Best of our wild blogs: 13 Mar 13

Changi Point Coastal Walk (Changi Village)
from Rojak Librarian

Random Gallery - Malay Baron
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Government to ramp up infrastructure to create self-sufficient, sustainable environment

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 12 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: The government will ramp up infrastructure to create a self-sufficient and sustainable environment, through projects such as the second phase of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System, and the second desalination plant in Tuas.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, shared these details in his ministry's Committee of Supply debate speech on Tuesday.

The first phase of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System was completed in 2008. The 48-kilometre "superhighway for used water" comprises a network of tunnels, link sewers and pipes from Kranji to Changi, with a centralised water reclamation plant in Changi.

In Parliament, Dr Balakrishnan announced that work on Phase Two of the system would begin soon.

The 18-km network, scheduled to be completed by 2022, will serve the western part of Singapore, and come equipped with a new water reclamation plant in Tuas. The plant will come with integrated NEWater facilities.

Dr Balakrishnan said Phase Two will further improve Singapore's overall recycling rate and enhance Singapore's water sustainability.

He also said the second desalination plant in Tuas is due to be completed in July.

The first was the SingSpring Desalination Plant, which opened in 2005.

Dr Balakrishnan said the second desalination plant would add another 70 million gallons of water a day, and in the long run, would meet about a quarter of the nation's total water demand.

He said: "Today, we have the four national taps and we are in a secure position. I can give an assurance to the House, we'll certainly be water independent well before the expiry of the last agreement with Malaysia.

"I can even go even further than that and assure Ms Faizah Jamal, that in fact water is not going to be the limiting factor. You can produce as many babies as you like, you can build as many houses as you like, water will not be limiting factor. We can produce more than enough water for Singapore for the long-term future."

He also gave an update on water prices.

"The key variable in the future for the cost of water is the cost of energy. So, I cannot predict what the future cost of water would be, without knowing what the cost of energy would be," Dr Balakrishnan said.

"But what I can say is on our current trajectory, and with the hard work that's been done by PUB, there is no need to raise water prices this year," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan also said construction on Phase Two of the Semakau landfill will begin in January 2014 and should be completed in the first quarter of 2015, adding that the landfill space is "good to go" until 2035.

The government will also start work on five new Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters projects this year, including projects at Sungei Tampines and Kallang River section near St Andrew's school.

Apart from ramping up infrastructure, the government is also enhancing air and water quality standards.

For example, it will impose internationally recognised Euro V emission standards for new diesel vehicles starting January 2014.

In addition, the government will also encourage the early turnover of older, more polluting commercial vehicles of Pre-Euro or Euro I emission standards, in a bid to reduce the emissions of fine Particulate Matter of 2.5 microns (PM2.5).

Dr Balakrishnan said: "It is the stuff that you don't see that is more dangerous, because PM2.5 is inhaled deeply into the lungs, embedded into the tissues, and often never leaves the body. Vehicles account for 57 per cent of all PM2.5 that we have in Singapore."

He said there are about 38,000 vehicles that are of Pre-Euro or Euro I emission standards.

Emission standards for motorcycles will also be revised to Euro III from October 2014.

On conserving energy among households, energy efficiency standards for air conditioners and refrigerators will be tightened in September this year, while the NEA will introduce standards for general lighting in 2014.

He said: "The Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme (MELS) and Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) have been effective in expanding the range of higher efficiency appliances in the market and making them more affordable.

"Quite frankly, people will save money in the medium to long run if they buy energy efficient appliances, whether it's air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and the like. We need to encourage people to look beyond the initial sticker price, to look at the total cost of ownership."

Dr Balakrishnan added that his ministry will continue to make recycling facilities more convenient for households, by enhancing recycling infrastructure in neighbourhoods.

He noted that although household recycling in Singapore remains poor, a recent nationwide study revealed that most households actually want to recycle, but do not do so for various reasons.

He said: "I want to agree with Ms Penny Low's suggestion about trying to promote a less wasteful culture, a more sharing culture. And this concept about reduce, reuse, recycle -- it used to be in our value system.

"I think most of us can remember our parents saying "Don't waste!", but somehow maybe as we became more prosperous, we've forgotten that imperative. I think in the future, the era of cheap energy, cheap resources, cheap food, are going to come to an end and we will have to rediscover the wisdom of our grandmothers, of not wasting. But having said that, I also support your idea that we can promote more community generated solutions for this."

- CNA/ck

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Singapore will be water-independent before agreement expires: Balakrishnan

Channel NewsAsia 12 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore will be water-independent well before the expiry of the country's last water agreement with Malaysia.

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore can continue to produce more than enough water for itself for the long-term future.

The second desalination plant in Tuas will be completed in July, producing another 70 million gallons of water a day.

In the long run, desalination is expected to meet up to a quarter of Singapore's total water demand.

Authorities will also not be raising water prices this year.

He said: "I agree that water needs to be correctly priced to reflect its scarcity value and it needs to facilitate long-term investments in this sector. There is a need, therefore, to constantly invest. And the key variable in the future for the cost of water is the cost of energy. So I cannot predict what the future cost of water will be without knowing what the cost of energy will be."

- CNA/xq

Govt will not raise water prices this year
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 13 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE — The Government will not be raising water prices this year, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, as Parliament yesterday debated the ministry’s spending plans.

He, however, stressed that water needs to be “correctly priced to reflect its scarcity value”, while facilitating various long-term investments in the sector.

“The key variable in the future for the cost of water is the cost of energy, so I cannot predict what the future cost of water will be without knowing what the cost of energy will be,” Dr Balakrishnan added.

Still, he assured Member of Parliament (MP) Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC) that an increase in water prices is not necessary “on our current trajectory”.

Dr Balakrishnan also addressed Nominated MP Faizah Jamal’s concerns on the sustainability of the Republic’s water supply with a projected population increase.

He said: “We are in a secure position. I can give assurance to this House we will certainly be water-independent well before the expiry of the last agreement with Malaysia. I can even go further than that and assure Ms Faizah Jamal that … water is not going to be the limiting factor.

“You can produce as many babies … build as many houses as you like ... we can continue to produce more than enough water for Singapore for the long-term future.”

A second desalination plant in Tuas — which will produce another 70 million gallons of water per day — will be ready in July this year, Dr Balakrishnan said.

To meet Singapore’s long-term needs for the collection, treatment and disposal of used water, he also announced that Phase Two of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System — “a superhighway for used water” — will be commencing to serve the western part of the island.

“It will drain water from the western part of the island to a NEWater reclamation plant in Tuas, which will also produce NEWater in the future,” Dr Balakrishnan said. WOO SIAN BOON

PUB identifies 100 potential sites for ABC Waters programme
Channel NewsAsia 12 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: PUB has identified 100 more sites in Singapore that could potentially be developed in the ABC Waters Programme.

ABC Waters integrates drains, canals and reservoirs with the surrounding environment to create water parks and community spaces.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament three more projects will be completed this year at Sungei Pandan, Sungei Ulu Pandan and Geylang River.

Construction will start on five additional projects later this year at Sungei Tampines, Sungei Api Api, Kallang River (next to St Andrew's school) and Siglap Canal. Between 2014 and 2017, construction will start on new projects at Kallang Riverside and Jurong Lake.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "We'll make sure these ABCs are inter-connected - what I call these blue ribbons of water with the National Park Connector network. So that you'll be able to have access throughout the island, you can run many marathons on these routes. We have completed 20 projects so far, but the good news is in fact we've identified 100 sites that could potentially be developed over the next 15 to 20 years. Now I'm not saying we can do all 100, but I'm saying there is potential to do many more sites."

- CNA/xq

35,000 to gather to spread message of water conservation
Channel NewsAsia 12 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: As part of World Water Day celebrations, 35,000 people will gather this Saturday at various sites to spread the message of water conservation.

The theme of the celebrations is "Every Drop Counts".

There will be a variety of activities, including kayaking, dragon boating, cycling, kite flying and outdoor yoga sessions.

Celebrations will kick off with "shower dances" at Marina Barrage, Lorong Halus Wetland, Kallang River @ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Jurong Lake, Lower Seletar Reservoir and Geylang River.

The dance will reflect in its own way the importance of water conservation, specifically, taking showers in under five minutes.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Vivian Balakrishnan will join in the celebrations at Marina Barrage.

In conjunction with PUB's 50th anniversary, the national water agency will be launching a stills/motions competition titled, "My Take on Water" during the celebrations.

The goal of this competition is to invite the public to share their view of water and how it has transformed or touched their lives.

Entries can be in the form of stills (e.g., photos, drawings, paintings, digital art) or motions (e.g., videos, short films, animation). The competition will run for five months.

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to raise awareness on the importance of fresh water and water sustainability.

- CNA/xq

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Govt stepping up enforcement efforts against littering, raising cleanliness standards

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 12 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: The government is stepping up enforcement and surveillance in public areas, in a bid to deter the recalcitrant minority from littering, and will also raise standards of the cleaning and food industry.

Second Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Grace Fu said this in her Ministry's Committee of Supply debate speech on Tuesday.

Littering incidents around neighbourhoods could decrease as the National Environment Agency (NEA) conducts an enforcement blitz against litterbugs.

This includes deploying officers in littering hotspots and working with the police to tap on their surveillance cameras.

All these mean an increase of enforcement man-hours by 50 per cent - from 23,600 to 34,600.

Ms Fu said her ministry is targeting repeat offenders.

In addition to the composition fines, recalcitrant offenders can be sent to court where they can be fined up to S$1,000 for the first conviction and/or get a Corrective Work Order requiring them to clean public areas for up to 12 hours.

She said: "We are considering increasing the maximum court fine for recalcitrant offenders to S$2,000 for the first court conviction, S$4,000 for the second conviction and S$10,000 for the third and subsequent convictions. In short, we will not tolerate littering and cannot rely solely on cleaners to keep Singapore clean. We need everyone to help us make the transition from being a 'cleaned' city to a 'clean' one."

NEA also introduced the Enhanced Clean Mark Accreditation Scheme in November last year, in a bid to encourage some 900 cleaning companies to raise standards and employment conditions.

From April, the government will only engage the services of accredited companies for new tenders. Ms Fu said since it was introduced, 55 companies have submitted applications, and 10 have been accredited.

The ministry will also propose that cleaning companies will have to apply for licences in order to operate from next year, and to do so, they will need to incorporate mandatory training courses, and progressive wage models for their cleaners.

She said: "My ministry is ready to table a Bill later this year to introduce the mandatory licensing of all cleaning companies in 2014. By improving the productivity and standards of the industry, we hope to uplift the jobs of 50,000 resident cleaners that we have. With better training and employment conditions, our cleaners can look forward to better lives."

Ms Fu noted that the food catering industry has also been identified as having a high risk of food-poisoning incidents.

She said: "In 2012, food caterers had the highest food poisoning incidence rate among all types of food outlets. In addition, the average number of people affected per food poisoning incident was the highest for food caterers."

So from June 2014, food catering companies will have to submit a Food Safety Management System plan upon being issued a licence.

Existing caterers renewing their licence will need to submit the plan three months before their renewal dates.

Ms Fu said this will include ensuring food handlers observe good food and personal hygiene and that they do not report to work when ill.

- CNA/ck

Govt mulls harsher littering penalties
Channel NewsAsia 12 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: The government is considering harsher penalties for litterbugs.

The maximum fine for recalcitrant offenders may be raised to S$10,000, up from the current S$1,000.

Giving this update in Parliament, Second Minister for Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu said the National Environment Agency will increase enforcement hours by about 50 per cent.

More plain-clothes officers will also deployed at littering hotspots.

However, Ms Fu stressed that the enforcement and penalty system is only part of the solution.

She said: "We need the public's support for more effective surveillance, enforcement and deterrence. Through greater community involvement, we can build a strong sense of social pressure against littering.

"Through effective and enhanced enforcement, we can send a strong message that it is better to dispose of your litter properly.

"In short, we will not tolerate littering and cannot rely solely on cleaners to keep Singapore clean. We need everyone to help us make the transition from being a 'cleaned' city to a 'clean' one."

- CNA/xq/al

Fines may be doubled to deter littering
Amanda Lee Today Online 13 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE — Maximum court fines for recalcitrant littering offenders may be doubled, as part of efforts to deter littering, said Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu.

And to improve the standards of cleaning companies and the jobs of cleaners, the ministry will, later this year, table a Bill to introduce the mandatory licensing of all cleaning companies come next year.

Speaking during the Committee of Supply debate yesterday, Ms Fu said that, currently, on top of the composition fines, recalcitrant offenders can be fined up to S$1,000 for the first conviction in court or slapped with a Corrective Work Order requiring them to clean public areas for up to a maximum of 12 hours, or both.

This could be increased to S$2,000 for the first conviction, S$4,000 for the second and S$10,000 for the third and subsequent convictions.

Despite efforts to clamp down on littering, the amount of feedback received on it has been increasing, said Ms Fu.

The number of littering offences fell from 23,898 in 2010 to 8,195 last year, but the number of complaints has risen from 3,439 in 2010 to 4,375 last year, “reflecting greater awareness and intolerance towards litterbugs”, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.

Hence, surveillance and enforcement efforts will be enhanced. The NEA will increase its enforcement hours by about 50 per cent, from 24,000 man-hours to 35,000 man-hours a month.

The ministry is currently piloting the use of surveillance cameras with video analytic capabilities to monitor littering and working with the police to tap their surveillance cameras — including those to be installed at 10,000 public housing blocks and multi-storey car parks.

It will also “explore” further extensions of the ban on smoking and clearer designation of smoking areas, Ms Fu added.

As for the mandatory licensing of all cleaning companies, Ms Fu said all companies would have to meet the standards before being able to operate, and must provide training courses and a progressive wage model for their cleaners.

Ms Fu also gave an update on efforts to integrate cleaning contracts among government agencies. Since its formation in April last year, the Department of Public Cleanliness has taken over the cleaning functions of areas like footpaths and roads.

Integrated contracts for the cleaning of expressways will be called next month, while contracts for cleaning of public areas including roads, footpaths, drains, vacant lands and parks within a defined area will be awarded from next year, she said.

Meanwhile, a Singapore Standard on Food Safety Management is being developed to improve the standard of food hygiene in Singapore and, from June next year, newly-licensed caterers will have to submit a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) plan within three months of being issued a licence. Existing licensed caterers will be required to submit an FSMS plan three months before the renewal of their licence.

Volunteers empowered to catch litterbugs: Grace Fu
Today Online 13 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE — Trained volunteers will be empowered to take down litterbugs’ particulars, the Second Minister for the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said in Parliament today.

Ms Grace Fu also said that her ministry is ready to table a Bill to make the licensing of all cleaning companies mandatory next year.


Ms Fu announced that the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) will make the licensing of all cleaning companies mandatory from next year, as part of its push to transform the industry by “improving its productivity and standards”.

“This will set the standards that all cleaning companies must meet before they can operate,” she said. “The key licensing requirements include mandatory training courses and a progressive wage model for the cleaners.”

Ms Fu also said that trained volunteers will soon be empowered to take down litterbugs’ particulars, revealing that the National Environment Agency (NEA) has just completed the training of the first batch of 28 volunteers from groups such as the Singapore Environment Council, the Waterways Watch Singapore and the Cat Welfare Society.

Ms Fu said that these volunteers will be empowered to act on the behalf of the NEA to “educate litterbugs to pick up their own litter and record the offenders’ particulars for enforcement when offenders refuse to do so”.

Other anti-littering initiatives include a reboot of the Keep Singapore Clean Movement, launched by the Public Hygiene Council together with the Singapore Kindness Movement.

Ms Fu said that the NEA is to increase anti-littering enforcement hours by 50 per cent, from 24,000 to 35,000 man-hours per month. Fines for recalcitrant litterbugs might be increased from S$1,000 to S$2,000 the first conviction in court, and up to S$10,000 for third and subsequent convictions.


Addressing concerns over second-hand smoke, Ms Fu said that over 3,000 advisories have been handed out to smokers since the smoking ban was extended on Jan 15 to include sheltered linkways and walkways, overhead pedestrian bridges and a 5m-radius around public bus shelters.

“Our officers and ambassadors are going around the new smoking prohibited areas to educate smokers about the new rules. This is to give smokers time to understand and adjust to the new law,” Ms Fu said.

Revealing that the highest food poisoning rate among all types of food outlets were caterers, Ms Fu said that the NEA is requiring caterers to adhere to a new Food Safety Management System (FSMS). All new applicants for catering licences will be required to submit a FSMS plan within the first three months of the issuance of their licence, starting June 1, 2014.

NEA to step up action against littering
Grace Chua Straits Times 13 Mar 13;

THE National Environment Agency (NEA) will step up enforcement efforts to combat littering but community action is still needed, said Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu yesterday.

Responding to MPs' queries on littering and public cleanliness, Ms Fu said more NEA enforcement officers will patrol over a longer period of time, with their time spent out and about increasing from 24,000 man-hours a month to 35,000.

There will also be more surveillance cameras installed at littering hot spots.

For example, a pilot scheme trains video cameras on Jiak Kim Bridge and McCallum Street. These send the NEA alerts when litter is detected.

And 10 high-rise litterbugs have been caught on camera since the NEA started monitoring apartment blocks on camera in 2011.

Higher penalties for littering are also being considered, said Ms Fu.

Now, the maximum court fine for recalcitrant offenders is $1,000 for the first conviction, $2,000 for the second and $5,000 for the third, but these could all double.

But she added: 'We need everyone to help us make the transition from being a 'cleaned' city to a 'clean' one', by fostering stronger anti-littering social norms, starting community efforts in places like Bishan, Nee Soon South and Bedok to encourage residents to pick up litter, and training volunteers to reach out to those they see littering.

Meanwhile, to manage Singapore's waste, recycling schemes will be piloted, the second phase of Semakau Landfill developed and the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System Phase 2 built, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

For instance, early data from dual-refuse and recycling chutes at some new HDB flats shows these may increase recycling rates, he said.

Replying to Nominated MP Faizah Jamal's query on how projected population increases might affect the Semakau Landfill, he said work would start on the second phase of the offshore landfill next January and be completed in early 2015.

'We're not going to run out of space,' he said.

The landfill can meet Singapore's waste disposal needs till 2035 and its first phase is set to be filled to ground level by 2016.

Singapore is also building a new incineration plant and tapping the energy it produces by burning waste, Dr Balakrishnan said, while work will start on Phase 2 of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System.

The 18km-long tunnel will run under western Singapore to channel used water to an upcoming water reclamation plant in Tuas.

The first phase, at 48km, was completed at the cost of $3.65 billion in 2008 and runs from Kranji to Changi.

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Government to raise standards to improve air quality

Channel NewsAsia 12 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced that the government will be enhancing standards to improve air quality in Singapore.

The government will impose Euro V emissions standards for new diesel vehicles starting from 1 January next year.

Currently, there are around 3,400 Euro V-compliant diesel vehicles on the roads.

Dr Balakrishnan said in Parliament more needs to be done as existing old diesel vehicles are a major source of pollution.

To incentivise the owners of old diesel commercial vehicles to retire and upgrade their old vehicles, a new Early Turnover Scheme will be implemented.

More details will be provided in the next two months.

The emissions standard for all new motorcycles will also be raised from 1 October 2014.

On the topic of air pollution from overseas, Dr Balakrishnan said more is also being done.

Member of Parliament for Joo Chiat SMC, Charles Chong, said: "We are very fortunate that on the whole, we are enjoying very good air quality in Singapore. Partly because of our geographical location, the biggest physical concern is trans-boundary smoke haze which sometimes blows into Singapore. This is an issue which has been going on for many years now."

Dr Balakrishnan responded: "This is a chronic, recurrent problem. As I've said before, in fact this is a commercial problem. Working with our fellow ministers and ministries in ASEAN, we're trying to put pressure on companies by using digital geo-referenced concession maps, and satellite and other mapping technologies so that ultimately we can name and shame the culprits for engaging in such anti-environment and anti-social activities."

- CNA/xq

Tighter emission standards for diesel vehicles, motorcycles
Ministry of Environment and Water Resources has also taken steps to tackle rise in sea levels
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 12 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE — Emission standards for diesel vehicles and motorcycles will be tightened in the Government’s push to improve air quality, as Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday outlined plans to tackle raising sea levels and enhance the country’s waste management systems.

To reduce the level of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 — a very fine pollutant which can cause respiratory problems — Dr Balakrishnan said emission standards for new diesel vehicles will be raised to Euro V from Jan 1 next year. Vehicles currently account for 57 per cent of PM2.5 emissions here.

An Early Turnover Scheme that aims to encourage the turnover and upgrading of some 38,000 old commercial vehicles with pre-Euro or Euro I emission standards will also be implemented. These vehicles were mostly bought before Jan 1, 2001.

More details will be provided by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Land Transport Authority within the next two months, Dr Balakrishnan said.

The NEA also announced yesterday that test standards for existing diesel vehicles will be tightened from 50 Hartridge Smoke Units (HSU) to 40 HSU to reduce air pollution brought about by smoky diesel vehicles.

Tighter emission standards will also apply to motorcycles, which will have standards raised to Euro III by Oct 1 next year.

“These new motorcycles will emit less than a fifth of the pollutants compared to the current fleet,” Dr Balakrishnan said. There are more than 143,000 motorcycles on the roads, most of which are of Euro I standard.

Motorcycle dealers interviewed said the higher emission standards could lead to bikes costing 20 to 30 per cent more, potentially hitting budget buyers the hardest.

President of the Singapore Motor Cycle Trade Association (SCMTA) Wilson Phoon, who noted that most motorcycles are currently imported from around South-east Asia, said: “If we are moving to Euro III, then we will have to import models from Europe. This will cost a lot more.”

Calling the shift from Euro I to Euro III by October next year “sudden” and “too short” for the industry to make the necessary adjustments, Mr Phoon also said that the association has appealed to the NEA “for a grace period to implement the changes”.

In response, an NEA spokesperson said the association’s appeal for a three-month grace period to allow “a few members” to register the existing stock of pre-Euro III motorcycles after October next year has been rejected.

“Taking into account the lead time already given, MEWR/NEA assessed that the implementation date of Oct 1, 2014, would not pose problems to the majority of motorcycle brands and thus decided not to accede to SMCTA’s appeal. This decision has been communicated to SMCTA accordingly,” the spokesperson added.

In Parliament yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan said the ministry is guarding against an anticipated rise in sea levels of “anything between 60cm and a metre or beyond” by increasing the platform levels for reclaimed land by 1 metre last year.

“So all reclaimed land now will be at least 2.25m above the highest recorded sea level. This is buying insurance for the future,” he said.

On Nominated Member of Parliament Faizah Jamal’s concerns that the Semakau Landfill will run out of space in the next 40 years, he said the ministry is planning a new Waste-to-Energy incineration plant to maximise resource recovery and reduce landfill space. A Phase 2 has also been “marked out” that will increase the landfill’s size to meet Singapore’s disposal needs “until 2035”.

Concerted drive to make roads less polluted
Royston Sim Straits Times 13 Mar 13;

THE Government will roll out several measures to improve air quality on the roads.

It will implement a scheme to encourage owners of older vehicles to retire them earlier and upgrade to newer, more environment- friendly models.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday that an Early Turnover Scheme will be set up to incentivise a switch to vehicles that meet the Euro 5 emissions standard.

He noted that existing old diesel vehicles remain a major source of pollution.

There are about 38,000 old diesel commercial vehicles of pre-Euro or Euro 1 emissions standards with substantial PM2.5 emissions bought before Jan 1, 2001, he said.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) and Land Transport Authority will provide more details on this scheme in the next two months.

Dr Balakrishnan added that, from Jan 1 next year, the test standard for diesel vehicles will be tightened from 50 Hartridge Smoke Units to 40. The NEA will ramp up its enforcement against smoky vehicles on the roads.

Standards for motorcycle emissions will also be raised.

Dr Balakrishnan said there are more than 143,000 motorcycles on the roads, mostly of Euro 1 standard. From October next year, the emissions standard for all new motorcycles will be raised to the Euro III standard.

These new motorcycles will emit less than a fifth of the pollutants compared to the current fleet, he noted.

The Motor Traders Association (MTA) mooted a proposal akin to the Early Turnover Scheme last November.

In a paper, the MTA proposed cash grants be given to encourage owners of old commercial vehicles to switch to newer ones.

It called for a one-off incentive payment of at least $10,000 per replacement of a pre-Euro 4 vehicle with a model that meets Euro 4 or higher standards.

Still, during last month’s Budget speech, the Government announced that commercial vehicle owners would have the option to extend their Certificate of Entitlement for a further five years.

It said this was to ease their cash flow and provide flexibility.

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Malaysia: Stronger prosecution needed to deter wildlife crime

Natalie Heng The Star 12 Mar 13;

Stronger and thorough prosecution is needed to stem animal trafficking.

LAST February, a man was arrested in Alor Star, Kedah for possession of eight tiger skins and 22 whole tiger skulls and bones – what conservationists estimate to be 4% of Malaysia’s entire tiger population of 500.

Last month, Mohd Nor Shahrizam Nasir, who also had nine African elephant tusks when arrested, was sentenced a total of 60 months in prison for three charges of illegal possession: 24 months for the tiger skins, 24 months for the skulls and bones, and 12 months for the ivory. It was the heaviest penalty ever meted out under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. Yet, it created an uproar as the Alor Star Sessions Court judge had ruled for the three sentences to be served concurrently, which meant that Mohd Nor Shahrizam would in effect, only have to serve 24 months in prison.

“So it is 24 months, for 22 tigers … a little over one month in prison, for each tiger that Malaysia has lost forever,” said the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers.

Also, the judge did not issue a fine despite the Act providing for a mandatory fine of between RM100,000 and RM500,000. The prosecution is appealing against the sentence but the incident raises questions over the judiciary’s familiarity with wildlife crimes and legislations, and the competency of the prosecution.

The process of fighting wildlife crimes – be it arresting offenders, gathering evidence, or prosecuting the culprits in court – does not happen in isolation. Each successive stage builds on the work of previous stages. And as conservationists have pointed out, though gaining a strong wildlife legislation is an important first step, it will mean nothing unless we develop the capacity to use it.

Tasked with finding the ammunition to fight wildlife crimes are jungle-hardy enforcement officers from the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan). They share the front line with police and Customs officers, who also have the authority to make arrests, investigate cases, and explore leads and tip-offs to gather information for submission in an investigation paper to the state prosecutors. The prosecution’s job is to figure out how best to use this information to build up a case in court.

Aside from the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, the facts of the case may allow for other laws to be used. The offender could be charged under the Arms Act 1960 for carrying an unlicensed firearm. Or the prosecution could explore whether hidden compartments in a poacher’s vehicle contravene regulations under the Road Transport Act 1987.

But this rarely happens. Legal officer for TRAFFIC South-East Asia, Shenaaz Khan, points to the most obvious case – the high-profile trial of Anson Wong, who was caught with a suitcase full of baby boa constrictors, two venomous rhinoceros vipers, and a South American turtle at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2010.

The prosecution brought forward only one charge against him: exporting 95 boa constrictors without a permit. Wong was sentenced to six months’ jail, and fined RM190,000 at the Sepang Sessions Court.

“There were a host of other charges that they could have used. Cruelty and the violation of international air travel requirements for transportation of live animals, for example,” says Khan.

Unhappy with the sentence, the prosecution launched an appeal. In late-2010, the Shah Alam High Court raised the jail sentence to five years (although the fine was withdrawn). It stated that the Sessions Court, in its sentencing, had not take into account the large number of snakes and the risks to both the flight and airport. However, the defence appealed and in February 2012, the Court of Appeal ruled that the High Court had erroneously taken certain facts into consideration. It said the presence of the two vipers had not been stated in the initial charge and therefore, was out of the ambit of the charge which warranted the Court of Appeal intervention. Wong walked free, having served 17 months and 15 days in prison.

When cases go to trial, any mistake, be it a simple mislabelling of evidence or a glitch in the forensics process, is fair game. A good defence lawyer thrives on such oversights to raise the element of reasonable doubt.

Khan, who regularly sits in on court proceedings, says wildlife criminals are hiring better defence lawyers. Under the previous legislation, the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972, cases rarely went to trial as 95% of the offenders would plead guilty. Since the enforcement of the new act – where the minimum penalty has increased from RM1,000 to RM10,000 and the maximum, from RM15,000 to RM500,000 – the number of defendants requesting trial has increased by around 20%.

TRAFFIC deputy director Chris Shepherd, who has been keeping tabs on the region’s illegal wildlife trade for over a decade, says one of the biggest flaws in our system is that our prosecutors are too often, poorly prepared for the fight.

“It (the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010) is a good law, but prosecutors must have the capacity to keep up with it. Also, wildlife crime is still not being looked at as a high priority. If that was a drug case or a murder case the prosecutors would be much better prepared.”

Shepherd would like to see stronger participation and coordination between agencies, with the police handling more wildlife cases, and Customs playing a stronger role too. He says efforts could be more focused on border entry points and paper-trail investigations, to pinpoint laundering routes.

“The new law can also be enforced by the police. Customs can search cargo and conduct random sampling. So it is important that there are efforts to help the police and Customs officers become acquainted with our wildlife acts too.”

In the United States, the separation of environmental prosecutions from other forms of crime revolutionised wildlife and environmental prosecutions. Wildlife investigators can take their cases directly to knowledgeable prosecutors based within the US Department of Justice’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division. There is no such division in Malaysia.

Here, the less serious cases are handled by prosecuting officers from Perhilitan, who may be well-versed in wildlife issues, but are not legally qualified. They undergo Basic and Advanced Prosecution Courses run by the Judicial and Legal Training Institute. The more serious cases are usually handled by deputy public prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Chambers. These prosecutors handle a wide range of cases and do not specialise in wildlife laws. There are three deputy public prosecutors based at the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry headquarters in Putrajaya.

One of them is the ministry legal advisor, senior federal counsel Faridz Gohim Abdullah.

“It is a (state) deputy public prosecutor’s job to be well-versed in the law but, of course, there are so many laws that you have to read, and so many cases that you have to deal with, only some of which are related to wildlife,” he says.

All cases go through Faridz and his team; they decide whether a prosecuting officer or a deputy public prosecutor will handle a case, and what charges should be pressed. Faridz was the prosecuting officer at Anson Wong’s initial trial, just after being transferred from the Attorney General’s Chambers to the ministry. Now, he says they try and file as many charges as the facts of the investigation paper will permit.

To counter wildlife crime, Perhilitan is beefing up its manpower. The Public Service Department recently approved the creation of 66 new posts to enhance networking and intelligence gathering, the setting up of additional Wildlife Crime Units and additional staffing for existing units.

Efforts are under way to green the judiciary, with the setting up of Green Courts in every district nationwide last year. The courts are not a physical entity. Rather, the term “Green Courts” refers to the dedicated slot which will be regularly allocated within 76 Sessions Courts (or in the absence of that in some districts, a Magistrate’s Court) to hear cases related to the environment such as wildlife crime, pollution, illegal logging and fishing, and land clearing. They will involve judges trained in environmental issues and laws.

Mohd Aizuddin Zolkeply, head of the corporate communications and internal relations unit at the Judicial Administration Division in the Federal Court explains that the benefits of a Green Court lie in the consistent exposure of environment issues to the same judges. This, combined with training sessions, will help the judiciary to better-understand the seriousness of environment and wildlife crimes, and thus, issue more deterrent sentences to offenders. Another advantage of having such cases being heard in one court is that it will make it easier to monitor the progress of cases and to compile statistics on them.

Mohd Aizuddin says the training for judges will be a continuous, yearly programme.

The judiciary had one training session during last year’s National Green Courts Seminar, which covered all kinds of environmental issues. The next session later this year will focus on improving the quality of decisions.

“Trainers will consist of non-governmental organisations, enforcement agencies, as well as judges from other countries. It will be mostly about sharing best practices, getting perspectives from other countries and learning about how previous judgements were made.”

Aside from general training for everyone, the Judicial Appointments Commission has also organised an outreach programme targeted at Superior Court judges.

“In June, we took them to Taman Negara, where they visited orang asli villages and the kelah sanctuary, and listened to briefings by Perhilitan. We also took them to Cameron Highlands in September, where they got to witness the impact of recent logging activities, and to Kundasang in Sabah, in December.”

The idea, he says, is to allow the judges to experience nature and get a tangible view of the subject matter that is being heard in court.

Arming wildlife warriors
The Star 12 Mar 13;

SHAMSUDDIN OSMAN used to be a tour guide in Sabah. Today, he heads the Wildlife and National Parks Department’s (Perhilitan) Institute of Biodiversity. Aside from coordinating research programmes, the institute runs courses to equip the department’s 310 field staff with knowledge about conservation, law and enforcement, ecotourism and protected area management.

It has been almost 10 years since Shamsuddin made the jump from tourism to government service. The move was prompted by his concerns over illegal hunting – if left unchecked, he thought, there might not be any animals left for him to show people as a tour guide.

For nine years, Shamsuddin served as a Perhilitan enforcement officer, checking consignments, making arrests, coming up with proposals and writing papers. Three years into it, he took on the additional role of prosecuting officer, going to court to press charges against wildlife criminals.

As a result, he knows the system well and believes the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 will make a difference. “We will eventually see fewer cases, or fewer people at least, who want to venture into the illegal wildlife trade.”

Under the old legislation (Protection of Wildlife Act 1972), the risks of engaging in illegal wildlife trade generally only involved a compound. Shamsuddin explains why wildlife officers used to prefer issuing compounds over pressing charges: “If the case went to court, the criminal would get an even lower fine. However, the amount of compound we proposed was discretionary. For example, if the maximum fine was RM3,000, we could compound for RM1,500, because chances are, the court would only issue a fine of RM1,000.”

Under the new law, more cases are going to trial. In 2010, just before the new law was enforced, compounds made up 98% of the cases. Last year, 42% of the cases involved compounds, whilst 11% were court cases.

Shamsuddin says there are two deterrent factors at play now: the increased fine and possible jail time, and the threat of a court hearing. It is one thing to have to pay a fine, and quite another to end up with a criminal record. “Many people do not like that idea.”

He acknowledges that more court cases means added pressure on enforcement. He says the investigation paper is what will make or break a case. “If all the facts are complete and everything is in order and of the highest standard, the chances of winning is often very high. But if, for example, pictures taken of the evidence is not good, or the amount and composition of species are vaguely explained, then the chances of losing a case is there.”

In the past, when offenders were mostly issued with compounds, the requirements of an investigation paper were not always strictly observed. Now that more cases are going to trial, Shamsuddin places extra emphasis on making sure enforcement officers understand why they need to be meticulous – because court cases depend on it.

“Investigators got used to most cases involving only compounds. We want to erase that from their minds, and instill in them the mentality that 99 out of 100 cases will go to court, so there can be no room for challenges when they prepare the investigation paper.”

Perhilitan has 34 investigating officers and 18 prosecuting officers. The institute has in the past run environmental awareness programme on wildlife issues for deputy public prosecutors.

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Locals, biologists face off over Philippine whale shark feeding

David Loh Reuters Yahoo News 12 Mar 13;

Tan-awan, Philippines (Reuters) - Tan-awan, in the southern Philippines island of Cebu, used to be a sleepy village that never saw tourists unless they were lost or in transit. Yet now they flock there by the hundreds - to swim with whale sharks, the world's largest fish.

Whale sharks are lured to the Tan-awan coastline of the Oslob district by fishermen who hand feed them small shrimp, drawing divers and snorkelers to see the highly sought-after animals, known as gentle giants of the sea.

But the practice has sparked fierce debate on the internet and among biologists, who decry it as unnatural.

"Some people are asking that we stop feeding, but if we stop feeding, what is our livelihood?" said Ramonito Lagahid, vice chairman of the Tan-awan Oslob Sea Warden and Fishermen Association (TOSWFA). "We have to go back to fishing."

Though whale sharks as large as 12.7 meters (42 feet) and a weight of more than 21.5 tons (47,400 lbs) have been confirmed, they feed mainly on algae, plankton and krill. Contrary to their name, the animals are docile and pose no risk to humans.

Much of their life cycle remains unknown to science, including total population numbers. Some are killed in areas where they tend to congregate, and the species as a whole is considered "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

But Lagahid says there have always been whale sharks in Tan-awan. He remembers seeing them even when he was young.

"They are always around when we go out at night to collect 'uyap,' he said, referring to a kind of small shrimp that the whale sharks are fed. "Many times we have to stop fishing because the whale sharks are around."

Word about the whale sharks got out globally about two years ago via Internet postings from witnesses, and tourists began flocking to the village both from the Philippines and around the world. Most days see several hundred, but 2012 numbers peaked with 1,642 on Good Friday in 2012.

The whale shark "interaction area" is the size of a soccer field, some 80 meters (262 feet) off the beach, and feeding takes place from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Eight to 10 whale sharks show up on average, but some mornings see as many as 20.

Fees for foreign tourists range from 500 pesos ($12.29) to just watch the whale sharks, to 1,500 pesos - plus normal scuba diving charges - to dive with them. The money is pooled and each villager who works that day, as a guide or boat driver, receives 1,000 to 1,500 pesos - a good fee for the rural Philippines.

The results are clear. Many new brick houses line the short stretch of road leading to the feeding beach.

"It is easier working in the whale shark area, ….can earn a lot of money", said Aikie Lagahid, 23, Ramoncito's nephew and a fisherman who now works as a whale shark spotter and boatman. "In the morning we take the guests out, and in the afternoon, we play basketball."

Tourists are delighted as well.

"It (the whale shark) is really big, so it was really an experience," said Cecilia Buguis, a Philippine tourist. "I would definitely tell my friends about it.


But not everybody is thrilled. Biologists, in particular, are afraid that the feeding will create long-term problems.

It is very rare, according to Italy-based environmental group Physalus, to have so many whale sharks in such a small area so regularly. Feeding from a boat close to humans is also extremely unnatural.

"It looks like being in a zoo, a circus, looking at the animal walking up and down being fed. This is not a natural behavior that you see," said Alessandro Ponzo, the president of Physalus.

"The experience that you have ... is not the same as when you see them in the wild, in their natural environment. What you learn here is that wild life is (fine) to be exploited as a tourism attraction."

Biologists fear that the situation could lead the whale sharks to develop abnormal social behaviors, such as increased aggression or competition between the animals. The close contact could also lead to the spread of disease and parasites.

A Facebook page, "Stop Whale Shark Feeding in Oslob, Cebu, Philippines," says the feeding is an "exploitation of both the fish and the people." It has 881 likes.

Animal rights groups say they understand the importance of tourism as a source of livelihood, but emphasize that it has to be done in a sustainable way in order to become a long-term possibility.

Physalus is evaluating the effects of tourism and feeding on the behavior of whale sharks and hopes their research will help the local government manage whale shark tourism and minimize the environmental impact.

"You should stop the detrimental effect to the shark, but you should also improve the livelihood of the community as well," said biologist Samantha Craven, the group's project coordinator in Oslob. "Real eco-tourism is something entirely achievable." ($1 = 40.6800 Philippine pesos)

(Editing by Elaine Lies)

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Large numbers of threatened reef fish still traded

WWF 12 Mar 13;

The humphead wrasse, a tropical reef fish, is still suffering from illegal and unreported international trade despite being listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Discussions held by governments meeting in Bangkok, Thailand outlined a number of ways to help curb this problem and maintain protection of this threatened fish.

“Regulating the trade throughout Asia aims to protect humphead wrasse from overfishing and encourages sustainable fishing which will ensure a future for this species.” said Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF`s Policy Analyst, International Wildlife Trade.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature highlighted during the meeting that wrasse are being traded online and suggested large numbers are being sold this way but are not reported so many more could be being fished illegally.

Another problem is that young humphead wrasse are being taken from the wild and placed in captivity until they are big enough to sell. If this ranching style was done sustainably it could supply the fish to the Asian market without impacting the wild populations but current methods are unsustainable.

Humphead wrasse was listed on Appendix II of the Convention in 2004 to regulate international trade. It is one of the most valuable fish in the live reef fish trade, and its rarity leads to higher demand and prices of up to UD$250-300/kg in China.

Although centred in Hong Kong, this trade has spread to southern China and other consumer regions, including Singapore. Of particular concern is that rapid economic growth in mainland China may further intensify the demand for humphead wrasse throughout the country.

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Pangolins under threat as black market trade grows

The scaly anteater is less well-known compared with other illegally hunted species, but it is highly prized by traffickers
Audrey Garric Guardian Weekly 12 Mar 13;

Last year tens of thousands of elephants and hundreds of rhinos were slaughtered to meet the growing demands of illegal trade in wild animals. Largely centred on eastern Asia, this black market is also devouring hundreds of tigers, sharks, tortoises, snakes and other rare beasts. It's a flourishing trade, worth an estimated $19bn a year. But little attention is paid to the pangolin, or scaly anteater, one of the mammals that suffers most from such poaching.

Trade in the pangolin was banned worldwide in 2000, but the meat and supposed medicinal qualities of this unobtrusive animal – the only mammal to sport scales – have made it one of the most highly prized targets for traffickers in Asia. The meat is considered a great delicacy and many believe the scales can cure various diseases, including asthma and certain cancers, as well as boosting virility. Pangolins have become so rare that they may fetch as much as $1,000 a piece on the black market.

As a result, two out of four of the Asian species — the Sunda, or Malayan, pangolin, and its Chinese counterpart (respectively Manis javanica and Manis pentadactyla) — are endangered and the other two are near threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Two of the four African species are near threatened too. There are no figures for the number of specimens in existence worldwide, but the experts warn that their disappearance would alter the ecosystem of tropical forests, due to the rise in the number of ants and termites.

Despite the scaly anteater being protected, poaching is on the rise. In January four Chinese nationals were arrested in Jakarta with 189 pangolin skins in their luggage. In April, October and November of last year French customs officers at Roissy-CDG airport seized several tens of kilos of scales. In May 2011 a record haul of 7.5 tonnes of pangolin meat was discovered at Tanjung Priok port in north Jakarta, concealed under a layer of frozen fish in crates on their way to Vietnam. Other seizures have been reported in Thailand, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Burma and Vietnam.

"Since 2000, tens of thousands of animals have been traded in each year internationally, from countries ranging from Pakistan to Indonesia in Asia and from Zimbabwe to Guinea in Africa," says Dan Challender, co-Chair of the new IUCN Pangolin specialist group, quoted by the Mongabay website. In 2010 the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic published a report alleging that a Malaysian crime syndicate had captured 22,000 pangolins aged over 18 months. In 2011 between 40,000 and 60,000 were netted in Vietnam alone.

Many are transported live to ensure meat is fresh, but a large number die of hunger or thirst during transport. In addition traffickers often inject them with water to increase their body weight.

Much as with elephants, rhinos and tigers, existing laws and penalties are too feeble to really discourage the traffic. The anteater's low profile merely makes matters worse. "Unfortunately," says Traffic's Kanitha Krishnasamy, "pangolins do not attract as much attention from the public, and by extension from the authorities."

• This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Monde

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New protection for endangered trees against rampant logging trade

178 nations at the world's biggest wildlife summit agree to strictly regulate trade in mahogany and rosewood timber
Damian Carrington 12 Mar 13;

Every species of mahogany and rosewood tree in Madagascar gained new protection on Tuesday against a rampant logging trade that threatens to wipe out some species before they are even discovered.

The 178 nations at the world's biggest wildlife summit agreed unanimously to strictly regulate the international trade in mahogany timber.

The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), taking place in Bangkok, also gave new protection to rosewood in Central America, Thailand and Vietnam. Ebony and rosewoods are targeted to make high-price furniture, musical instruments, chess pieces and flooring.

"There are 80 ebony species known in Madagascar but they are literally identifying more right now and there may be as many as 240 species in all," said Noel McGough, a botanist at Kew Botanical Gardens in London and a member of the UK delegation. He said the new protection, aimed at ensuring harvests are sustainable, had been urgently needed: "We need to move quickly."

"Regulating the international trade will give the chance to feed money back to the poor local communities," he added. "Illegal trade just drains money away from them."

Recent years have seen a sharp rise in the exploitation of ebony in Madagascar, with much of the wood destined for Asian markets. For some species, no large trees remain in the wild, posing a serious threat to trees that take decades to produce the hard, dense, black wood that is sought after.

The number of rosewood trees in Thailand is estimated to have declined as much as 70%, from around 300,000 in 2005 to 80,000-100,000 trees in 2011.

Achim Steiner, the executive director of the UN Environment Programme (Unep), said Interpol and Unep estimated that 50-90% of logging in the key tropical countries around the world is being carried out by organised crime gangs. "Illegal logging is worth well over $30bn annually to the criminals, whereas many of the poor people enlisted into these illegal activities get a pittance in return," he said.

There were many ways criminals dealt in illegal timber, Steiner said, including falsifying logging permits, bribing officials to obtain permits, logging beyond concessions and hacking government websites to obtain or change electronic permits.

In all, 135 species of Madagascan ebony and rosewoods were protected. John Scanlon, secretary-general of Cites, praised the achievement of the 178 member states, noting that previous discussions of valuable timber had been difficult.

McGough said the tone of the debate on Tuesday was very different to that of recent decades: "There were very divisive debates that set range states [where the trees grow] against importing countries and saw many proposals defeated or withdrawn in the face of mass opposition."

Cites meeting: Ebony beats ivory in conservation stakes
Matt McGrath BBC News 12 Mar 13;

Delegates to the Cites conservation meeting in Thailand have agreed far-reaching restrictions on the trade in critically endangered hardwood trees.

Extra protection was given to several species of rosewood and ebony that have been threatened by illegal logging.

Campaigners welcomed the move, saying it stood in marked contrast to the slow pace of progress in tackling the ivory-poaching crisis.

The criminal trade in timber is said to be worth around $30bn (£20bn) annually.

The Cites meeting in Bangkok agreed to upgrade the restrictions on species of rare rosewood trees from South East Asia and South America as well as species of ebony from Madagascar.

Black market timber

Campaigners were particularly pleased that a variety of rosewood grown in Thailand will now be listed in Appendix 2, meaning both exporters and importers will have to have a valid permit.

Growing demand from China's middle classes for luxury furniture has fuelled illegal logging in this product, which can fetch up to $50,000 (£33,000) a cubic metre.

Faith Doherty from the Environmental Investigation Agency said it was a big step forward for this species.

“Finally, we have a legal tool to use in China, the main destination and where rosewood prices on the black market are spurring a flood of smuggling and associated violence,” she said.

Many ebony products from Madagascar also end up in China. Despite domestic legislation banning exports, illegal logging has continued unabated.

The restrictions also mean that an exporting country now has an obligation to determine that the number of trees being cut down is not detrimental to the survival of the species.

Where Cites really packs a punch is in its ability to impose trade sanctions on any country that over-exports a restricted species. These sanctions would be across the whole range of species regulated by Cites and could prove extremely expensive to offending countries.

The move into dealing with timber species was welcomed by Will Travers from the Born Free Foundation.

“I think it is exciting to see that Cites is being brave enough in the face of very persuasive commercial operations to address tree species,” he told BBC News.

“Everybody now recognises that there is a serious crisis out there – the demand side of the equation has to be addressed and the only way of doing that is to put these species on Appendix 2.”

Governments fall short on immediate efforts to curb illegal ivory trade at wildlife trade meeting
WWF 12 Mar 13;

Bangkok, Thailand - World governments at the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) on Tuesday opted against immediate trade sanctions against several countries that have repeatedly failed to tackle the trade in ivory.

“We’re disappointed by the lack of urgency from governments to speed up the sanctions process against countries that have failed to act for years to curb the illegal ivory trade in their countries, while the slaughter of thousands of elephants continues in Africa,” said Carlos Drews, head of WWF’s CITES delegation.

“However we will be watching to see that CITES holds these governments to account in the coming year.”

Despite an early discussion in CITES on potential trade sanctions against countries failing to regulate their ivory markets, governments did not enact those rules against offenders including Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda.

Governments instead directed those countries to identify actions and deadlines to ensure progress in controlling illegal ivory trade before summer 2014, with the potential threat that they could face trade sanctions then if there was no significant improvement in the situation. The nine countries were given just over a year to show improvements in their performance.

“Governments have been aware for years about the lack of compliance by several countries. Forest elephants in Central Africa are declining rapidly and running out of time,” Drews said. “We hope governments will speed up compliance measures against countries flouting restrictions on the ivory trade.”

The worst offenders, including top demand countries China and Thailand, the host country for the meeting, as well as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malaysia, Philippines and Viet Nam, are expected to be discussed in a separate session on Thursday.

“We hope that governments will take a stronger stance against these countries considered the biggest problems when it comes to the illegal ivory trade, and that should include much more urgency than we saw today,” Drews said.

Under treaty rules, CITES member states can recommend that parties stop trading with non-compliant countries in the 35,000 species covered under the convention, from orchids to crocodile skins.

Tuesday’s decisions came as poaching of elephants has reached crisis levels. Up to 30,000 elephants are slaughtered every year to feed the illegal ivory trade. The ivory trade has been regulated under CITES since the early 1970s.

There were, however, several other measures adopted by governments to help curb the illegal ivory trade, including:

The creation of an Ivory Enforcement Task Force, which will allow for better law enforcement collaboration between countries
Better DNA-based forensic techniques to identify the origin of confiscated ivory
An acknowledgement of the need for demand reduction campaigns on ivory

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