included smooth hammerheads, bigeye threshers, common threshers and a mako, all of which the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists as threatened.

There were also common blacktips, hardnose sharks and a spinner shark, which are classed as near-threatened.

Dried fins on sale at the market included one from a whale shark. Trading in products from this species is banned by an international treaty.

“The most tragic was the thresher,” said Dr Jaworski, who is involved in a shark-research project. “This is very rare, usually it’s not even seen by divers because it’s a deep-sea species.”

Dr Jaworski said: “If someone sees a thresher shark in the water, it’s a sensation. It was shocking because I’ve never seen so many thresher sharks at the same time and the same place, there were about 40.”

Hammerheads on sale at the market included pregnant females. Dr Jaworski believes the numbers being caught pose a threat to the populations of some species, which could have a drastic impact on the entire marine ecosystem.

“The shark is the top predator, and when the top predator disappears there is a critical chain reaction. If you have no predators the fish they would normally prey on grow in number because there are no sharks to control them, and they eat everything else, so the populations of smaller fish are threatened.”

The shark-fishing industry is driven by the lucrative trade in shark fin, which is dried and used to make shark-fin soup, a sought-after delicacy in the Far East.

The shark specialist group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates the global value of the shark-fin trade to be at least US$540 million (Dh2 billion), and possibly as high as US$1.2 bn.

Dried fins are sold at Deira in 4kg parcels for between Dh400 and Dh600. The cost fluctuates daily and some species command higher prices than others.

Most of the fins are exported to Hong Kong, though the soup is available in restaurants in Dubai for about Dh70 a bowl.

The trade in whole sharks is legal. Shark-finning, in which the fins are cut off live sharks as they are landed on boats and the remainder of the fish is thrown overboard, was banned by the Ministry of Environment and Water in 2008.

Rima Jabado, a marine biologist, said a lack of information about shark populations off Oman, the source of many of those sold at Deira, and the level of fishing in the Sultanate meant it was impossible to determine the impact of the trade.

Ms Jabado will be one of the speakers at a four-day shark conservation conference in Dubai next month. She will talk about the role of fishermen in conservation.

“We need to speak to the fishermen and find out exactly why they fish for sharks, what incentives they have,” she said. “Are there particular species they’re targeting and others they are not?

“It’s important to educate them in terms of species, how they identify the different species, and have logbooks on the boats where they can record their catches. Some species will probably have to be evaluated in terms of what’s happening with their populations.

“Based on that, there need to be incentives to tell the fishermen that this particular species is threatened, so if you catch it, you need to release it.”

She said most of the sharks sold at Deira were caught by fishermen from other countries.

“The UAE is the fifth-largest exporter in the world for shark fins but it is a channel for sharks that are caught regionally. Probably 95 per cent of the sharks at the Deira fish market are not from the UAE.

“The UAE needs to start regulating the trade and controlling what species are allowed to be brought into the country.”

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