Best of our wild blogs: 21 Mar 13

Green Drinks: Sustainable Architecture & Meeting Future Challenges from Green Drinks Singapore

Seabed survey (13 Mar 2013)
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

More noteworthy fish for Singapore
from Compressed air junkie

Random Gallery - Yellow Palm Dart
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Do road cave-ins suggest we are testing nature’s limits through over-construction?

Tan Wee Cheng Today Online 21 Mar 13;

Given the repeated occurrences of road cave-ins recently, we would be imprudent to dismiss them as localised coincidences. These incidents may be no more random than the “once-in-50-years” flooding that happened a few times in the past few years.

Our island was essentially formed by the interaction of currents from the estuary of the Johor River, Strait of Malacca, Java Sea and South China Sea.

The marine clay and sand that form this isle’s foundation are soft and unstable, though strengthened by small rocks deposited by ocean currents over millions of years. Will the soil continue to hold if this sandbar is overbuilt with tall building structures sitting on multiple basement levels supported by deep foundation piles?

That is not to mention the MRT tunnels, underpasses, pipes, cable installations and sewerage channels surrounding all these structures. Perhaps, there is only so much weight the land, especially soft clay, can support.

We have seen more flooding over the past few years, which some attribute to the removal of vegetation cover.

With more infrastructural projects being planned to alleviate traffic congestion and the housing crunch, as well as to cater for a rise in population, we might be testing nature’s geological tolerance.

The flooding and road cave-ins may well be Mother Nature’s warnings to our challenges of those limits. I hope the relevant agencies bear these factors in mind while implementing key projects to achieve the vision of a sustainable, dynamic Singapore.

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Malaysia: Elephant caught in Gua Musang

New Straits Times 21 Mar 13

KOTA BARU: Rangers from the state wildlife department captured an elephant which had been destroying crops in Aring 6 and Aring 10 in Gua Musang over the past month.

Department director Rahmat Topani said the 20-year-old male elephant was captured at Felda Aring 6 at 1.30pm on Monday.

"A team led by state assistant director Shaary Awang went in search of the elephant after receiving reports it had entered a smallholding and destroyed plants belonging to villagers in Aring 6 since February.

"They went there on Sunday and managed to capture the elephant the next day."

He said the jumbo, which had been named Awang Putih, weighed about 1.5 tonnes and was the first elephant captured by the department this year.

Rahmat said the elephant was expected to be sent to the National Park using two trained elephants, Mek Pek and Kala, yesterday evening.

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Indonesia: WWF Sounds Alarm Over Blast Fishing in East Flores

Jakarta Globe 15 Mar 13;

The practice of fishing for tuna using homemade fertilizer bombs has skyrocketed off the coast of East Flores in East Nusa Tenggara, the World Wildlife Fund revealed in its latest survey.

The survey found that even in a small village in the district of East Flores, a fleet of 98 fishing boats with a gross tonnage of two to three tons was fishing for tuna with bombs. Similar conditions can be found across the various islands to the east of the district, the survey, which was published on Thursday, said.

“The practice of fishing by destruction, such as with the use of bombs, should be halted. The demand and trade on fishery products from damage-inducing fishing practices should be gradually reduced and eliminated,” Wawan Ridwan, the director for maritime and fishery affairs of WWF-Indonesia, said according to the WWF’s website on Friday.

He admitted that such efforts to halt the practice would be difficult since it was related to policies and market mechanisms.

“Law enforcement and supervision [are] important efforts that need to be implemented on the field,” Wawan said.

Besides damaging the ecosystem, “blast fishing,” as the method is called, results in fish waste; the WWF noted that at least half of the tuna are not recovered after the explosion, as they sink deeper into the sea. Moreover, other marine species, such as dolphins, are killed in the process.

Fishermen have also fell victim to the practice. One of the villagers surveyed said he recorded five deaths due to blast fishing since 2004.

“Considering that tuna is a major global fishing commodity, efforts from retailers to ascertain that the products they received from fishermen were from environmentally friendly fishing practices and not from activities that cause destruction are becoming increasingly important,” Wawan said.

The organization said that it was conducting counseling and advocacy among fishing groups to curb the use of bombs while fishing for tuna.

Indonesia is the fourth largest tuna fishing nation in the world after Japan, Taiwan and Spain, according to a WWF report.

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Indonesia: Activists Decry Aceh Plan to End Log Ban

Jakarta Globe 15 Mar 13;

Environmental activists have condemned the Aceh administration following confirmation that it planned to reverse a logging ban imposed by the previous administration and clear up to 1.2 million hectares of protected forest across the province.

Efendi, a spokesman for the Coalition of People Concerned for Aceh’s Forests (KPHA), said at a media conference in Jakarta on Thursday that the provincial administration’s special planning committee had confirmed that the Forestry Ministry had approved of “almost 100 percent” of proposed changes to its spatial plans.

This would slash the proportion of protected forest in the province from 68 percent to 45 percent, and cause the loss of 1.2 million hectares of forest.

“Despite our best efforts, communities and NGOs have been completely excluded from the development process of the new spatial plan, which has totally lacked transparency and accountability,” Efendi said.

He said the proposed change in status for protected forests “is closely linked to planned expansion of palm oil plantations and mining.”

“There is an inevitable belief that the proposal is simply to legalize illegal activities already taking place as several mining and palm oil concessions overlap the areas scheduled for downgrading,” he said.

Activists also called into question the claim by the administration that transforming large swaths of forest into mining and oil palm concessions would lead to greater land availability for local communities.

They noted that the area to be allocated to the community was just over 1 percent of the planned new opening of forest area, or 14,704 hectares, while the largest allocations would go toward mining, at just under 1 million hectares, logging concessions (416,086 hectares), and oil palm concessions (256,250 hectares).

They also said that the latter concessions would cover the entire Tripa peat swamp, a protected area that is considered an important habitat for the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan and that has received much international attention due to illegal clearing there by palm oil companies.

The illegal clearing is still being investigated by the Environment Ministry and the police.

‘Extremely dangerous move’

The KPHA also warned that in addition to the new “large-scale exploitative industrial developments,” the spatial plan also paved the way for the construction of an extensive road network that would cut through currently protected forests, “further disrupting wildlife and watersheds in the region and opening up even more forests for exploitation, both legal and illegal.”

“Famously once known as the ‘Ladia Galaska’ road network, or the ‘Spider Web,’ for its appearance, the plan is once again being resurrected, despite being rejected in the past by popular demand due to the severe environmental damage it would bring,” the group said in a statement.

Graham Usher, a landscape protection specialist previously involved in forest mapping under the previous Aceh governor, Irwandi Yusuf, said: “Areas that had previously been identified as being too high or too steep for conversion, or as having inappropriate soil types and heavy rainfall, so that under existing Indonesian regulations they should be protected forests, have now been identified as targets for logging concessions, roads, mining concessions and palm oil plantations.

“Opening up such forests is an extremely dangerous move. Aceh’s people know very well that removal of forests on such steep and unstable soils results in devastating landslides and floods during the heavy rains that Aceh receives every year.

“The plan to clear these forests is a serious mistake that will result in the loss of yet more innocent lives and huge economic losses for the province.”

The activists said it was likely that “a number of national laws have been breached” by the administration of Governor Zaini Abdullah in drawing up the proposed changes. Under Irwandi, large-scale logging and forest clearing were prohibited.

‘Total obliteration’

Ian Singleton, from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, said it was not just the iconic apes that would disappear if the spatial plan went into force.

“It is now being proposed that Tripa lose its currently protected status altogether, and for this unique peat swamp ecosystem and all its biodiversity and potentially hugely valuable carbon stock to be handed over to the palm oil companies for final, total obliteration,” he said.

“The new spatial plan does not even acknowledge the existence of the world-renowned Leuser Ecosystem protected area or the fact that the forests they intend to ‘unprotect’ are the last main hope for the long-term survival of iconic Sumatran endemic species such as the Sumatran tiger, elephant and rhinoceros. The future of each of these species, and countless others, will be placed in immediate jeopardy if the plans are allowed to proceed.”

Singleton added it was ironic that after receiving tens of millions of dollars from the international community to protect its forests, the Aceh administration “now plans to trash them for roads, new mines, timber and oil palm concessions.”

Rudi Hadiansyah Putra, the conservation manager for the Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority (BPKEL), said conservationists had worked hard to protect Aceh’s forests, and that what the provincial administration proposed doing would set back all their efforts.

“The community understand very well from previous devastating flash floods that clearing the forests upstream has a direct impact on the river flow and their own safety downstream,” he said.

“The people of Aceh are no fools. We know that when these unstable areas are cut, it directly leads to increasing natural disasters. If even the villagers know this, why do the Aceh government’s advisers not comprehend this simple connection?”

Greenpeace Lauds Forest Conservation Pilot From Indonesian Palm Oil Producer
Jakarta Globe 13 Mar 13;

Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace has welcomed the launch of a forest conservation pilot project by the world's second largest palm oil plantation company, Golden Agri-Resources, to protect high carbon stock forests in Indonesia.

“Greenpeace commends GAR for putting its forest conservation policy commitment into action. GAR’s initiative is crucial for finally breaking the link between palm oil and deforestation,” Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Indonesia Forest Campaign, said on Wednesday.

Bustar said Indonesia’s rainforest was in dire need of protection, especially with the approaching expiration date of the two-year moratorium on logging permits in May.

“The government should see today’s announcement as a strong signal that government, industry and civil society together can turn the tide and protect Indonesia’s forests for the sake of the people and biodiversity that depend on them and for the global climate,” he said.

He said GAR’s conservation policy, which would begin with Kartika Prima Cipta in West Kalimantan, would also be implemented in the company’s investment in Liberia and would set a strong example for future oil palm development in Africa if executed properly.

GAR previously has pledged to stop procurement of unsustainable raw materials by 2015.

Separately, the Indonesian government announced it is set to revoke the licenses of palm oil companies in the country if they do not have an Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil certificate by 2014, a high-level official at the Agriculture Ministry said on Thursday.

“Because it is a mandatory, there will be sanctions. We could revoke the licenses of palm oil companies that do not have the ISPO,” said Gamal Nasir, director general for plantations at the ministry.

The Indonesian government introduced the ISPO several years ago, setting a standard to ensure that palm oil producers will not add to deforestation and destruction of carbon-rich peat lands because of their activities.


Walhi urges govt to extend forest moratorium
Antara 20 Mar 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) urged the Indonesian Government to extend the forest moratorium, which will expire in May 2013, to prevent social and environmental conflict in the future.

"If the moratorium is not extended, we are certain in the next five years, social and environmental conflict would rise in the 25 million hectares of Indonesian forest area," Forest and Large Scale Plantation Campaign Manager of Walhi Zenzi Suhadi said here Wednesday.

Therefore, the moratorium on primary forest and peat land should be extended and strengthened, Suhadi said.

"Not only by suspending the forest concession, but also improving the management of forest area and concession as well as determining the penalties against the violating institutions," Suhadi said.

Suhadi said the moratorium, regulated in presidential decree no.11/2011, had not been effectively conducted as the Forum found some attempts of local administrations and authorities to deceive the moratorium by proposing concession for residential area.

"The government should accommodate and validate the basis of such concession proposal as there are many of them, agreed for residential area, turned into plantation areas. This is what the government should take notice," Suhadi said.

Walhi also suggested the government and the Ministry of Forestry to have discussion with local communities inhabiting the forest area as there were so many mutual social and culture dependence in such place.

"Government should view the Natural Resource as the national`s and citizens` priceless asset, not to put itself as a tax collector for private enterprises which exploit the Indonesian forest," Suhadi said.

Or else, there would come into surface a phenomena of increasing social income without accompanied by improving social welfare because the local people will have to pay for what they can get freely from the forest, he said.

Previously on Tuesday, The Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) National Strategy Working Unit also urged the Indonesia Government to extend the forest moratorium.

The extended period would be used to finish the mapping in 11 prioritized provinces in the REDD+ program, Spokesperson of REDD+ Mubariq Ahmad said.

Mubariq Ahmad said the government and oil palm plantation enterprises would not be handicapped by the moratorium extension as it would not hamper the economic growth of the oil palm and mining sectors.

"There have been more than enough, or even to many permits on active mining. On the other hand, there are four hectares of new oil palm plantation that would not be fully planted until the next 10 year. So, there is no reason that the moratorium extension would be economically disadvantageous," he said.

The only reason for enterprises to worry about the extension on moratorium was the incapability to expand oil palm plantation area if the moratorium imposed for the next years ahead, he said.

However, the moratorium should not be considered as an anti-oil-palm action. The oil palm sectors, in other hand, yielded a great amount of national income and provide a lot of work opportunities contributing to reduce poverty rate, he said.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Indonesia: WWF Comes Under Fire Over Continued Riau Forest Clearing

Jakarta Globe 17 Mar 13;

Indonesia’s Forest Ministry will investigate claims of continued deforestation in Riau’s protected Tesso Nilo National Park after lawmakers lashed out at the World Wildlife Fund’s allegedly unsuccessful efforts to slow forest clearing in one of Indonesia’s worst-hit provinces.

“We will evaluate [the WWF’s work],” Darori, the ministry’s director general for forest protection and nature conservation, told the Indonesian news portal “If it proves to have no benefit, we will terminate the partnership.”

Darori’s statements followed the ministry’s analysis of a decade’s worth of satellite images of the park. The images showed the clearing of some 46,960 hectares of the protected forests over the past ten years.

The 83,068-hectare park is managed by the Tesso Nilo National Park Agency, a division of the Forest Ministry, in an area experiencing the most rapid rate of deforestation in Indonesia. Riau is home to two pulp mills and has been partitioned off in numerous concessions for logging and palm oil companies.

The World Wildlife Fund Indonesia has worked to slow the rate of clearing in the park, which is home to rare Sumatran tigers and elephants. The organization said that without their work the forest would have disappeared by 2007.

“Based on a World Bank analysis, with the rate of deforestation at Tesso Nilo National Park the forest would have disappeared by 2007,” WWF Indonesia conservation director Nazir Foead said. “Thanks to the efforts of the Forest Ministry, its NGO partners and the local community, we’ve managed to save 37,000 hectares of Tesso Nilo National Park.”

The head of the House of Representative’s commission on forests doubted the World Wildlife Fund made any impact on forest clearing in Riau.

“It is time for Indonesia to stop compromising with the WWF because it has failed to do anything,” Firman Subagyo, head of the commission, said. “They can only speak out and do black campaigns [against Indonesia] from abroad.

“Foreign NGOs like the WWF are like thieves visiting our homes to steal our treasures without us realizing it. The NGO’s arrogance has impacted our weakened industrial competitiveness overseas, which will end worsen Indonesia’s economy.”

Most of the region’s forests were cleared to make way for palm oil and rubber plantations, the World Wildlife Fund explained. Nearly 47,000 hectares of land in the national park have been converted to plantations.

Local police need to step up and prosecute those responsible for clearing protected lands, Nazir said.

“Law enforcement is an important measure to tackle the clearing [of forests],” he said, “especially when it involves perpetrators with big bank accounts.”

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Thailand: Beach north of Phuket crawling with baby turtles

Phuket Gazette 18 Mar 13;

PHUKET: The beach at Khao Lampi – Hat Thai Mueang National Park has been full of life over the past month with 339 baby leatherback turtles hatching from five protected nests in the area.

“We are still watching two more nests expected to hatch soon. One nest contains 91 eggs and the other contains 84 eggs,” park chief Witoon Detpramuanphol told the Phuket Gazette today.

In the past, enormous leatherback turtles weighing as much as 360 kilograms would lay a total of 400 to 500 nests along the beaches of Phang Nga and Phuket. Now, however, there are less than 10 nests a year, explained Dr Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong, head of the Endangered Species Unit at the Phuket Marine Biological Center.

Of the five species of turtle that live in the Andaman, leatherbacks are the closest to becoming extinct, he added.

“Only about one in 1,000 baby leatherbacks survive to adulthood,” Dr Kongkiat pointed out.

“Previously, we tried rearing leatherback turtles until they were about one year old before we released them into the sea. However, they are more sensitive to environmental conditions than other species of turtles, which made maintaining their health very difficult,” he explained.

The inability to provide adequate care for leatherback turtles during their first year prompted the PMBC to change tack: they now allow the babies to try their luck in the sea.

“We need to develop higher-quality food, because what we gave the turtles to eat previously was causing constipation. We also need a larger pool, as the turtles’ skin is very sensitive and was getting scratched by the side of the pool as they swam, which was leading to skin problems,” Dr Kongkiat said.

“These are just a couple of the reasons why we are now letting them grow up naturally, and are protecting their nesting sites and eggs instead of moving them to our facilities,” he added.

To protect the dwindling population of leatherbacks in the Andaman region, Dr Kongkiat asked people to not remove turtle eggs from nests and not disturb the turtle-nesting areas.

“In the nesting season, from November through March, many turtles come ashore or close to shore. If anybody notices them please, do not disturb them; if you are a fisherman, and one is caught in your net, please free it and return it to the sea,” he said.

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Erosion eats away land along 22 percent of Thai coastline

AlertNet 20 Mar 13;

BANGKOK (AlertNet) - Thailand has lost 22 percent of its 2,600-km coastline - more than 12,600 hectares of land - over the past 30 years as a result of climate change and upstream dams, The Nation newspaper reported.

The damage was caused by stronger and bigger waves triggered by climate change, as well as upstream dams that deposit less sediment at river-mouth areas, Thanawat Jarupongsakul, head of the Chulalongkorn University’s unit for disaster and land information studies, told the newspaper.

The Chao Phraya River used to deposit 17 to 18 million tonnes of sediment per year at its mouth, but now leaves only 1.6 million tonnes.

The hardest hit area is Ban Khun Samut Chin village in Samut Prakan province, on the southeastern outskirts of the capital Bangkok.

There, the coast eroded at 30 metres per year, and 900 metres of land is now gone. A pilot project to build a 250 metre-long structure to halt the erosion is 10 million baht ($340,000) short of funds, the paper said.

In 2012, photographer Gavin Gough documented how residents of Ban Khun Samut Chin are forced to relocate as a result of coastal erosion.

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40 per cent of Indian coast subjected to erosion

Indo-Asian News Service NDTV 19 Mar 13;

New Delhi: Around 40 per cent of the Indian coast is subjected to erosion and development in high eroding stretches is prohibited, Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan told the Rajya Sabha Tuesday.

Ms Natarajan said a study was carried out regarding "assessment of shoreline change for the entire coast of mainland India, extending from Gujarat in the west to West Bengal in the east".

The minister said the study revealed that on an average around 40 per cent of the Indian coast was found subjected to coastal erosion.

She said development activities along the coastal areas were regulated under the provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 2011.

The notification prohibits development in high eroding stretches of the coast, except those projects classified as strategic and defence related.

The study was conducted by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Chennai, in association with the Institute of Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai.

"The shoreline change was assessed for a period of 38 years from 1972-2010. Accordingly, the coastline of India has been classified into high, medium and low erosion stretches as well as stable coast," she said.

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