Best of our wild blogs: 4 Aug 13

Suggestion from ICCS Briefing – How to protect the ocean!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Morning Walk At Bukit Brown Cemetery (03 Aug 2013)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Life History of the Royal Assyrian
from Butterflies of Singapore

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Contractor caught in 'monkey business'

NParks investigating him for allegedly setting up illegal monkey trap
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 4 Aug 13;

The cage that was allegedly set up by AVA contractor Jack Pang at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve's Kampong Trail on July 16. It is illegal to capture animals in nature reserves without approval from the commissioner of parks and recreation. -- PHOTO: AMANDA TAN

A government contractor is under investigation for allegedly setting up a monkey trap illegally in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

The National Parks Board (NParks) confirmed recently that it is investigating Mr Jack Pang after he was caught setting up a cage in the reserve.

Although he was hired by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to capture macaques, he allegedly did not have permission to trap them in the reserve.

In fact, under the Parks and Trees Act, no one is allowed to capture animals from nature reserves and national parks without approval from the commissioner of parks and recreation.

"We are investigating and will take appropriate action in due time," said NParks director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah.

News of the probe comes after The Sunday Times reported last week that almost 360 macaques were euthanised by the AVA in the first half of this year.

The number was more than the combined total for the past two years and estimated to be one-fifth of the total population of not more than 2,000.

The AVA told The Sunday Times that it had euthanised 357 monkeys this year, as of June, compared with 204 in 2010, 151 in 2011 and 127 last year.

The agency had also received 920 complaints about the "monkey nuisance" last year, up from 730 in 2011.

External contractors were then hired, or traps lent to residents to capture the monkeys, which are then released elsewhere or killed.

Mr Pang is one of several external contractors hired by the AVA to capture macaques that have roamed beyond their natural habitats.

These contractors are usually activated to catch monkeys in areas such as Bukit Timah or Watten estates, after the AVA receives complaints from the public or residents about the monkeys.

These contractors are believed to be paid for each animal captured.

Nanyang Technological University graduate student Amanda Tan, who is studying a troop of macaques in Bukit Timah, said she alerted the authorities after seeing Mr Pang set up a cage at the reserve's Kampong Trail on July 16.

She also found a second, larger trap nearby. "I have seen him trapping here before so I quickly took a picture. He immediately signalled his assistant to remove the trap," she said.

The AVA, responding to queries from The Sunday Times, said: "We will evaluate if any action needs to be taken by us after NParks has concluded its investigations."

It added that it had not received any complaints about Mr Pang from NParks before the July 16 incident.

The Sunday Times believes Mr Pang is still carrying out his work, legally, while investigations continue. He declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

Culprits behind six cases of illegal poaching were either warned or fined by the AVA between 2011 and June this year. No one has been charged in court with poaching.

AVA said it received nine alerts regarding such cases this year, as of June.

Last year, there were 15, down from 18 alerts in 2011 and 22 in 2010.

Under the Parks and Trees Act, a person convicted of illegally capturing an animal from a nature reserve can be fined up to $50,000 or jailed up to six months or both.

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Relook monkey island idea

Straits Times 4 Aug 13;

I was dismayed to read that almost 360 macaques - estimated to be one-fifth of the total population here - were killed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority in the first half of this year ("Monkey complaints up, so culling rises too"; last Sunday).

At this rate, macaques will be extinct in Singapore by 2015.

Not only is the culling a wanton and inhumane way of dealing with another species, but it also destroys Singapore's natural heritage.

Why then are we building a $17million bridge for monkeys and other wildlife at Bukit Timah Expressway ("Wildlife bridge ready by year-end"; July 25)?

In 2004, a group of animal lovers proposed that Pulau Tekukor be turned into a haven for monkeys, to save them from culling as well as to serve as an eco-tourism attraction ("An island getaway - for monkeys"; July 5, 2004).

However, the proposal was rejected.

Since then, Singapore's population has grown, increasing the conflict between wildlife and humans.

It is obvious that culling is not a solution.

It is high time the authorities stopped the culling and reviewed the proposal to turn Pulau Tekukor into a monkey island, as a creative and humane method of preserving the flora and fauna of Singapore.

Patrick Low

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Green fingers

Lea Wee Straits Times 4 Aug 13;

On June 16, 1963, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew planted a slender Mempat sapling - known for its pretty pink blossoms - at a traffic roundabout in Farrer Circus, marking the start of an islandwide tree-planting campaign.

Fifty years on, SundayLife! speaks to three veterans from the National Parks Board. All have been involved in the greening efforts since they joined what was then called the Parks and Recreation Department fresh from school, ranging from 26 to 33 years ago.

Kartini Omar, director

Any home gardener or industry expert worth his salt would have a copy of the book 1001 Garden Plants In Singapore, as would the polytechnic student pursuing a diploma in horticulture or landscaping.

After all, it is the first - and only - reference book featuring a comprehensive list of plants in Singapore. It remains one of the National Parks Board's bestsellers. Since it was published in 2003, it has had 11 print runs and more than 60,000 copies have been sold.

To think that one of its three authors, Ms Kartini Omar, 47, now director of the parks division, started out with only a meagre knowledge of plants.

She graduated with a general degree in science from the National University of Singapore in 1987.

That same year, when she joined the then Parks and Recreation Department as an assistant curator at its maintenance unit, she knew the names of only about 10 plants. Her role then was to manage the roadside greenery and parks within an area in River Valley.

When she was transferred to the department's only nursery in Pasir Panjang three years later, her knowledge grew to include about a quarter of the 700 species of plants at the nursery.

To further beef up her knowledge, she started an album containing photographs of the plants in the nursery, with their names printed on a piece of paper below the photos. This eventually culminated in 1001 Garden Plants In Singapore.

The other two authors of the book are Ms Boo Chih Min, the manager working under her then who helped to take and compile the photographs; and her director, Mr Ou Yang Chow Lin, who advised them on the packaging and marketing of the book.

A website based on the book, florafaunaweb., was also set up in 2008.

The launch of the book was in line with the evolving role of the nursery. Says Ms Kartini: "When I joined, the nursery was largely a production house."

It was producing 800,000 to a million plants a year to "feed" streets and parks here. But as Singapore's greening efforts bore fruit, the number of plants needed went down. By 2010, the production of plants at the nursery had dropped to about 100,000 to 200,000 a year.

The nursery began to focus more on raising awareness and educating the public, including industry players, about plants. This, says Ms Kartini, was to promote a gardening culture here.

One of her most challenging projects, as a senior manager at the nursery, was GardenTech, which started as an in-house event in 1997 for about 10 industry players to showcase their latest gardening products.

In 1998, it was opened to the public and the organising committee was tasked to get more exhibitors.

As the head of secretariat and plant decoration, and later co-chairman of the organising committee, Ms Kartini and the other committee members had to comb through the Yellow Pages to look for companies that dealt with gardening and landscaping.

She says: "We would then call them up one by one to promote the event to them."

By 2002, GardenTech had grown into a five-day biennial event, with more than 100 exhibitors offering a wide range of gardening-related products. These ranged from garden tools and landscaping products to ponds and water features.

In 2003, there were plans to convert 12ha of the 23ha nursery in Pasir Panjang into a gardening hub for the public to learn more about plants and to promote a gardening culture.

These were realised five years later when HortPark opened. As assistant director of the nursery, she had been tasked to come up with the concept and to oversee the development of the park.

Having seen how themed gardens were crowd- pleasers in her previous working trips to famous flower shows such as the Floriade in Amsterdam and Chelsea in London, she proposed the idea of having display gardens in the new park.

She also suggested allocating some of these plots to industry players to showcase their garden products and technologies. Her suggestions were taken up. When HortPark was officially opened in 2008, it featured about 40 display plots by industry partners, including an eco-garden, playground and water garden.

Today, the park draws 650,000 visitors every year. It also runs the quarterly Gardeners' Day Out, the successor of GardenTech, which had its last run in 2009.

In 2011, Ms Kartini was appointed one of the two directors of the parks division, to oversee most of the parks in Singapore.

Parks, she says, also support a rich biodiversity of wildlife, due to concerted efforts by the National Parks Board to grow plants that attract birds, butterflies and dragonflies.

She says: "I am happy to be part of this effort to conserve and create habitats that are conducive for wildlife in our parks."

But the mother of two grown-up children admits that she sometimes misses being with plants all day.

Over the years, her knowledge of plants has grown such that she is now familiar with most of the plants in the 1001 Garden Plants In Singapore book - which actually features more than 1,900 plants.

Friends and relatives also often seek her advice on gardening.

She says: "Being around plants gives me a lot of pleasure."

Simon Poh, streetscape manager

Whenever he has time, Mr Simon Poh would drive past the Toh Guan flyover just to admire the 10 or more species of flowering plants and trees there.

After all, the 55-year-old streetscape manager played a key role in landscaping the 500m stretch during its construction from 2004 to 2006.

Then a senior arborist (commonly called a "tree doctor") with the National Parks Board, he was in charge of the project and had proposed the suitable plants that could be grown.

Mr Poh, who is now a manager in the board's streetscape division, says: "It gives me pride to see the plants grow. It's like watching your own children grow up."

The father of two children aged 21 and 18 is married to a 49-year-old account executive and the family lives in a five-room flat in Choa Chu Kang.

The landscaping of Singapore has changed over the years, he notes. "When I first started, we planted fast-growing trees such as the angsana and rain tree to provide shade. These days, we grow more varieties of trees to give colour to the roads. We also grow more weather-resistant trees such as the jelutong and tembusu."

Mr Poh joined the then Parks and Recreation Department in 1980 as a horticulture assistant in charge of an area in Pasir Panjang after his O levels.

He would be out in a lorry from 7am to 3pm, Mondays to Fridays and till 1pm on Saturdays supervising workers as they pruned, weeded and added manure to flowering plants and shrubs along roadsides.

As this work was slowly farmed out to contractors, he started to focus, from the late 1980s, on arboriculture, or "tree care". He visually inspected trees for disease and decay.

"Then, we did not have advanced equipment such as a resistograph (a tree decay-detecting device, above), so we had to check for decay by probing holes with a chungkul or a long probe."

In 1995, he was promoted to arboriculture officer and put in charge of inspecting the trees and maintaining the greenery along the roadsides, overhead bridges and flyovers in parts of Jurong.

He worked closely with the Land Transport Authority and other agencies to assess the effects of road widening or excavation on trees.

He says: "We try to save as many trees as possible. For instance, we can transplant young trees to another area. Trees are removed only if there are no other alternatives."

Like the handful of arborists then, most of his knowledge about trees was picked up on the job.

In 2005, however, he joined the first batch of about 100 arborists at National Parks Board to undergo a month-long certification course by the International Society of Arboriculture.

In 2007, he was promoted to be a manager in the streetscape division, and was put in charge of an area of Bukit Batok.

He now takes care of an area in Sembawang and has taken on more responsibilities. These include mentoring his younger colleagues, something which he enjoys. "I also had a mentor when I first joined. It helped me to learn the ropes faster so that I did not feel so lost."

He likes trees that are strong and pleasing to the eye. One of his favourites is the Mesua Ferrea species, which has a conical shape and red-orange young leaves.

"Trees not only give shade, but they also cool the environment and make Singapore less of a concrete jungle. I am happy I can continue to contribute their growth and development here," he says.

Wong Tuan Wah, director of conservation

Once thought to be extinct in mainland Singapore, Oriental pied hornbills, with a wing span of 1m and a distinctive yellow beak and black and white body, can now be seen flying around the island.

One of the key people who brought the majestic birds back to Singapore was Mr Wong Tuan Wah, 56, director of conservation at National Parks Board, a position he has held since 1997.

In 2004, the board granted research permits and gave logistical support to French researcher Marc Cremades and Professor Ng Soon Chye, a naturalist, who were keen to study the ecology and breeding behaviour of a handful of hornbills. The birds had been spotted in Pulau Ubin after more than 150 years.

Mr Wong and his staff from the board became so enthused about this conservation project that in 2008, they partnered the two researchers and Jurong Bird Park to start a hornbill breeding programme in the Istana. As a safe and secure sanctuary, the Istana is often used as a testbed of conservation projects in Singapore.

The programme was so successful that there are now 60 hornbills in Pulau Ubin and about 40 in mainland Singapore.

Ironically, conservation was the last thing on Mr Wong's mind when he took up an honours degree in forestry at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. As an outdoor-loving boy growing up in Penang, Malaysia, he had been inspired to become a park ranger by a character in the cartoon, Yogi Bear.

In 1981, he accepted a job in Singapore as a curator, or what is now called a park manager, at the then Parks and Recreation Department.

Mr Wong, now a Singaporean, says: "My main duty then was to make sure the parks and gardens in the Geylang and Marina areas and the trees in the southern part of Singapore are in good condition and safe for visitors. There was little talk of conservation of our nature areas then."

After obtaining a master's in forestry on a Public Service Commission scholarship from the University of Wales in Britain in 1986, he was promoted to assistant commissioner to take care of the trees, parks and gardens in the western part of Singapore.

In 1996, he was seconded to the Istana Horticulture Section where, as curator, he took care of the greenery there.

A year later, the Istana merged with National Parks Board, which had been formed in 1991 to oversee the country's nature reserves, Singapore Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning Park. Mr Wong became director of Istana and Conservation Management, or what is now known as the Conservation division.

He says: "The new National Parks Board became more people-centric. Besides routine maintenance work, my staff and I also had to look into meeting people's needs and doing more education and outreach activities. Conserving our nature heritage was given more emphasis."

Besides the Istana, he was also in charge of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Pulau Ubin.

One of his most challenging - and successful - conservation projects was Chek Jawa, a haven of rich marine biodiversity at Pulau Ubin's eastern-most point, which had been earmarked for reclamation.

"The U-turn in policy was unprecedented," he says.

He first visited the area in 1997 while investigating a claim by a woman who reported the sighting of a tiger nearby. He and his team failed to find the tiger but the marine biodiversity of Chek Jawa left a deep impression.

When news broke in 2001 that Chek Jawa was slated for reclamation, he and his team worked with scientists, nature lovers and volunteers to review the merits of conserving Chek Jawa and presented their findings to the Government.

The Government eventually put off reclamation, as long as the land is not needed for development.

But conservation at National Parks Board is never just about protecting greenery; it is also about promoting nature to the public. "If people are aware of and appreciate nature, they would want to protect and safeguard it," says Mr Wong.

To "bring people closer to nature", he and his team built boardwalks and lookout towers in places such as Sungei Buloh and Chek Jawa, allowing visitors to tour the habitat in comfort and from better vantage points.

The work to sustain the public's interest in nature heritage is a long-term one, says the father of a 26-year-old daughter. He is married to a retired system analyst, 55.

He and his team are always thinking of new ways to engage the public. For instance, a 24-hour "animal cam" system was installed in April this year at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to capture footage and audio recordings of animals, such as otters and monitor lizards.

Interesting video clips are then uploaded on the board's website.

Having spent all these years doing conservation work, Mr Wong says he no longer bashes through a forest like he did when he was growing up just so he could reach his destination earlier.

"I have learnt to pause and appreciate the journey itself. You never know what you will discover along the way."

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Risking falling trees for roti prata

Choosing to live near tree-lined roads means having to grapple with Falling Tree Anxiety
Chua Mui Hoong Straits Times 4 Aug 13;

Time was when a clump of trees was occasion for wonder and solace. I often choose my abode allowing for proximity to greenery. Better still if it offers a full frontal view of foliage. In my current apartment, I spend many idle moments just gazing into trees.

But lately, as reports of falling trees damaging property and hurting people sprout, I can feel my Falling Tree Anxiety Level rising.

I live in an area surrounded by majestic trees. Sometimes, as I drive down Upper Thomson Road towards Sembawang, I look at the rows of leafy trees with rich canopies and wonder if they belong to the Albizia species, a species known for its lush canopy that can grow to over 40m tall. But as the National Parks Board (NParks) website indicated: "Compared to other tree species, the wood tissues of Albizias are relatively soft, brittle and prone to breakage during storms. They are also known to suffer from pest and disease problems, such as root rot. Hence, Albizias are prone to uprooting, especially during storms."

Albizias are known to fall in calm weather too. Two Sundays ago, one that grew on state land fell onto a Bukit Timah house. Luckily, no one was injured.

Government agencies have been quick to say they've culled 3,000 of the Albizia trees, replacing them with species like the Tembusu and Jelutong, which are hardier.

That got me wondering: Were those trees in my area Albizia? Would I have to risk injury to car, self and passengers, daily?

Not many people share my anxiety about falling trees. I've seen people shift and glance at one another uneasily when I bring up the subject, in the way people do when they're in the presence of odd behaviour.

Maybe I'm a little paranoid. But I do think falling trees must be taken seriously in a city as green and as densely-packed as Singapore.

The scaredy cat that I am - and as a good journalist - I asked NParks about the trees in my neighbourhood and sent them pictures of the said trees to be identified.

It turned out my fears were unfounded. Those trees are not the dreaded Albizia, but are rain trees, which are known to be hardier.

But hang on. Wasn't it a rain tree that fell and killed a young man a few years ago, on a stretch of Yio Chu Kang Road in the vicinity?

I read past news reports from July 2010: Indeed it was a rain tree. But it fell in a storm, not from rot or decay.

This led me to wonder: How robust is Singapore's overall system of managing trees? Will tree rot be discovered and treated? And how unique is Singapore in facing this problem of falling trees?

It turns out falling trees is an issue in many cities. In Hong Kong, an angry reader wrote to the South China Morning Post last March, after a 15m tree fell in Sha Tin, injuring the reader's brother-in-law.

"Immediately after my brother-in-law was hurt, the government, rather than trying to offer our family comfort or timely assistance, tried to shirk its responsibilities. Officials argued over whether the Leisure and Cultural Services Department or the Highways Department should take the blame (for the tree's collapse). The tree in question was suffering from serious internal trunk decay that had infected half of it. This meant it could have collapsed at any moment."

Does Singapore have similar inter-agency problems? After all, tree maintenance comes under different agencies. NParks takes care of 1.4 million trees in parks, road verges and some vacant State land. The Singapore Land Authority maintains trees land under its care, including forested state land. The Ministry of Defence maintains trees in army training areas. Town councils maintain those in common areas of Housing Board estates. NParks arborists and specialists provide advice to the other agencies.

But so far, response to fallen trees has been prompt and agencies have not tried to finger-point.

Next, I started wondering: Does Singapore have a robust tree management programme?

In America, shrinking budgets have hit tree maintenance programmes: "Preventive care of urban trees has been a budget casualty from Philadelphia to Chicago to San Jose," reported the New York Times, which ran a series of articles last year on falling trees. In one, it said the city had about 10 legal suits either settled quietly (with amounts in the millions) or still before the courts.

Does Singapore face similar budget pressures on its tree management programme, I asked NParks. It didn't respond to this question directly, but gave details of its tree management programme by e-mail.

Said NParks' Oh Cheow Sheng, Director (Streetscape): "Mature trees along expressways and major roads are inspected at least once in 12 months, an improvement over once in 18 months previously. Our frequency of tree inspections is in line with the Best Management Practices of the International Society of Arboriculture. In addition, big trees with dense crowns are also given crown reduction to reduce the weight of the crowns and to enhance the trees' stability during rainstorms.

"The trees along Upper Thomson Road are subjected to the same stringent level of care as the ones along all major roads, and are inspected once every year. The intensified regime has shown results: in 2000, there were 3,100 incidents of branch breakage and tree uprooting; this has been brought down to 1,050 in 2012."

Well and good. But with 1.4 million trees, is NParks sufficiently staffed? Its reply: "More than 200 staff are involved in tree management. On average, each staff inspects a few hundred trees every month."

Like human beings with symptoms, trees suspected of being sick are inspected and scanned by something called a Resistograph or a PICUS tomograph "to detect internal cavities or decay".

Piecing things together, I concluded that the risk of falling trees damaging people was not yet at the crisis stage. But even the best maintenance programme can't prevent trees from being uprooted in a storm. And since I chose to live in a tree-lined area, I may just have to live with the risk of falling branches and trees.

I fed all the pros and cons into my cost-benefit machine: My area has many rain trees. But at least they're not storm-vulnerable Albizia.

I came up with this rule of thumb: Driving out for my prata and Ampang yong tau foo should be safe most days. And stormy days too.

Keep my fingers crossed.

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Singapore, polar politics and the melting Arctic

Joseph Chinyong Liow Today Online 2 Aug 13;

Singapore’s recent accession to the Arctic Council as an observer has, understandably, raised eyebrows, given how it is more familiar with monsoons than frost. That said, there is good reason why this city-state at the Equator is casting its eyes so far northwards.

The Republic was one of six countries — the others being China, India, Japan, South Korea and Italy — whose applications for permanent observer status were accepted on May 15, at the annual ministerial meeting in Sweden of the Arctic Council — comprising Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland.

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and melting of the glacial ice has accelerated over the last decade through natural variation, greenhouse gas emissions and other human-induced changes.

According to scientists, the vast majority of ice in the Arctic today is “first-year” ice. The long-term implications of these environmental changes for Singapore, whose highest point is the 163m Bukit Timah Hill, cannot be over-emphasised.


The Arctic has for a long time been somewhat of a backwater in international affairs, and received short shrift on the global agenda. Not so today. Talk of the opening up of the Northeast Passage along the Siberian coast, ironically facilitated by the melting of Arctic ice, has drawn increasing international attention.

Indeed, the 46 transits that took place in 2012 were a noticeable increase from the previous year, and have commonly been cited as a testament to the potential of the North-east Passage. Yet, it also behooves us to be cautious about overplaying the potential for an alternative trade route through the North-east Passage.

The reality is that the 46 transits, while significant, pale in comparison to the 18,000 transits that were made through the Suez Canal over the same period. Furthermore, none of the 46 transits were return journeys and none were container ships.

The potential of a new trading route is not the only draw. According to oft-cited estimates from the US Geological Survey, up to 30 per cent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 per cent of undiscovered oil deposits lie in the Arctic region. Some have taken this to be the gospel truth, while others have disputed these findings.

Nevertheless, if the broadsheets are to be believed, the mere potential of discovery of natural resources has fuelled this metaphorical rush to the Arctic.


The point is that in the context of this increased global interest in the Arctic region, the council is likely to grow in importance in the coming years — hence Singapore’s interest in it. To be sure, although the mandate of the council is more policy-shaping than policy-making, nor is it a treaty-based entity, it nevertheless has a legal framework in place.

This is expressed in the form of the Ilulissat Declaration of May 2008, which adopts UNCLOS as the legal framework for the delimitation of maritime boundaries among the Arctic states.

In the event that greater interest cascades into competition for resources, or if the temptation to challenge hitherto agreed boundaries arises because of that, the existence of this legal framework is reassuring.

In addition, the council also concluded its first legally binding agreement on search and rescue at its May 2011 meeting in Nuuk, Greenland. As it seeks to build greater diplomatic clout, it is coming up against two obstacles that — while still nascent — nevertheless, warrant careful consideration.


First, given that the opening up of a North Sea passage is central to the emerging strategic equation at least of the Asian members, there will undoubtedly be increased scrutiny of Russia’s role. Russia will be keen to demonstrate that it remains a player of consequence in the big league, and Arctic policy allows it to underscore this.

Whether it will play a constructive role, however, remains to be seen. Last year, Moscow introduced legislation that made it compulsory for all traffic plying the North Sea Route to engage Russian ice-breakers. This is all well and good, but for the fact that a large chunk of the Russian diesel ice-breaker fleet is ageing, with many vessels due to be decommissioned over the next few years, while their nuclear powered replacements remain very much still in the pipeline.

In addition to this, Russian port facilities along the Siberian coast will also need improvement, as will navigation and hydrographic support systems. The challenge lies not in Russian engineering and technology, which are undoubtedly competent, but in cumbersome bureaucracy and glacial decision-making.


Second, tensions have crept into the council between some members who favour an inclusive forum and others who have adopted a more exclusivist stance.

While this tension may at present still be nugatory, it is nevertheless discernible. It is premised on the belief, held by some council members, that Arctic states are custodians of the region, and hence are entitled to appropriate the rights of Arctic governance because Arctic issues are of most immediate relevance to them.

This anxiety was profoundly expressed during the deliberations over new observers at the recently concluded Kiruna meeting, when reticence on the part of Russia and Canada suggested their discomfort with expansion of observers, presaging challenges to Arctic unity.

So what can be done? For starters, the structure of the council itself may well require revision. While it has moved to accept new observers, their precise roles remain to be determined. Clearly, the observers have an interest in Arctic affairs, and by virtue of that would want to be involved in deliberations.

Bearing in mind that some older observers such as Poland and France have previously expressed frustration at the lack of opportunity to provide input at the ministerial meetings, the council would do well to quickly identify the mechanisms and vehicles that would facilitate integration of the observers. This also means that the council will have to look at how to bring observers on board the six working groups that currently exist and that, for all intents and purposes, operate in almost autonomous fashion.

These are demanding, but also exciting, times for the council. Arctic issues are today more crucial than ever to human well-being and progress, and hence have come to warrant greater attention globally.

The Arctic Council is the best game in town insofar as the collective management of Arctic resources is concerned. And this is precisely why it needs to establish and maintain a viable regional order in the region: One that can fulfil the Arctic’s growing economic and strategic potential, while at the same time maintain the delicate balance between nature and human progress.


Joseph Chinyong Liow is Professor of Comparative and International Politics and Associate Dean at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University Singapore.

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Malaysia: Johor doing all it can to resolve Rapid woes, says MB

Zazali Musa The Star 4 Aug 13;

PASIR GUDANG: Johor is doing all it can to solve the problems surrounding the multi-billion-ringgit integrated petrochemical complex in Pengerang, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

He said the state government was aware that the project would be delayed due to several outstanding issues.

Among the major causes of the delay were land acquisition, relocation of villagers and objections by residents affected by the project, he said.

Mohamed Khaled said some of the residents who were not satisfied with the land compensation had brought the matter to court and this had further delayed the project.

Speaking to reporters after presenting Hari Raya goodies and duit raya to 144 pupils from seven primary school in the district, he said the state government was aware that Petronas had voiced its concerns about problems besetting the RM60bil Rapid project in Johor’s east coast area.

Petronas had said that the project would be operational by the last quarter of 2017 or early 2018 instead of 2016 as targeted previously.

The national petroleum company cited problems in securing water supply and the state government’s predicament in relocating villages and graves from the 2,000ha site as the causes of the delay.

“We fully understand the problems faced by Petronas but we also have to look at the well-being of the residents affected by the project,” Mohamed Khaled said.

He said the state government had held several meetings with officials from Petronas and had promised to do its best to solve the problem within the time-frame.

“Under the new administration, all new projects must take into account the welfare of the rakyat and at the same time we will continue to remain investor-friendly,” said Mohamed Khaled.

The Rapid project, located at Johor’s south-east area of Pengerang in the Kota Tinggi district, is expected to turn the state into a new regional oil and gas hub.

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Malaysia: Lizard, python found in wildlife raid

New Straits Times 4 Aug 13;

KUCHING: The carcass of a monitor lizard, a live python, a soft-shelled turtle and 5.5kg of python meat were among exotic items seized in an illegal wildlife trade crackdown.

The Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and the police carried out two raids recently in in Serian and Balai Ringin here.

SFC managing director Datuk Ali Yusop said exotic meat was always in demand in the state.

"We want to control this craving for exotic meat, which endangers the population of our totally protected and protected animals.

"These animals are needed to preserve the balance in our ecosystem," said Ali, who is also the state's wildlife controller.

Animals in the state are categorised as totally protected or protected, depending on their numbers in the wild.

Those found guilty of violating the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 face a maximum RM50,000 fine and five years jail.

All seized animals were taken to the Matang Wildlife Centre, where they will be sent for rehabilitation before being released to their habitats.

Ali said: "There are many people who are involved in the wildlife trade.

"We do not condone wildlife violations, and action will be taken against anyone involved in the illegal wildlife trade or who violate the law."

The raid was part of SFC's operations to weed out illegal wildlife trading.

Most of the illegal traders operate from makeshift stalls, which makes it easier for them to flee when raids are conducted.

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Malaysia: Have laws to protect threatened plants, government urged

New Straits Times 3 Aug 13;

THE Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) has urged the government to legislate an act to protect threatened plant species in the country.

Its Forest Biodiversity division director Dr Saw Leng Guan said the government should come up with a legal framework.

"The government and the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry need to revisit the legal framework concerning wild plants and initiate a legal provision pertaining to wild plants conservation to protect the endangered species," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

He said habitat loss was the primary factor endangering the wild plants. These included human activities, such as land-clearing and logging.

"The threatened plants need to be protected in their natural habitats, as opposed to replanting the species elsewhere. The plants are inter-dependant on the ecosystem, environment and other species. We may not be able to save a species by merely plucking them out and replanting it elsewhere."

Saw suggested practising the 'in-situ' (in position) method of having a plant grown in its natural position and habitat.

"Ex-situ (off-site conservation of protecting an endangered species of plant outside its natural habitat) may lead to its extinction."

Saw also stressed on the need for a conservation programme in collaboration with the ministry to share information on the affected species.

"There must be a mechanism with the government on how to deal with threatened plants in a comprehensive manner," he said, adding that an adequate monitoring system was required to identify the threatened species and their habitats.

230 plant species face extinction
Tharanya Arumugam New Straits Times 3 Aug 13;

RED LIST: Initiatives must be taken to prevent this, says institute

KUALA LUMPUR: NO fewer than 230 plant species are on the verge of extinction in Peninsular Malaysia.

This is the sobering figure provided by the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) based on its latest 'Malaysia Plant Red List' research.

FRIM Forest Biodiversity division director Dr Saw Leng Guan, who is behind the list, to date had identified over 8,300 plant species in the peninsula, out of more than 20,000 species in the country.

Saw pointed out that of the 8,300 species, 975 plants were selected for conservation status assessment last year, out of which, 411 plants (42.2 per cent) were classified under the "threatened category".

Based on the assessment, 97 species (10 per cent) were listed as "critically endangered", of which 33 of them were plants threatened with extinction; while 133 (13.6 per cent) were classified as "endangered", 148 (15.2 per cent) as "vulnerable" and 29 (three per cent) as "rare".

Among the critically endangered species are the Dipterocarpus coriaceus (keruing paya), Dipterocarpus semivestitus (keruing padi), Parashorea globosa (meranti pasir daun besar), Hopea bilitonesis and Vatica flavida (resak padi), all of which can be only found in Perak.

The Dipterocarpus sarawakensis (keruing layang) are found in Terengganu, Hopea subalata (merawan kanching) in Selangor, and Hopea auriculata in Johor, Pahang and Perak.

Meanwhile, 182 (18.7 per cent) of the species were classified as "near threatened", 327 (33.5 per cent) were labelled as "least concern" and 55 (5.6 per cent) were listed as "data deficient" (insufficient information for a proper assessment of conservation status to be made).

"The percentage of species in each of the conservation status category has been consistent for almost two decades now," Saw said, adding that initiatives must be taken to prevent the critically endangered species from extinction.

To date, four plant species have been officially declared as extinct in Malaysia. They are the the Oreogrammitis crispatula Parris and Oreogrammitis kunstleri Parris from the Grammitidaceae family, the Begonia eiromischa (woolly-stalked Begonia) from the Begoniaceae family and the Shorea kuantanensis, endemic to Malaysia from the Dipterocarpaceae family.

The four species were officially declared extinct in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List 2010.

'Set up body for endangered flora'
Tharanya Arumugam New Straits Times 4 Aug 13;

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Malaysian Nature Society alarmed at number of plant species on verge of extinction

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Malaysian Nature Society has called for the setting up of a national coalition to conserve endangered plant species and their habitats.

"We need a professional coordinating body, whereby if there is a possibility of species becoming extinct in an area, proposed development on the land should be halted until the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) conducts studies on the species.

"If development is deemed unavoidable, the endangered plant should be transferred to another location similar to its natural habitat," said MNS president Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed.

He suggested the National Resources and Environment Ministry (NRE) set up a secretariat or council overseeing all flora and fauna species facing extinction.

While he lauded FRIM's suggestion for an act to protect threatened plant species, he said this would take time to be formulated.

"The government should initiate the creation of the Endangered Flora and Fauna Council first and the law can be promulgated at the same time," he told the New Sunday Times.

He said the council's role would be to ensure a complete inventory of all endangered species, carry out studies and research, and acquire land for conserving the species.

He said state governments should also be more committed to protecting endangered plant species, especially plants that grow on land earmarked for development.

"Human-induced activities are the primary reason behind the worrying number of threatened species in the country," he added.

The New Straits Times had on Saturday reported that 230 plant species were at risk of extinction, according to a study undertaken by FRIM to examine the state of flora in the peninsula.

Of the 975 plant species randomly selected for FRIM's red list conservation status assessment, 42.2 per cent (411) were deemed threatened with extinction.

The study revealed that 23.6 per cent of species were on the verge on extinction, while 15.2 per cent are vulnerable and three per cent were rare species found in Malaysia.

Many more plants were classified as near threatened (182 species, 18.7 per cent).

"Species' habitats are rapidly disappearing because of agriculture activities, unplanned development, and other human activities.

"The State governments should play an active role in conserving the habitat of these endangered species."

He said the main stumbling block to the endangered tree species' conservation was the state governments' reluctance and smugness.

Citing the example of the keruing paya tree in Perak, he said the state should have made a collaborative decision on de-gazetting Bikam forest with the NRE, the Forestry Department, FRIM, and the Wildlife Department (Perhilitan).

"But, instead, the state made use of the Federal Constitution, which gives it absolute power over land, forests and water matters and ignored collaboration with departments."

"Perhaps the government should look into amending this provision in the constitution."

He also pointed out that besides climate change, extinction might occur naturally without human interference.

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Thailand: Rayong seafood industry reels from oil spill crisis

Bangkok Post 3 Aug 13;

RAYONG : Demand for seafood has plunged on the back of last week's oil spill, while local fisherman fear the disaster's long-term environmental impacts could devastate their industry.

Werasak Dolnarong, a member of Rayong's local fishermen network, said fishing incomes had fallen since the leak took place last Saturday. He said there had been a sharp drop in seafood consumption in the province.

However, he noted this was only a short-term effect of the spill.

Mr Werasak said he was more concerned about the long-term consequences of the oil slick on marine ecology and fishing stocks.

Authorities were warning the slick would soon hit Mr Werasak's home town of Ban Pe in Rayong's Muang district.

As of press time yesterday, however, the toxic black sludge had yet to arrive.

"So far, there is no clear study on the damage to marine ecology and how long it will take to recover," Mr Werasak said.

"If recovery takes a long time, or if the damage is irreversible, fishermen will be the hardest-hit group."

A seafood merchant at Suan Son beach, also in tambon Ban Pe, said seafood prices had dropped sharply since the oil leak, as news about crude oil contamination had driven away tourists and seafood buyers.

The vendor said her income had halved since the spill.

The Fishery Department has assured consumers that Rayong seafood is safe as the oil slick affected only a limited area.

The department said the slick had affected about 100 sq km of the fishery zone.

Five of the department's artificial coral reef sites, covering about 15 sq km, were also damaged.

An initial survey conducted by the department found 534 local fishermen were hit by the spill and the subsequent drop in seafood prices.

These fishermen usually earned 1,200-1,500 baht per day.

Fishery officials have been keeping a close watch on possible damage to 45 fish and shellfish farms in Ao Pe, Ban Pak Klong Kreng and Pak Klong Lawon.

Ratana Munprasit, director of the Centre for Fishery Research and Development in the Eastern Gulf of Thailand, said there had been no reports of oil contamination of marine animals in areas other than Koh Samet's Ao Phrao, where a large quantity of oil washed up on Sunday.

She added the department had collected sea water and marine animal samples on Koh Samet every day since the spill and had so far found no toxic contamination.

Fishery Department chief Wimol Jantrarotai on Thursday said the long-term impact of the oil slick on marine ecology must be closely monitored.

"We can't tell yet what will happen [to marine life] in the long run," he said. He admitted the use of dispersant chemicals could be harmful to marine life.

Scientists have warned the dispersants can become more toxic when mixed with oil.

Rayong governor Wichit Chartprasit said the province had set up a centre to hear complaints from people effected by the oil spill. About 200 people - 90% of them fishermen - had registered with the centre so far, he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources yesterday said a preliminary study on marine ecological damage would be completed next week.

Pinsak Suraswadi, a member of the department's special taskforce dealing with the spill, said the study would focus on coral reef sites at Ao Phrao.

"There is no scientific method to repair damaged coral reef. Only nature and time can heal them, but this means human activities must be minimised," he said.

He could not tell how long Ao Phrao would need to close for to allow the marine ecology to rehabilitate, as that would depend on the severity of the damage.

Thai oil spill to enter food chain in '3 months'
Pongphon Sarnsamak ,The Nation/Asia News Network China Post 4 Aug 13;

Thailand's state health agency has said it will study the impact of the oil spill on marine life around Koh Samet's Ao Phrao in Rayong province, saying toxic substances from the crude oil may enter the food chain in the next three months.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has also set up a committee to monitor the environmental impacts of the spill.

“Chaired by the ministry's permanent secretary Chote Trachu, the committee comprises representatives from other relevant agencies such as the Pollution Control Department and the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning. Also on the panel are academics from many universities,” Marine and Coastal Resources Department director-general Noppon Srisuk said Friday.

His department has been given the job of assessing the leak's impact on coral reefs and sea grass around Koh Samet. The assignment also covers efforts to determine why marine life was found beached and dead in the area.

PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC), the company behind the spill, will kick off another cleaning session on Monday and is calling for volunteers.

Meanwhile, Disease Control Department director-general Dr. Pornthep Siriwanarangsun will collect random samples of seafood around the affected areas to see if it is safe for consumption.

“It is too early to say the marine aquatic animals living around the affected areas have been tainted with hazardous substances such as lead, cadmium or nickel.

“It will take at least three months for marine life, such as plankton — the main food for many aquatic animals — to be contaminated,” he said.

He also suggested that people cook seafood longer and at high temperatures to reduce any toxicity. Hazardous substances from the crude oil can have short-term health impacts such as dizziness and depression as well as longer-term problems such as effects on both red and white blood cells, Pornthep said.

Since the Ao Phrao beach clean-up began on Monday, the department reported that up to 70 workers had developed symptoms such as nausea and dizziness and had to be taken to hospital in Map Ta Phut. Officials have advised people participating in the clean-up not to spend more than eight hours at the affected site.

Close Eye on Health Impacts

To monitor the impact the spilled oil is having on the cleaning team, officials have collected urine samples from some 1,275 people at the site.

The results should be released next week.

After five days since the crude oil washed up on the shores of Ao Phrao, sand that was completely black is now looking cleaner and is expected to return to its normal condition in the near future.

Meanwhile, more than 200 big bags containing oil-tainted sand were taken to the Siam City Cement factory for disposal.

Separately, Sumet Saithong, chief of the Khao Laem Ya-Koh Samet Marine National Park, said his team had surveyed up to 70 percent of the coral reef in the area as of Thursday. The survey will be analyzed by experts to see exactly what happened under the sea in the affected site and nearby areas.

PTTGC President Bowon Vongsinudom said Ao Phrao beach should be cleaned up by next week.

He added that all waste should be shipped out of the island by today under the watchful eye of the Pollution Control Department.

He also said the thin film of oil on the surface should naturally dissolve over time.

Government agencies will inspect the area once the cleanup is complete. Bowon said the company was in the process of drafting a rehabilitation plan, which requires the Rayong provincial authorities' approval.

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Indonesia: Little Cause for Celebration on Tiger Day

Jakarta Globe 3 Aug 13;

Wildlife conservation activists in Indonesia marked a somber Global Tiger Day earlier this week with dire warnings about the relentless destruction of the last remaining forests that are home to the critically endangered Sumatran tiger and the growing online trade in tiger parts.

In a press release to mark Global Tiger Day, which fell on Monday, the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Indonesian office said that a combination of external factors was driving the apex predator to the inevitable brink of extinction.

Among these is the worst rate of habitat destruction experienced by any of the six extant tiger species worldwide.

“Every year the island of Sumatra loses more than 500,000 hectares of forest to make way for agricultural land,” WWF said, noting that this represented a loss of nearly 6 percent a year.

The organization said the massive forest fires that raged throughout much of Riau province in June and made international headlines for the record-breaking haze they caused in Singapore and Malaysia had also destroyed vast swaths of tiger habitat.

“Forty-two percent of the fire hot spots in Riau were inside primary forests that are tiger habitats,” it said.

Besides the loss of habitat, another major threat to the continued survival of the species is poaching, with various parts of the animal in high demand in East Asia for use in traditional medicine.

WWF Indonesia cited 2008 data from the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as saying that of the estimated 51 Sumatran tigers killed each year, three-quarters were victims of the illegal wildlife trade.

Anwar Purwoto, WWF Indonesia’s program director for forest and freshwater species, said Indonesia was obliged under its commitment as a tiger range country to double the number of Sumatran tigers in the wild by 2022 from 2010 levels, but warned that it was not acting fast enough.

There are an estimated 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

“Time is ticking away. We’re already a quarter of the way toward the deadline. The government must speed up the implementation of its strategy to save the Sumatran tiger population so that it can meet the target,” Anwar said.

WWF Indonesia said it was working closely with the government and private organizations to manage key tiger habitats, including through patrols, setting up guard posts and camera traps, and establishing field stations for research, conservation and education purposes.

Sunarto, WWF Indonesia’s elephant and tiger conservation coordinator, said there were not enough forest rangers patrolling the tiger habitats against poachers and the illegal loggers destroying their habitats.

He added that WWF Indonesia had consistently urged the Forestry Ministry to get people living in or near the forests involved in sustainable forest management, which would both empower local communities and help protect tiger habitats and populations.

While the threat posed by poachers is not a new phenomenon, activists have sounded the alarm on a relatively recent medium that has boosted demand for tiger parts: online trading.

Iding Haidir, secretary of the Harimau Kita (Our Tigers) forum in Jambi, said buyers from all over the world now had access to Sumatran tiger parts as a result of the flourishing online trade.

“Often the parts are disguised as antique objects or parts from species that aren’t endangered,” he said as quoted by, adding that many popular Indonesian e-commerce websites were known to tolerate or overlook users buying and selling protected wildlife.

Iding said that in 2011 and 2012, wildlife authorities seized from online traders tiger pelts, claws, teeth, whiskers and even whole stuffed animals believed to have come from at least 22 poached tigers.

He said the advent of e-commerce had allowed transnational syndicates to spring up, collecting tiger parts from poachers all over Sumatra and selling them to buyers in Indonesia and abroad.

“There needs to be more seriousness and cooperation between countries [to address the problem], because the illegal wildlife trade is no longer just between towns or provinces. It’s international,” Iding said.

He added that Harimau Kita was working with the popular online forum Kaskus and e-commerce site to crack down on users trading in tiger parts.

Siska Handayani, the North Sumatra and Aceh coordinator of the organization Tiger Heart, agreed that the Internet had allowed the illegal wildlife trade to reach unprecedented levels.

“The seller and buyer can carry out a transaction in an instant and the goods are sent by courier, without either of them ever meeting in person,” she said in Medan as quoted by

“Almost every part of the tiger’s body is a sought-after item on the black market, which is why the number being poached continues to increase.”

Agus S.B. Sutito, the head of the Forestry Ministry’s sub-directorate of species conservation, acknowledged that the Sumatran tiger faced threats to its survival on several fronts.

He said the ministry had estimated the financial cost to the country from the illegal trade in all wild animal species at Rp 9 trillion ($875 million) a year.

Prowling Tiger Puts Villagers on High Alert Amid Increasing Attacks in Sumatra
Jakarta Globe 3 Aug 13;

Villagers in Seluma district, Bengkulu province, have called on forest rangers to take urgent measures to protect them from a tiger that has reportedly been prowling the area since last Sunday.

Anwar T., a community leader in the village of Puguk, said as quoted by that residents had been living in fear since the animal was first spotted.

He said that after the sighting, in which the tiger remained in the area for eight hours before disappearing into the forest again, eight families living on the periphery of the village had fled their homes for safer areas.

“We held a discussion with all the villagers and we agreed that those living in that particular area should leave in order to avoid having anyone fall victim [to the tiger],” Anwar said.

“The tiger has been prowling around people’s homes and making everyone scared. No one dares go outside their house now,” he added.

Anwar said the villagers had immediately notified the police and the Bengkulu Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) after the first sighting, but there had been no satisfactory response from either side.

“No officials have gone down to the location in question, and meanwhile everyone’s getting more and more anxious,” he said.

He claimed that the police appeared reluctant to go to the location because it was also the site of known illegal logging activities that they had long chosen to overlook.

Jaja Mulyana, a BKSDA official, said his office had already sent three rangers to survey the location but had found no indication that the lone tiger posed an immediate threat to the villagers.

“The information that we received from the team that we sent was that there are indeed tiger tracks in that area, but otherwise the situation appears to be safe,” he said.

The official said the rangers had concluded that the tiger was probably only passing through in search of food, but promised that the BKSDA would continue monitoring the case.

Reports of tigers encroaching into human habitations and attacking people are increasing throughout Sumatra as large swaths of their natural forest habitats are cleared to make way for palm oil and pulp and paper concessions.

In North Sumatra’s Mandailing Natal district, tigers prowling near a village have killed two people and injured one since March. Villagers reported that at least two of the critically endangered animals were lurking in the area.

Last month, a group of four tigers in Aceh’s Gunung Leuser National Park killed and ate a villager and chased his five friends up a tree where they remained for three days while waiting for help.

Police said the attack occurred after the men caught and killed a tiger cub in a snare. Nearby tigers drawn to the scene of the injured cub pounced on the men, killing one of them.

Sumatran tigers are one of the smallest and most endangered of the six extant tiger species in the world, and are believed to number around 400 in the wild. The Gunung Leuser ecosystem is believed to be one of their last major strongholds, with a population of around 100 tigers.

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Indonesia: Activists will return awards to protest Sumatra deforestation

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post 3 Aug 13;

Three environmentalists in North Sumatra are going to give up their awards in protest against the national government, which they claim has persistently neglected widespread illegal logging that is causing severe damage to the environment around Lake Toba.

They plan to return a number of awards they received from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as a show of their disappointment toward the government, which they allege does not care about environmental degradation around the lake.

The environmentalists planning to return the awards are Marandus Sirait, recipient of the 2005 Kalpataru Award in the environmental pioneer category; Hasoloan Manik, recipient of the 2010 Kalpataru Award in the environmental savior category; and Wilmar E. Simanjorang, recipient of the Wana Lestari prize and the 2011 Lake Toba Award.

They also went to the North Sumatra gubernatorial office in Medan on Friday and surrendered a number of certificates of appreciation they had received from the provincial administration to provincial secretary Nurdin Lubis.

The environmentalists said they would directly hand over their Kalpataru and Wana Lestari awards — which they had been given by the Office of the State Minister of the Environment — in Jakarta after the Idul Fitri holiday.

“We do this as a symbol of our disappointment in the government, which has failed to take action against rampant deforestation in Lake Toba,” Marandus said, after handing over several certificates of appreciation to the provincial administration at the gubernatorial office.

Marandus said the number of awards they received would not mean anything if the government overlooked the issue. According to him, the forests around Lake Toba were currently in critical condition, as they had been further plundered by irresponsible parties.

“We’d rather not get the awards, if it means the Lake Toba area remains intact,” said Marandus.

Wilmar said deforestation around Lake Toba was now rampant, and thus causing anxiety among local residents. He added that if deforestation continued unchecked, disasters, such as flash floods and drought, would be imminent.

“If deforestation continues, the Tele region will become a desert. Rivers flowing into Lake Toba would also further deplete as water sources vanish,” said Wilmar, former acting Samosir regent.

According to Wilmar, they have repeatedly complained about deforestation to the provincial administration, central government and law enforcers, but to no avail, as illegal logging around the Lake Toba area continues.

“There seems to be a conspiracy behind this,” Wilmar asserted.

Provincial secretary Nurdin Lubis said the provincial administration would follow up with the concern expressed by the environmentalists by coordinating with a number of regencies and mayoralties and take the necessary steps against the widespread forest conversion occurring in the Lake Toba area.

“The Lake Toba area encompasses seven regencies and mayoralties. That’s why we will coordinate with them in the near future to overcome the issue,” said Nurdin.

Lake Toba is the world’s largest volcanic lake, covering 1,707 square kilometers. It was formed about 70,000 years ago after a massive volcanic eruption.

With a depth of about 450 meters, it is one of the earth’s deepest lakes. Samosir Island, considered sacred by locals, lies in the middle of the lake and has more than 100,000 inhabitants,

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