Best of our wild blogs: 1 Sep 13

Tweets from the Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat Workshop from Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat and The people that you meet – at the Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat Workshop!

Reefy splendor of Northern Semakau
from wonderful creation

Life History of the White Palm Bob
from Butterflies of Singapore

Evening Walk At The Singapore Botanic Garden (30 Aug 2013)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Insects in the bird garden: 1. Butterflies and mistletoes
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Singaporeans unfazed by Bidadari's past

Most feel that planned HDB estate, which was formerly a cemetery, should retain its name
Rachel Tan Straits Times 1 Sep 13;

Would you be comfortable living on top of someone's final resting place?

Once the largest grave site in Singapore, the 18ha Bidadari Cemetery is making way for a new Housing Board town and private estates.

However, many young Singaporeans are not aware of its history.

From a group of around 20 people in their 20s and 30s that The Sunday Times spoke to, only half knew it was a burial ground.

Asked if she knew what Bidadari used to be, 22-year-old Melissa Lim gave a typical response for her age group: "Nope. Oh dear, I think my local geography is really bad."

The Sunday Times also quizzed the online community on what they thought of the new developments and if the estate's name should be changed.

Of those who did know its past, most felt its name should be retained and honoured.

"It's our history, our heritage," 37-year-old property agent Irene Gilene Goh wrote on Facebook. "Locals will still know it's Bidadari, even if the name is changed.

Another Facebook user, Mr Joey Neo, posted: "I have been living in this neighbourhood for 30 years. It's more peaceful than a non-cemetery estate.

"Almost everywhere in Singapore had graves you may not know about which have already been replaced by new estates."

Mr Gan Ying Kiat, 30, was looking to move to the Bidadari area with his wife. "I'm not bothered by its cemetery history," he said. "I'm aware that other housing areas like Bishan were also cemeteries.

"We were keen on the proximity to the city and its potential for capital appreciation."

Bidadari - meaning "angel" or "fairy" in Malay - had sections for Muslims, Hindus, Singhalese and Christians but burials ended there in 1972.

Towns such as Bishan, Toa Payoh and parts of Bukit Timah were also cemeteries.

"The name (Bidadari) is already distinctive to many people and hence easily recognisable for its locality," said Mr Siyang Teo, 30, a public servant and nature lover who frequents the area.

When developments are complete, Bidadari will have a park one-tenth of its size and a cycling path to serve 11,000 new flats.

Some locals are worried that the natural beauty of Bidadari will be destroyed. Its parks are home to rare animals such as the variable squirrel.

Others, like 32-year-old graduate Carolyn Lek, are resigned to losing green space. "Singapore's short of land, so I guess eventually nearly everything will be developed," she said.

Businesswoman Eunice Tan believes it will take a lot of incentives to entice people to live on a former graveyard.

The 60-year-old said: "Frankly, I wouldn't like to live on such burial grounds unless the prices and amenities are extremely attractive, especially for first-time buyers."

She even proposed alternative names for the new development - including "Happy Estate" and "Sunshine Estate".

Ms Sitifazilah Perey had similar sentiments. She wrote on Facebook: "Since there are a significant number of superstitious Singaporeans, it is better to change the name."

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NParks does a count... strictly for the birds

Volunteers check on egrets, herons to track health of habitats
Grace Chua Straits Times 1 Sep 13;

Some 185 volunteers swept out across Singapore yesterday morning, craning their necks for glimpses of egrets and herons, in the most comprehensive islandwide count of the birds here to date.

These long-necked, broad-winged birds can often be spotted pecking around in canals or flying overhead.

The National Parks Board (NParks) carried out Singapore's first heron count in a decade in an effort to get the public involved in monitoring nature's health here.

It roped in volunteer coordinator Wang Luan Keng, who has run similar surveys before.

Ms Wang, a trained ornithologist who runs nature education workshops, first started keeping tabs on the big birds in 2003 with the Nature Society, but the project fizzled out after a year.

At the time, she said, anecdotal sightings of birds and nests were in decline, and the situation today could be the same.

Herons are big and easy for beginners to identify. As winged predators that feed on fish, they are also good indicators of whether wetlands are healthy, she said.

Singapore has eight relatively common species, from the small squat Striated Heron to the kink-necked, yellow-beaked Cattle Egret.

Ms Wang added: "Nesting herons are sensitive to disturbance such as construction, fogging and any kind of habitat modifications.

"Constant harassing from fishermen, boats and sometimes photographers does not help. So there are fewer nesting colonies now."

It is not clear whether the perceived decline is due to habitat disturbance, or something in the water ruining their diet, she said. "We know too little about their ecology to make any conclusions."

The data from yesterday's count will tell NParks how big the populations are and where the different species live.

The survey will be repeated every few years to show how these patterns change over time.

Numbers from the count varied sharply.

Volunteer Kelvin Lee said he had "no luck" at Holland Woods along Clementi Road.

At Chek Jawa wetlands, there were just two herons, while at Sengkang Riverside Park, volunteers counted more than 200 - a surprise considering the amount of development in the area.

Ms Wang said: "With more watchful eyes, perhaps we will be able to locate more nesting colonies and hopefully provide some protection of the colonies before they are disturbed or destroyed."

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Malaysia: A million in Klang Valley to go without water - maybe for days

Sira Habibu and K. Ruban The Star 31 Aug 13;

PETALING JAYA: Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) has activated its emergency response plan to Code Red following the closure of four treatment plants caused by diesel spillage 10km away from the intake area.

Over one million consumers in seven districts will be affected by water disruption due to the closure of the Sungai Selangor Phase 1, 2 and 3 and Rantau Panjang treatment plants to facilitate clean-up works.

The current treated water reserve at the four plants can only last for a day.

The four plants produce 2.67 billion litres of water daily, catering to 57% of water demand in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Districts affected are Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, Klang/Shah Alam, Gombak, Hulu Selangor, Kuala Langat and Kuala Selangor.

Syabas is appealing to consumers to prudently use water from the existing storage, as the duration of disruption could not be ascertained as yet.

Corporate Communication and Public Affairs department deputy general manager Priscilla Alfred said the Code Red was activated at 4pm yesterday and staff were put on standby.

Code Red is activated when a situation is most severe and affects more than a million consumers.

“LUAS (Lembaga Urus Air Selangor) has initiated a cleaning up exercise,” she said.

It is also seeking help from the Government to help transport water supply to affected consumers, as its facilities are not designed to cater to such a massive water disruption.

Syabas could only provide 42 mobile water tankers and 525 static tankers to assist those affected.

The operators of the affected plants discovered the diesel spillage from a factory nearby at 8am yesterday, and immediately stopped operations.

Selangor state secretary Datuk Mohd Khusrin Munawi, who heads the state water monitoring committee, hoped that the clean-up operations could be completed within 12 hours.

He said the factory located up­st­ream from Sungai Selangor Phase 2, near Rawang, had been ordered to cease operations immediately.

He said the two to three days to get the plants functioning was necessary as they needed to be cleaned as well.

“If works to clean up the river cannot be done by tonight, the situation is only going to get worse,” he said yesterday.

Prolonged closure of the treatment plants would result in low water pressure in the seven affected districts.

With high demand and treated water reserve capacity at around 1%, Syabas warned that recovery period would take a long time – even after the four water treatment plants resumed operations.

Syabas said it would keep consumers updated on the situation periodically.

Water cut: All four water treatment plants back in operation, supply back in 40% of affected areas but low pressure, says Syabas
Joseph Loh The Star 31 Aug 13;

PETALING JAYA: All four treatment plants which had to be shut down on Friday due to oil contamination in Sungai Selangor have resumed operations, and water distribution has begun at affected areas.

In a statement, Syabas said operations resumed at its plants at about 3am Saturday, and water distribution started at 6am.

"As at 10am, some affected areas have been receiving limited supply but at low water pressures.

"The number of affected accounts are down to 880,000, which comprise 60% of the households in Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, Klang/Shah Alam, Gombak, Kuala Selangor and Hulu Selangor," it said, adding that supply in the Kuala Langat district was back to normal.

"Syabas expects its supply of water to affected areas to reach 80% capacity in three days, and normal supply within one week," it said.

The statement also said it was mobilising all its resources to provide water to users, with 46 water trucks sent and 20 static tanks placed in affected areas, with another 506 static tanks on standby.

It also said Syabas was receiving aid from other states in the form of 14 water trucks - six from Johor, six from Perak and four from Negri Sembilan.

The statement also said Syabas would not be able ensure adequate supply for all users.

"However, water relief efforts will be concentrated on critical needs such as in hospitals, dialysis centres and mosques.
"Users are advised to be patient and use water sparingly for essential needs only," it said.

Treatment plants back in operation
The Star 1 Sep 13;

PETALING JAYA: All four water treatment plants shut down because of oil contamination of Sungai Selangor have resumed operations but more than three million people in the Klang Valley will continue to suffer supply disruptions for up to seven days.

Water concessionaire Syabas said the Sungai Selangor Phase 1, 2 and 3 and Rantau Panjang treatment plants resumed operating at 3am yesterday, but normal supply in all affected areas would take a week to be fully restored.

Syabas corporate communication and public affairs department deputy general manager Priscilla Alfred told The Star: “The water supply is back to normal in Kuala Langat and is slowly being restored in parts of Hulu Selangor, Gombak, Klang, Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur as of 5pm today (yesterday).

“We expect to see good progress in the next three days but full recovery will be gradual and will take seven days from now.”

The plants which draw water from Sungai Selangor were shut down on Friday morning after diesel from a factory in upstream Rawang spilled into the river’s tributary.

They produce 2.67 billion litres of water daily, catering to 57% of the demand in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Alfred said that about 880,000 domestic accounts – each of which represent four to five people – are affected by the disruptions.

The consumers hit by the disruptions comprise 60% of the total population of Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam as well as the districts of Hulu Selangor, Kuala Selangor, Gombak, Klang, and Petaling.

Syabas activated its top emergency response plan Code Red following the oil spill.

Code Red is activated when disruptions affect more than one million consumers.

A Code Yellow is for disruptions affecting only one district while Code Green is activated when the consumers affected number about 50,000 or less.

Syabas in an earlier statement yesterday said it had despatched 46 water tankers and 20 static tanks to the affected areas with 505 additional static tanks on standby.

Water concessionaires in Johor, Negri Sembilan and Perak have sent 14 water tankers for use by Syabas, but the company said these were still not enough to meet demand.

“Efforts to provide relief water supplies will need to focus on premises such as hospitals and dialysis centres, so we urge other affected consumers to be patient,” Syabas said.

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Malaysia: Killing birds for that perfect shot

Chuah Bee Kim New Straits Times 1 Sep 13;

CRUEL PRACTICES: Photographers criticised for using inhumane methods to take pictures of birds, insects for competition

JOHOR BARU: THE aim was to capture the beauty of nature but a state-level photography competition revealed the ugly side of human nature instead.

Photographic Society of Johor president Tang King Huat was appalled and dismayed over the inhumane methods used by contestants to get their shots.

"Most of the contestants chose birds and insects as their subjects.

"However, I was saddened when I saw that some subjects were dead," said the 64-year-old. The entries were disqualified.

Tang said some contestants had bragged about what they did.

"Some people saw a contestant remove a bird's nest from a tree. After a group of photographers took shots of the hatchlings, the group just walked away. The hatchlings died of starvation because their mother couldn't find the nest. When we questioned the photographer, he said the nest had fallen from the tree."

Tang said there were cases of photographers who resorted to gluing the feet of the birds to prevent them from flying away.

"When they are done, they would just leave the birds there. These photographers would brag about what they did and as a result, other photo enthusiasts assumed that this was the way to capture pictures of insects and birds.

"This is not what nature photography is about. It calls for an endless supply of patience on the photographer's part and some knowledge of the subject's habits.

"One needs to know what time the particular species come out in search of food, and their sensitivity to sunlight and flashlight.

"Nature photography is about appreciating the beauty of wildlife, not killing them to get that perfect shot."

Another common form of cruelty is pinning a butterfly to a wall or keeping the captured insect in a freezer, he said.

Johor Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) chairman Vincent Chow, 67, said as the first prize for photography contests could be as high as RM10,000, people were willing to do anything to win.

Chow said bad practices were also evident outside of competitions. Citing an example, Chow said the kingfisher was once commonly sighted in the Panti Bird Sanctuary in the Gunung Panti Rainforest in Kota Tinggi.

"Four years ago, you could spot many of them. Today, one can only spot two such bird species. Groups of photographers flock there with their bulky lenses and strong flashlights and as such, the mother birds did not come back to feed their offspring. The chicks died of starvation.

"We need efficient park wardens to carry out enforcement. On this, I would like to urge the State Wildlife Department to work with nature-based non-governmental organisations in a concerted effort to guard the parks and ensure the environment and its inhabitants are not abused."

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Malaysia: Demand for rare orchids blooming into thefts in parks

New Straits Times 1 Sep 13;

JOHOR BARU: Buyers pay as much as US$10,000 (RM33,000) for a rare slipper orchid in national parks here for tissue culturing.

Johor Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) chairman Vincent Chow urged the authorities to beef up enforcement to prevent the depletion of orchid species.

Tissue culture involves exposing plant tissue to a specific regimen of nutrients, hormones, and light under sterile, in vitro conditions to produce various hybrids, each a clone of the original mother plant, over a short period of time.

However, to produce the hybrids, one needs to get the mother plant.

Chow said this in conjunction with the upcoming launch of his 152-page book called A Photographic Tribute To The Wild Orchids of Johor National Parks today.

The book, published by MPH, is a collaboration between Chow and the Johor National Parks.

Chow, who is born and bred in Kluang, was trained as a teacher of Agriculture Science at the Maktab Perguruan Temenggong Ibrahim in 1967 to 1968. He received his Bachelor of Agriculture Science with Honours and Master of Science in Horticulture from the Louisiana State University in the United States. He is a fauna and flora specialist consultant registered with the Department of Environment.

He published his first book, Echoes of Life: Sungai Pulai and Beyond, in 2006.

A Photographic Tribute To The Wild Orchids of Johor National Parks is his fourth book, and first collaboration with the the Johor National Parks.

He is working on two other books: one on the freshwater fishes in the national parks in Johor and a second volume on blooms of national parks.

"Trekkers may pass by a rare orchid and not even realise it. The worst thing is to step on a rare species and not even know it.

"Another thing I would like to emphasise is the lack of education on local animal species and plant species."

Johor is the leading state in the cultivation of cut flowers of hybrid orchids.

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Indonesia: Forest fires return in Riau province

Antara 31 Aug 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Following a prolonged rainy season, Indonesia is currently experiencing a very dry period that has again triggered forest and plantation fires in Riau Province.

The fires, set to clear land for farming and plantation areas, have produced haze that enveloped several cities in the province, particularly in Pekanbaru and Palawawan District.

The Terra and Aqua satellite detected 297 hotspots from forest fires throughout the Riau Province, according to the Pekanbaru meteorological, climatology, and geophysics station (BMKG).

"In Sumatra, the highest number of hotspots is still in Riau, with 297 of them, a significant increase from the 37 hotspots seen the previous day," Tri Puryanti, an analyst with the Pekanbaru BMKG, said on August 27, 2013.

Just in Pelalawan District more than 100 hotspots have been sited, and others were found in the Indragiri Hulu District, Indragiri Hilir, and Kampar, Puryanti noted.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), quoting NOAA 18 Satellite data, announced that 264 hotspots were observed in Riau`s 10 districts and cities early this week.

Officials reported that Pelalawan District has 76 hotspots, while Indragiri Hulu has 42; Rokan Hilir, 34; Indragiri Hilir, 29; Kampar, 26; Bengkalis, 20; Siak, 11; Rokan Hulu, 8; and Dumai City, 4.

BNPB pointed out that other provinces on Sumatra Island also have hotspots. The NOAA 18 satellite has detected 100 hotspots in West Sumatra, while Jambi has 57; South Sumatra has 31; Bengkulu, 15; and North Sumatra, 12.

The fastest and cheapest way to clear new land for planting crops is by burning; however, this practice has been banned by the government.

As usual, thick haze coming from land-clearance fires often degrade air quality, trigger certain diseases, and reduces visibility in affected areas, resulting in, among other things, temporary closures of some schools and delays in flight schedules.

Earlier, only one state Islamic Junior High School (MTsN) in Pekanbaru was forced to send home its students on August 27 as a result of the haze covering the city from forest and plantation fires.

"We decided to send the students home because the conditions created by the haze were quite worrying," Sofyan, a teacher at MTsN Andalan, said.

Initially, the students had come for classes in the morning, but as the day progressed the smoke entered the classrooms and most students complained of eye irritation and respiratory problems, he stated.

After receiving permission from the city`s religious affairs office, the school discontinued teaching and sent the approximately 600 students home.

Two days later, on Aug 29, the Pekanbaru education office temporarily closed kindergartens and elementary schools in parts of the city.

Kindergarten, first, second and third grade students are prone to haze-induced respiratory problems and, therefore, they were excused from going to school, said Head of the Pekanbaru Education Office Zulfadil on Thursday.

But students from the fourth to 12th grades still have to attend school, despite the haze problem, he added.

Further, the Riau provincial health office has warned that the air condition in Pekanbaru, the province`s capital, is categorised as dangerous.

Dewani, the head of the Riau health office, said the pollution standard index in the city hit 320 PSI on August 28, but later decreased to 100 PSI.

The office, therefore, recommended the closures of schools for kindergarten through third grade students.

The haze also reduced visibility in Pekanbaru to about 500 meters on August 27, forcing the re-routing of three airplanes traveling from Jakarta to Pekanbaru.

The three planes - belonging to Garuda Indonesia, Air Asia, and Lion Air - eventually landed at Kuala Namu International Airport, Medan, North Sumatra province.

"Almost all scheduled departures are also delayed due to the haze," said the Pekanbaru airport`s Duty Manager Bauquni.

The authorities, under the coordination of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, have been working to prevent the fires from spreading to wider areas.

Also, the Indonesian Air Force has deployed several Hawk 100/200 fighter planes to monitor bush fires in Riau.

"Not only helicopters (have been sent), but some Hawk fighter planes have been used to monitor fires in Riau. We are monitoring the situation while conducting flying exercises," Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base spokesman Major Pilfadri told Antara.

Additionally, the air force has fielded three helicopters, one Cicorski and two Bolcos, to conduct water-bombing operations.

"A Cassa plane that conducts weather-modification operations has also been deployed," he added.

BNPB spokesman Agus Wibowo explained that he had also coordinated with several companies for assistance in fighting the fires.

"Two companies that have pledged their cooperation are PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper and Sinarmas Group," he said.

He noted that the two plantation and forestry companies had contributed two helicopters to monitor fires and conduct fire fighting operations.

"During a fire several months ago, these two companies had actively assisted BNPB," he said.

He claimed BNPB does not yet know how much land has been burned due to the actions of those who set fires.

"What is certain is that the fires are mostly located in lands belonging to plantation or forestry companies," he remarked.

Officials noted that the fires have led to an increase in air pollution in the region.

Head of the local BNPB office Said Saqlul Amri said cloud seeding would continue to produce rain, adding that the Agency of Technology Assessment and Application had added a minimum of two tons of salt to the operation every day.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for BNPB in Jakarta, said on August 27 that the NOAA 18 Satellite detected 488 hotspots throughout

Sumatra Island, including 88 hotspots in Jambi Province and 67 in South Sumatra.

The hotspots were located in peat land areas and produce thick smog.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that in Riau Province 76 hotspots have been detected in Pelalawan District, 42 in Indragiri Hulu District, 34 in Roran Hilir, 29 in Rokan Hilir, 26 in Kampar, 26 in Bengkalis, 14 in Kuantan Sengingi, 11 in Siak, eight in Rokan Hulu, and four in Dumai.

He predicted that October would see a peak in forest and plantation fires in Sumatra. He said 99 percent of the fires are man-made for land clearance. Therefore, law enforcement is necessary to prevent land-clearance fires.

He believes the haze would not affect either Malaysia nor Singapore, as the wind direction is blowing in a northwest direction.

However, Warih Budi Lestari, an analyst with the Pekanbaru meteorological, climatology and geophysics station, disagreed.

He said haze might affect Malaysia, with winds blowing toward the neighboring country. "Based on our analysis, the wind in Riau is blowing from Southeast to Southwest at a maximum speed of 30 km per hour. Its direction is heading towards Malacca Strait," he said on August 27.

If the wind direction does not change, haze problems might return to Malaysia, as happened several months ago, he added.

In June 2013, Malaysia declared a state of emergency in some areas after air pollution from the illegal burning of forests and peat lands in Indonesia reached hazardous levels.

However, the number of fire hotspots has been significantly reduced, said Indonesian Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan in Banjarnegara, West Java, on August 31.

"It`s now not much, it`s only around 20," the minister stated.

The forestry minister and BNPB, however, are maintaining a vigilant watch over the fires, as the drought is predicted to last until October 2013. (*)

Editor: Heru

Malaysia: Air quality at healthy level in the north
Kiatisak Chua and Chong Kah Yuan The Star 31 Aug 13;

GEORGE TOWN: After being shrouded in haze just a few days ago, the air quality in the northern parts of the peninsula was fresher as Malaysians ushered in the Merdeka Day.

According to the website of the Department of Environment, the Air Pollutant Index (API) as of 4pm yesterday was bordering in between the moderate and healthy levels.

The API at Universiti Sains Malaysia and Seberang Jaya were recorded at 51 and 50, respectively.

In Prai, the reading was in the healthy-level bracket of 37.

Visibility around the state had also improved with an average reading of 8km in Bayan Lepas, But­terworth and Prai.

Meanwhile, other states like Kedah and Perlis had also recorded healthy API readings.

Tourist haven Langkawi came in at 33 while Alor Setar and Bakar Arang in Sungai Petani recorded a reading of 29 and 41, respectively.

In Perlis, the API reading was 26 while the station at Seri Manjung in Perak showed a reading of 50.

The API readings are expected to maintain or slightly improve as rain is forecast over the coming days.

The API levels of between 0 and 50 are considered as good, 51 to 100 as moderate, 100 to 200 as un­­healthy, 200 to 300 as very un­­healthy and more than 300 as hazardous.

The API in Kuala Lumpur showed a slight improvement from 68 on Friday to 66 at 5pm yesterday.

The air quality in Malacca was moderate with a reading of 58 as of 5pm yesterday.

The visibility there improved to more than 10km at 6pm on Friday compared to 7km at 8am.

Kota Tinggi, Muar and Pasir Gudang in Johor showed slight improvement in air quality readings at 49, 45 and 50 yesterday respectively, while Larkin Lama maintained a moderate air reading of 51 at 5pm.

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Banks Put a Price on Earth's Life Support

Some of the world's largest banks plan to cut credit for companies that rely on but fail to value forests, water and other natural resources
Paul Brown and The Daily Climate Scientific American 30 Aug 13;

LONDON – It is not easy to put a value on an intact forest, a clean river, or unpolluted air, but that is what a group of the world's biggest banks is attempting to do.

They have agreed that the present economic system uses and often destroys the environment without paying to do so. And that, they say, is not sustainable.

The banks are also concerned that some companies are using up natural resources so fast, with no thought for their own future, let alone that of the planet, that they will collapse. They want a way of warning them and ultimately withdrawing their credit unless the companies mend their ways.

The 43 financial institutions, including the World Bank, are setting up a working party as a consequence of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, also known as the Rio+20 summit, when the initial 39 large banks signed a Natural Capital Declaration.

Fundamental to wellbeing
The declaration defined natural capital as "the Earth's natural assets (soil, air, water, flora and fauna), and the ecosystem services resulting from them, which make human life possible."

The document went on to say that the food, fiber, water, health, energy, climate security and other essential services provided by natural capital were worth trillions of dollars a year, but that they were not adequately valued.

"Despite being fundamental to our wellbeing, their daily use remains almost undetected within our economic system. Using natural capital in this way is not sustainable," the declaration says.

The bankers went on to acknowledge this was partly their fault because they had no way of valuing this natural capital, nor did they currently recognize the danger to the stability of some companies because of its destruction.

Forced disclosure
They want governments to force companies to disclose their dependence on natural capital and the impact they have on it by disclosures in annual financial reports. They also want penalties for companies not doing so and tax incentives for those who protect natural capital as part of their business.

However, the bankers know that in order to value natural capital someone has to establish what it is worth in monetary terms. What value can you place on a hectare of forest for the clean air, rain collection, carbon sequestration and foodstuffs it provides? Just as important, what is the economic loss if it is destroyed?

Industries like mining and fracking are in the front line because their operations are already perceived to damage and use up clean water resources and to cause pollution. The bankers want to put a financial price on this and ask whether the financial risk that overuse of resources causes to the businesses makes them a bad investment.

Pricing the natural world
But all businesses, even the banks that control investments, have an impact on the natural environment, which generally they do not pay for and which does not appear in the accounts. So to turn their heady declaration of a year ago into something more tangible, the bankers have set up a high-powered working party to put a price on the natural world.

Liesel Van Ast, project manager for the Natural Capital Declaration, is based at the Global Canopy Programme in Oxford, England. She is working with the United Nations Finance Initiative in Geneva to help the bankers set up a series of committees to implement the declaration.

"Bankers need to address how they will account for natural capital, explain to everyone why they need to do it and then tell them how to do it," she said.

"Everyone believes they can get out before the resources run out and the crash occurs. We are hoping to change that attitude and get companies to pay a price for overuse of natural capital."

No illusions
No one has any illusions that the commitment by bankers to get natural capital accounted for on balance sheets, and then taken into account in the share price, interest on loans and cost of insurance, is going to happen quickly.

They have set a target of 2020 to get an international system up and running and recognized by all governments signed on to the UN Framework Climate Change Convention. It may be slow and difficult work, they acknowledge, but they believe this is vital to prevent the current economic system destroying the planet.

This article originally appeared at The Daily Climate, the climate change news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.

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