Best of our wild blogs: 17 Jan 13

Calls of Common Tailorbird and Yellow-vented Bulbul
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Spare mature tress in Dover Crescent

Straits Times Forum 10 Jan 13;

I LIVE in Dover Crescent. Over the past few days, some mature trees along that road have been felled and saplings planted in their place.

I do not understand the logic of this. For many years, the mature trees have been providing shady relief on sunny days; these young saplings can provide none.

Some residents have stuck notices on the remaining trees, with the plaintive message: "Please do not cut me down."

I hope the authorities will heed this plea.

Also, I have observed that trees that provide good shade in several housing estates have often been over-pruned by chainsaw-wielding workers.

It seems that after nearly 50 years of tree-planting and calling ourselves a garden city, we still have not found a better way of managing and caring for our trees.

Wong Shin Hoe

Dover Crescent trees removed due to decay
Straits Times 17 Jan 13;

WE THANK Mr Wong Shin Hoe for his feedback ("Spare mature trees in Dover Crescent"; last Thursday).

To ensure public safety, we are removing tree species that are storm-vulnerable, and replacing them with hardier ones.

The trees that were removed in Dover Crescent were Andira inermis, which was observed over the years to be a storm-vulnerable species.

We tried to keep those in Dover Crescent for as long as possible, but they recently showed signs of decay and had to be removed.

Before doing so, we planted more than 60 Tembusu Tikus (Pteleocarpa lamponga) trees, which are less prone to damage during storms. Tembusu Tikus is a medium-sized native tree that produces attractive bright yellow flowers.

The mature trees on the other side of Dover Crescent are of a different species. They are less storm-vulnerable and are in good condition. They will continue to provide greenery and shade.

Oh Cheow Sheng
Director, Streetscape
National Parks Board

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Malaysia: Perak to gazette 19,000ha forest

New Straits Times 16 Jan 13;

WILDLIFE SANCTUARY: One of four states is involved in Federal Govt's Central Forest Spine project

SOME 19,000ha of the Lower Belum Forest along the Grik-Jeli Highway will be gazetted as a permanent forest reserve under the Federal Government's Central Forest Spine project.

Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir said the area was a productive forest located within the Belum-Temenggor complex near the Grik-Jeli Highway.

He said Perak was one of the states involved in the CFS project, which would link up four major forest complexes in Peninsular Malaysia to create one contiguous forested wildlife sanctuary.

"The move shows how serious the state government is about preserving the environment and green lung of Perak. This is a huge sacrifice because the area involved is a productive forest for timber production. This long-term investment will benefit future generations," he said here yesterday.

Zambry said some groups had been urging the state government to gazette more areas in Temenggor, adding that a study needed to be done to ensure the timber industry was not affected.

The CFS is a master plan to enable the animal and plant species in the country to continue to thrive for future generations.

Under the plan, the forest complexes will be connected through a network of 37 linkages to form a 5.3 million ha of forest complex. This area would allow animals to roam freely from north to south of the peninsula.

The four forest complexes are Titiwangsa-Bintang-Nakawan Range; National Park to Eastern Range; Southeast Pahang Swamp Forest, Tasik Chini and Tasik Bera; and Endau Rompin National Park-Kluang Wildlife Reserve.

Earlier, Zambry witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the state government and Pulau Banding Foundation to promote sustainable development of the rainforest ecosystem of the Belum-Temenggor rainforest.

Zambry: 19,000ha along East-West Highway in Perak to be permanently gazetted
The Star 16 Jan 13;

IPOH: A total of 19,000ha of land along the East-West Highway in Perak are to be gazetted as a permanent forest reserve.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said the move was in line with the Federal Government's Central Forest Spine initiative for a contiguous network of forests in the backbone of the peninsula.

Dr Zambry said it was important for animals, especially elephants that have been moving between the lower Belum and upper Belum forests, to roam freely along the route.

The area, which is along the Grik-Jeli stretch, is now a production forest, where logging is allowed.

“We will gazette the area soon. Once gazetted, no logging will be allowed in the area (which comprises forests on both sides of the highway),” he said after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the state government and Pulau Banding Foundation at his office here yesterday.

State Secretary Datuk Abdul Puhat Mat Nayan signed for the state government while the foundation was represented by its chairman, Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Mohamad.

Foundations adviser Tan Sri Mus-tapha Kamal Abu Bakar said the MoU was for the foundation to manage and coordinate research at the Belum-Temenggor Rainforest.

He said this would allow both local and internationally renowned universities and research institutions to carry out scientific research on flora and fauna at the rainforest.

State govt plan to gazette 19,000ha along highway highly commendable
The Star 22 Jan 13;

THE Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) welcomes the Perak state government’s recent announcement to protect via gazetting, 19,000ha of forest along the East-West Highway.

This commitment signifies a willingness on the part of the state to contribute to the long-term conservation initiative led by the Federal Government and positively supporting the implementation of our national policies, such as the National Physical Plan (NPP) and National Biodiversity Policy.

Nevertheless, having campaigned to protect the whole Belum-Temengor forest complex since 1993, the MNS has in recent years, been concerned also with the forest flanking the East-West Highway which basically and geographically separates the now Royal Belum State Park and the Temengor Forest Reserve.

The viability and integrity of the forest complex in its entirety (Royal Belum State Park plus Temengor Forest Reserve) will be lost if this forest is allowed to be logged or degraded.

Change of land use in this 19,000ha and Temengor Forest Reserve, especially through ongoing logging activities and the introduction of monoculture will have adverse effect on threatened and endangered biodiversity as well as jeopardise the water supply and hydropower especially the catchment for Temengor Dam and the other series of dams along Sg Perak.

MNS was been involved actively in the process leading towards the Belum Temengor Integrated Management Plan (BT IMP) which is a site specific strategic plan for the development of the area. This plan is yet to be adopted by the state.

MNS reiterates its stand that the state and nation can generate revenue especially through developing nature tourism attractions and promoting scientific research and environmental education within this, the oldest rainforest in the world.

MNS stands committed and unwavering in its pursuit of further commitments to our original and consistent call for Temengor Forest Reserve to be accorded the protection it deserves.

The organisation will soon embark on a new campaign to advocate the conservation of the Belum-Temengor area as an Important Bird Area (IBA) as well as a Trans-Boundary Protected Area established linking the Royal Belum State Park and the Temengor Forest Reserve (in Malaysia) to the Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary and Bang Lang National Park (in Thailand).

All these areas are globally recognised IBAs.


President, MNS

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Malaysia: Penang artificial island project 'not viable'

MNS: RM75bil project not viable
The Star 16 Jan 13;

GEORGE TOWN: A RM75bil mixed development project proposed in Balik Pulau is too expensive and not viable, says the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS).

MNS Penang branch adviser D. Kanda Kumar said it would be cheaper and more viable for a project of such scale to be developed on the mainland.

“It is expensive to build such a development on the sea. Why is there a need to spend so much money?

“The other concern is how to divert the traffic. The road system to Balik Pulau is poor.

“Another road will have to be built to contain the traffic and this will involve taxpayers’ money,” he said yesterday, while commenting on the project.

Kanda Kumar said he was present, along with representatives from several other non-governmental organisations, at a presentation of the project’s concept by its consultant late last year.

“However, there was no commitment from MNS due to a lack of details about the proposed project. We, however, highlighted our concerns,” he said.

An English daily reported on Monday that the proposed 2,833ha development comprises electrical and electronics, oil and gas industries, tank farming, government administration offices, schools, hotels, residential areas, parks – all to be built on stilts – and an artificial beach.

It quoted the proposal document titled “Proposed creation of offshore concrete structures for industrial development on the west coast of Penang island” submitted by Al Cube Sdn Bhd, the local vehicle for a Malaysia-Hong Kong joint venture.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who had declared on Monday that the state government had not considered the project, said yesterday that the state would now not consider the matter at all even if it had approval or endorsement from non-governmental organ­isations.

Fishermen’s RM75bil worry
Hafiz Marzukhi and Christina China The Star 16 Jan 13;

BALIK PULAU: Fishermen in Kuala Sungai Pinang are still worried over a proposed RM75bil mixed development project which, if implemented, could affect their livelihoods.

Most of them were shocked over the plans for the 2,833ha project on stilts, involving factories for electrical, electronics, oil and gas and tank farming industries, schools, hotels, residential areas, parks and an artificial beach.

Although the state government had said the project would not be considered, locals are apprehensive because of the conflicting statements made by the authorities.

According to news reports, State Health, Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh had said the state was aware of the project.

However, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the project “did not exist”.

Former Kuala Sungai Pinang Area Fisherman Association unit leader Sazali Abdul Rahman, 55, said he was worried the mega project could cause fish species to dwindle and affect the livelihoods of 500 people who depended on fishing in the area.

“While such a mega project may attract foreign investors, what benefit will it bring to local villagers?”

“The authorities and the project consultants should have asked the views of local fishermen,” he said.

Phee said yesterday that he knew about the project proposal only because the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) wrote to him about its concerns late last year.

“I had no access to any official document in my capacity as state exco member, so there is no contradiction with Lim's denial of the project's existence.”

According to a report in an English daily, project consultant Dr Nik Zamri Majid said the project's Hong Kong investors had instructed him to scrap the plan.

He said mass media attention towards the project had had a negative effect on the investors' reputation.

Dr Nik Zamri said he had been told to look at other locations in Thailand and Myanmar instead for the mega project.

Meanwhile, Penang Barisan Nasional secretary Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya urged the state government to preserve the island's “last remaining green lung”.

Dr Hilmi, who is also Balik Pulau Umno chief and Teluk Bahang assemblyman, said he only found out about the proposed project through an online news portal on Tuesday.

“I knew nothing of the massive development plan. I was surprised when I read about it because Balik Pulau cannot sustain such a huge project.

“When Barisan was in power, it was a policy to keep Balik Pulau as a green lung. Hopefully, this will continue,” the former deputy chief minister said.

Pulau Betong assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad said the project was not viable as it might have adverse effects on the environment.

CM: RM75b project does not exist
Looi Sue-Chern New Straits Times 15 Jan 13;

COUNTER-CLAIMS: Confusion over project in Balik Pulau

GEORGE TOWN: A PROPOSED RM75 billion mixed-development project in Balik Pulau, which was revealed in an English's daily's report, "simply does not exist", Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said yesterday.

Lim said he was "surprised" at the scale of the project.

"It was not even considered or evaluated by the state government and no approval had been given. The state would only consider it if we get Federal Government approval," he said.

Lim's statement was in contrast to that of Penang Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh, who was quoted in the daily as saying that the state was aware of the project.

Lim said the state had no issues about the project's consultant approaching environmental non-governmental organisations to get their endorsement.

However, he said the state would still reserve the right to make its own decision on the project, even if the development had approval from the Federal Government or the endorsement of NGOs.

Phee could not be reached yesterday for comments.

When contacted, project consultant Dr Nik Zamri Majid responded with a laugh when asked to comment about Lim saying that the project was non-existent.

"The project is still in the proposal stage but the proposal was presented to the state government, and we met with Lim, his deputy Datuk Mansor Othman and state officials last year," he said.

"Before the daily published the news about this project yesterday, only related federal and state government departments, like the state Economic Planning Unit and Environmental Department in Putrajaya, and some NGOs were in the know."

"I have no idea who leaked the information to the reporter," he said, adding that even the local elected representatives in Balik Pulau had not been approached by the company about the project.

The Malay Mail yesterday reported that the Penang government was presented with a 22-page proposal in October by Malaysian-Hong Kong joint venture company Al Cube Sdn Bhd for an offshore concrete industrial development on the west coast of the island, just 5.5km from the shore near Kuala Sungai Pinang in Balik Pulau.

The project, which reportedly has Hong Kong investors backing it, covers 2,833ha and will cost an estimated RM75 billion.

Were they keeping it under wraps?
Marina Emmannuel New Straits Times 16 Jan 13;

THE mind boggles how a proposed mixed development mega-project tagged at RM75 billion in Balik Pulau has remained a mystery to the public and then gets scrapped soon as details are leaked out.

On Monday, the Malay Mail revealed the "Proposed Creation of Offshore Concrete Structures For Industrial Development on the West Coast of Penang Island" was detailed in a 22-page document bearing the state government logo.

The front page of the English tabloid screamed "Penang's Mystery Mega Project" and a whole page inside the paper details how its developers, Al Cube Sdn Bhd, a local vehicle set up by a Malaysia-Hong Kong joint venture company, intends to site the project about 5.5km from the shore near Kuala Sungai Pinang.

Ambitious plans such as siting industries, hotels and homes on three inter-connected decks were highlighted for the proposed project which was meant to be built on steel stilts.

State Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh even went on record as saying that the state authorities were aware of the project and "are reviewing it based on complaints".

"It is important that stakeholders are not affected by it," Phee was reported to have said.

What reporters following up on the story were unable to reconcile with, was the fact that Chief Minister Lim Guan the following day chose to distance himself from the issue by stating that the project "simply does not exist".

He went on to question why "certain parties" were attempting to "smear" the state government's name. Compounding matters was project consultant Dr Nik Zamri Majid, who told the New Straits Times that a team of experts led by a Universiti Sains Malaysia academician would begin conducting an environmental impact assessment as early as next week.

He singled out representatives from the state government and also the Federal authorities, who were aware of the proposed project, but conceded that the company had yet to approach the elected representatives in Balik Pulau (Teluk Bahang, Pulau Betong and Bayan Lepas state consituencies fall under the parliamentary seat of Balik Pulau).

Balik Pulau is home to 50,000 people, of whom, 39,765 are voters.

To keep something as major as a big-ticket project -- which is bound to affect the lives of many in the area -- under wraps, smacks of arrogance and disregarding public interest or transparency.

DAP insiders, who are usually clued-in to major projects planned for Penang, have claimed ignorance of the issue and even stated that they were not even sure if the project had been discussed during any state executive assembly meeting.

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India: Hundreds of dead Olive Ridley turtles washed ashore

Hrusikesh Mohanty Times of India 16 Jan 13;

Berhampur: Around 150 carcasses of Olive Ridley turtles have been washed ashore near the Rushikulya river mouth in Ganjam district, a major mass nesting site of the endangered species, in the last one month. Forest officials found at least eight dead turtles on Monday.

"Most of the carcasses were found in decomposed state. We suspected these were washed ashore to Ganjam coast from Astaranga area in Puri district, where a number of turtles were found dead recently," said divisional forest officer, (DFO) Berhampur, S S Mishra.

Wildlife activists, however, said the number of carcasses washed ashore was much more than the officials' claim. "Strict patrolling is needed to protect the marine creatures. Wanton fishing by trawlers is one of the main reasons behind the death of the turtles," said Biswajit Mohanty, a wildlife activist.

He said over 4,000 carcasses were washed ashore off Odisha cost in the last one month. Majority of them were found between Astaranga and Konark in Puri district. "We have been seeking speed boat patrolling for the last several years. But our demands have fallen into deaf ears, and fishing boats have been used in stead," Mohanty, who is also the coordinator of Operation Kachhapa, an organization working towards protection of the rare turtles since 1998, said.

Forest officials denied there was any lapse in surveillance on the sea shore. "Since several pairs of Olive Ridley turtles have been spotted mating, surveillance measures have been tightened in the coastal areas in order to provide them with congenial atmosphere," a forest official said.

Forest personnel and local volunteers guard the mating turtles in the Bay of Bengal, while Coast Guards look after their safety. The government also imposes a ban on marine fishing within five to 10 km area from the sea shore over 170-km coast in the state from November 1 to May 31 every year to protect the turtles.

Millions of Olive Ridley turtles come ashore in between Kantiagada and Gokaharakuda beach near Rushikulya mouth during the last week of February for mass nesting every year. It is considered the second major mass nesting site for the turtles after Gahiramatha in Kendrapara district. Besides Gahiramatha and Rushikulya mouth, Devi river mouth in Puri district is another place for the mass nesting of the turtles.

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Iconic Beach Resorts May Not Survive Sea Level Rises

Science Daily 16 Jan 13;

A leading coastal scientist has warned that some of the world's best known beach resorts may not survive projected sea level rises and that problems caused by changing sea levels are compounded by a lack of political will and short-term coastal management initiatives.

Professor Andrew Cooper, Professor of Coastal Studies in the School of Environmental Sciences at the university's Coleraine campus, said a rise in sea level of even a few feet could threaten some of the world's most iconic resorts.

Professor Cooper has investigated and reported on the world's coasts in a research and teaching career that has taken him to more than 50 countries on six continents over the past quarter century. He co-authored the book "The World's Beaches: a global guide to the science of the shoreline" last year.

The Coleraine-based academic said that while the most pervasive driver of coastal change at present is global sea level rise, rising sea levels alone do not necessarily threaten beaches -- the problem arises when beaches are artificially hemmed in and not given room to move.

"Beaches have survived 120 m of sea level rise over the last ten thousand years. Problems only arise if we don't give beaches room to move and to adjust to the changing sea level," he said.

Professor Cooper explained: "A key attractor in most of the world's examples of coastal resort cities has been the presence of an adjacent beach. Some well-known examples are Benidorm, Torremolinos, (Spain), Cannes (France), West Palm Beach, Florida, Atlantic City, New Jersey (USA), Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (USA), Virginia Beach, Virginia (USA), Cancun (Mexico) and the most rapidly developed of all coastal resort cities, Dubai (United Arab Emirates). In all of these resorts the challenge is to preserve the real estate behind the beach and still save the beaches, which are being pushed landwards by rising sea level.

"All around the world, people are responding to the threat of rising sea level by building concrete walls to protect valuable beachfront property. When sea level rises, the beach wants to move, generally further landward, but the wall stops it so eventually, the beach gets squeezed out. When the rising water reaches this protective wall, as it inevitably does, the beach is drowned."

He continued: "Coastal defences built to protect valuable developments along shoreline are stopping beaches from moving landward which is where they want to go. That's really the Achilles heel of coastal resorts as beaches must be allowed to 'move'."

Beach replenishment or nourishment is sometimes seen as panacea for disappearing beaches but, according to Professor Cooper, this is not a solution either.

"There are a lot of issues with beach nourishment -- not least the cost -- but beach nourishment would not be needed if developments were properly planned in the first place to give beaches room to move. Maintaining resort beaches by nourishment is a major challenge with rising sea level.

Professor Cooper recently published the results of a study along Australia's Gold Coast to assess adaption options for coastal resort cities. The study, believed to be the first of its kind to specifically assess adaptation options for coastal resorts, could become a blueprint for other resorts around the world.

"On developed coasts, human activities dominate over natural processes in shaping the coastline. Beach resort cities are mostly artificial creations on the shoreline that rely on beach nourishment to sustain them and on their reputation for a clean and safe environment. To maintain this during rapid sea level rise will be near impossible. To hold beaches stationary while sea level rise is pushing them landwards will require a massive increase in the amount of sand being pumped onto beaches.

"Our study of resorts along the Gold Coast of Australia suggests that with advance planning, we might just cope with a 1metre sea level rise but not even careful planning beforehand could enable resorts to survive more than that.

"The problems are the volume of additional sand required to hold the beach in place and the engineering requirements for protection of low-lying developments and infrastructure. These problems are compounded by a lack of political will to adapt, uncertainty regarding how much sea level will rise, short-term coastal management initiatives, and the climate change skeptics."

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