Best of our wild blogs: 25 Jul 13

Would Singapore’s most beautiful damselfly species be extinct by the construction of Cross Island Line? from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

Grandmama Clam and coral bleaching at the Terumbu Pempangs
from wild shores of singapore

Relationship between mistletoe, birds and butterflies
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! Orange Emigrant
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Wildlife bridge ready by year-end

Kash Cheong Straits Times 25 Jul 13;

A $17 MILLION bridge for monkeys and other wildlife is on track to be completed by the end of the year, the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Land Transport Authority confirmed yesterday.

Structural works for the Eco-Link@BKE are almost done, and the site is now being prepared for the planting of trees.

The 62m-long overhead bridge will reconnect Singapore's largest primary and secondary forests, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Area. Both forests have been separated by the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) since 1986, leaving animals like rare banded leaf monkeys cut off from their fellow monkeys on the other side.

"The bridge is a boon for biodiversity," said conservationist Alan Ow Yong.

When ready, it will allow animals such as flying squirrels, palm civets and pangolins an easy way to cross the BKE.

"Animals will be able to move freely between the two reserves to find other food sources as well as mates. They will also help to propagate plant species as seeds are dispersed by more animals," Mr Ow explained yesterday.

Trees planted on the bridge will also provide food for animals, NParks said. The public will not be allowed onto the bridge in the first few years, to reduce the disturbance to the wildlife.

The eco-link is situated about 600m north of Rifle Range Road, between the Pan-Island Expressway and Dairy Farm exits.

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Indonesia: Riau reopens haze command post

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 25 Jul 13;

The Riau Haze Mitigation command post at Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru, Riau, was reopened on Wednesday in response to the recurrence of fires over the past several days.

"The command post was earlier moved to the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency [BPBD], but today it was reopened at the airbase to facilitate trans-sector coordination," Riau BPBD head Said Saqlul Amri told The Jakarta Post.

He acknowledged the main command post was reopened to anticipate the haze, which had sparked protests from neighboring countries like Singapore and Malayasia, from recurring.

"In August, forest fires in Riau are predicted to be more severe. According to the BMKG [Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency], August is the peak of the dry season, that's why efforts should be made to anticipate the problem," said Amri.

Four helicopters have been deployed to conduct water bombing operations in the north of Riau, where the majority of fires have been detected. The local military command has sent an additional 200 troops - assisted by 100 public order officers - to Rokan Hulu, Rokan Hilir, Siak, Bengkalis and Dumai city, which are the worst-hit by forest and peatland fires.

The number of fires in Riau has continued to fluctuate and has tended to increase in the past three days. On Monday, 173 hot spots were detected. They dwindled to 165 the next day, but again rose to 183 on Tuesday.

The majority of fires are in Rokan Hilir, with 48, followed by Pelalawan (22), Siak (19), Bangkalis (18) and Rokan Hulu (17). As of Wednesday, only Pekanbaru was free of the fires.

Roesmin Nujadin Airbase operational head Let. Col. Prasetya H said the four helicopters were focusing on water bombing operations in Pelalawan and Dumai.

"Today, they're focusing operations in Dumai on fires near the city. The air quality has also dropped to 308 PSI [Pollutants Standards Index]," he added.

Nine choppers readied to put out land fires
Antara 24 Jul 13;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The National Disaster Mitigation Body (BNPB) has again readied nine helicopters to put out land and forest fires in Riau province.

"The nine helicopters earlier conducted aerial patrols to monitor hotspots in Riau. However, hotspots have appeared again so water-bombing efforts are needed," BNPB spokesman Agus Wibowo told Antara in Pekanbaru by phone on Wednesday.

The nine helicopters would be involved in water-bombing operations in turns, he said.

"The water bombing efforts are likely to have the same pattern as earlier. Four of the helicopters will lead water-bombing operations while the other three will conduct aerial patrols and be put on standby," he said.

As a coordinator of disaster mitigation efforts, BNPB would also ready three Cassa planes, consisting of one from the Air Force, one from the Navy and one from the Army, he said.

"Each of the forces has readied one plane to conduct cloud seeding, if needed," he said.

An Antara journalist observed smog again shrouded a number of areas in Riau province over the past few days.

The smog forced three planes to divert flights as visibility at Sultan Syarif Kasim (SSK) II Airport in the provincial capital Pekanbaru dropped to less than 500 meters.

The local authorities have again put the province under "smog alert status" and will cooperate with BNPB in putting out the land and forest fires. (*)

Editor: Heru

Forest fire occurs again in Riau as new hotspots found
Antara 24 Jul 13;

Pekanbaru, Riau Province (ANTARA News) - About 185 hotspots, possibly forest fires, have been found in Riau province recently, spokesman to National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Agus Wibowo said here on Wednesday.

"The recent number is an increase compared to our finding last Tuesday (July 23) of 48 hotspots," he said.

Meanwhile analyst from Pekanbaru`s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Warih Budi Lestari predicted hotspots will keep emerging in Riau province as Indonesia is in a drought season now meaning there will be little rain to eradicate them.

"From mid to end of July there is a dynamic graphic of hotspot occurrences in Riau. If it rains, the hotspots will reduce, but if it`s not, the number of hotspots will be increasing," he said.

Warih called on local people not to burn forest in order to open new plantation. Such action, he said, will hinder efforts to reduce hotspots in Riau.

Last June, Riau province suffered the worst due to an increase of hotspots allegedly originated from intentional forest fire by local people. Thousands of people are suffering acute respiratory disease because of the haze resulting from the forest fires. The haze even impacted people in neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.(*)

Editor: Heru

Jakarta minister vows action against forest-fire culprits
Zakir Hussain Indonesia Bureau Chief And Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta
Straits Times 25 Jul 13;

INDONESIA will identify and act against companies found responsible for the latest round of forest fires in Riau, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya has said. Investigations into those complicit in last month's severe haze are continuing, he told reporters yesterday.

His ministry also said in a statement that it was widening the net of culpability by taking a "multi-door" approach: This considers whether companies and individuals involved had violated one or more of 11 relevant laws. Apart from statutes on environmental protection and forestry, these include laws on taxation, Customs, money-laundering, and corruption.

"I have said the law must take its course, and I will encourage and ensure this," Dr Balthasar said. "Those who breach the law must face the consequences."

The comments came as the national disaster management agency (BNPB) reopened a command post in Pekanbaru yesterday, and some 1,300 soldiers were redeployed in Riau to fight fires.

They joined another 1,200 Riau disaster agency officials already battling the fires, aided by water-bombing and cloud-seeding sorties.

Yesterday, the number of hot spots fell sharply to 56 in Riau, down from 185 on Tuesday, BNPB said. The Riau disaster agency's rescue head, Mr Ferialdi, said the main challenge was getting to severe hot spots in peatlands far from access roads.

Residents in parts of Riau got some respite yesterday. In Dumai, the PSI fell to 77, well below a peak of 900 last month.

Dumai mayor Khairul Anwar told The Straits Times that the situation had improved compared to the past three days.

In Malaysia, conditions also improved yesterday with just one spot in Seri Manjung, Perak, reporting "unhealthy" air quality at 122 on the Department of Environment's air pollution index at midday.

Air quality in Port Klang improved from 120 in the past two days to 81 yesterday, and other areas saw marked improvement.

Still, Indonesian officials are on guard for fires in other provinces until the dry season ends in October.

Deputy Minister Arief Yuwono told reporters that two command posts to coordinate response efforts elsewhere will start operating tomorrow in Palembang, South Sumatra, and Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.

Dr Balthasar also said the documents for ratifying the Asean Transboundary Haze Agreement are ready, and refuted concerns by reporters that MPs might raise other issues to stall it.

"We are in this together. And as a big country in Asia, we should lead, not trail behind. Signing it should be a matter of national pride," he added.

Additional reporting by Lester Kong in Malaysia

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Malaysia: Haze moves north, Penang close to unhealthy

Hafiz Marzukhi The Star 25 Jul 13;

GEORGE TOWN: The air quality in Penang is inching towards the ‘unhealthy’ level.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) reading for several areas in the state on Thursday morning showed an upward trend.

According to the Department of Environment website, Seberang Jaya looked to cross into the unhealthy zone with its API of 95 at 8am.

The API for Prai and at Universiti Sains Malaysia are at 88 and 81 respectively.

Showers to ease arid weather conditions in several hazy states
Isabelle Lai and Manjit Kaur The Star 25 Jul 13;

PETALING JAYA: Rainfall is expected over several states in the next few days, which will hopefully help to clear up the hazy skies.

According to the Department of Environment (DOE), rain should fall over Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.

“This weather condition is expected to help dispel the haze the country is experiencing,” it said in a statement here yesterday.

As at 5pm, the Air Pollutant Index readings showed slightly improved air quality, with just Seri Manjung in Perak recording an unhealthy level.

However, the number of hotspots in Sumatra are still on the rise, with the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre’s hotspot map displaying 292 hotspots yesterday, up from 252 on Monday.

In Malaysia, 27 hotspots were detected – seven each in Johor and Pahang, two in Negri Sembilan and 11 in Sarawak.

“Site investigations and enforcement action will be taken for each of the hotspots detected,” it said.

Indonesian authorities have begun cloud seeding efforts to induce rain over Riau province, which is currently engulfed in choking smog believed to be from resumed land and forest burnings.

The haze returned after the number of hotspots in Sumatra rose drastically from three last Thursday to 159 on Saturday.

However, Malaysia is not as badly affected this time around due to lighter wind patterns resulting in the haze spreading much slower.

Last month, thick haze enveloped parts of the peninsula and Singapore – aided by forest fires and strong winds – with air quality in several areas reaching hazardous levels.

In Ipoh, the API reading in Seri Manjung was at 120 as at 3pm.

State Department of Environment director Abdul Razak Abdul Manap said the northwards wind was bringing the haze into that part of Perak and affecting the air quality.

His officers, he said, had been instructed to carry out ground surveillance for any open burning as well as via the satellite to detect any hotspot.

“Once we have detected the locations, the Fire and Rescue Department will be called in to assist in putting out the fires,” he said.

Meanwhile, a fire at the Tanjung Tualang landfill near Batu Gajah since Tuesday had worsened the air quality there, with billowing smoke covering the 4ha site.

Fire and Rescue Department’s Operations chief Halid Md Zin said 14 firemen had the fire under control within 20 minutes but it took them nine hours to completely put out the blaze.

“We are still determining the cause of the fire,” he said, urging the public not to encroach into the site to carry out open burning.

Haze clears leaving 1 area with unhealthy air quality
New Straits Times 25 Jul 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: The haze situation in the country has improved, with only one station recording an unhealthy level at 5pm yesterday, compared with three on Tuesday.

The Environment Department yesterday said the unhealthy reading was in Seri Manjung in Perak with an Air Pollutant Index (API) of 120.

Overall, the API readings at 12 stations were healthy while 39 others had moderate readings.

But the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre reported that hot spots in Sumatera had increased from 252 on Tuesday, to 292 yesterday.

The increase was not apparent in Malaysia, where 27 hot spots were detected yesterday compared with 26 the previous day.

The 27 hot spots were in Johor (7), Pahang (7), Negri Sembilan (2) and Sarawak (11).

Director-general of Environment Datuk Halimah Hassan on Monday had sent a letter to her Indonesian counterpart to express Malaysia's concern about the spike in the number of hot spots in central Sumatra.

She urged Indonesia to take action to prevent and put out forest fires in central Sumatra, which had brought the haze back to Malaysia.

The department had been keeping tabs to ensure there was no open burning in all states.

It took steps to prevent peat fires and opened a 24-hour operations centre to receive complaints on open burning.

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