Best of our wild blogs: 12 Sep 13

Could raingardens be one solution to the floods in Singapore?
from Green Drinks Singapore

Battlefield Tour Sunday Sep 22, 2013
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Calling Independents! Tackle the challenge of marine trash at Kranji East mangrove with us on Sat 21 Sep 2013 from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Fall 2013 migration
from Life's Indulgences

Long-tailed Parakeet copulating
from Bird Ecology Study Group

In transparency push, APP self-reports breach of its deforestation moratorium from news by Rhett Butler

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Dealing with climate change requires honest accounting: Balakrishnan

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 12 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE — In tackling climate change, governments play a role in seeking an “honest accounting” of the impact of economic activities, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said yesterday at the World Engineers Summit Sustainability Leadership Forum. If companies and individuals are made to pay for the pollution caused, they would probably not proceed with environmentally damaging acts that come at the expense of others, he said.

Yet, implementing initiatives like carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems is “not so easy” and “not something you can rush”.

With global trade, individual countries rushing to implement their own ways of pricing carbon emissions would lead to a lack of coordination and businesses playing “regulatory arbitrage”, said Dr Balakrishnan as he advocated a global agreement to tackle the problem.

Sharing the stage at the forum with representatives from STMicroelectronics and Shell as well as moderator Professor Tommy Koh, Dr Balakrishnan said that, in the case of climate change and global greenhouse emissions, too many people and companies are getting a free ride, because “you don’t necessarily pay for the carbon that you release into the air”.

“If you can make everyone pay for the pollution they cause, they will not pollute the Nile Delta, they will not destroy land, they will not cause deforestation, they will not cause transboundary haze. But it is when people think they can get a free ride (that) you get parasitic activities at the expense of the ordinary person,” he said.

Unequal vulnerabilities and responsibilities have resulted from climate change and low-lying countries such as Singapore stand to be affected by rising sea levels and an increasingly volatile climate.

“And then to complicate things further, in this part of the world when there’s a dry spell, some people still clear forests by burning land and you get transboundary haze,” said Dr Balakrishnan in a pointed reference to haze caused by the burning of forests and plantations in Indonesia that blanketed the region in smog in June.

ST Microelectronics was represented by Mr Francois Guibert, Executive Vice-President and President of Greater China and South Asia, and Shell by Dr Selda Gunsel, Vice-President of Global Commercial Technology.

Mr Guibert said ST Microelectronics tries to ensure sustainability throughout its supply chain, while Dr Gunsel said different sources of energy including renewables should be part of the mix, given the energy challenge posed by a bigger and increasingly affluent world population.

Dr Balakrishnan also noted that feedback from companies indicates that they want regulatory certainty; and not changes with every election, or regulations that capture narrow political interests instead of longer-term systemic solutions.

Asked by a university student if reductions from energy efficiency would be sufficient to make up for the additional billions of people who would consume electricity in future, Dr Balakrishnan said climate change should not be an excuse to deny those from less developed countries their right to development.

The aim is to encourage energy efficiency, proper planning and imaginative use of technology, he added.

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Government to conduct environmental study for portion of Cross Island Line

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 11 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: The government will conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment for the portion of the Cross Island Line around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The study will ascertain how various alignments of the line could affect the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The government's decision will also take into account other considerations such as transport connectivity, travel times and land use compatibility.

The study will include an assessment of the possible environmental impact on the reserve by possible direct crossing and skirting alignments during various phases of the project.

A tender for the study will be called in the first quarter of 2014 and the study is expected to be completed in 2016.

The Land Transport Authority said at a news conference on Wednesday that it has not made a decision on the final alignment of the Line.

Engineering experts said that the Environmental Impact Assessment needs to be thorough.

Dr Leung Chun Fai, professor of the department of civil and environmental engineering at the National University of Singapore, said: "If its a two years span, it would be really quite extensive and all angles will be looked at.

"Unlike other normal MRT tunnelling works, where the main concern is mainly the buildings adjacent to it; now in this case, it's nature -- so the aspect of the study will extend to the environment. So, in some ways this two years span is justifiable, in view of the extra things they have to look at."

Nature groups have called for a realignment of the line to skirt around the nature reserve.

However, LTA said this could duplicate the route taken by the Circle Line and the future Thomson Line. It said some residents in the Thomson area have also raised concerns the alternative route might affect their homes and living environment.

Nature groups will also be conducting their own study on the environmental impact the Cross Island Line will have on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

LTA will take into account the study by the nature groups in the Environmental Impact Assessment.

Tony O'Dempsey, council member of the Nature Society (Singapore), said: "We will be helping LTA to scope the schedule of work that the environmental impact study has to addressed. It will be specifying the need to assess the bio-diversity of the area, to consider the ramifications of different types of equipment and what types of equipment could be possible to use, what could be the effects of using such equipment in the forests."

Environmental engineers caution that forests could be damaged during the Environmental Impact Assessment.

Dr Leung added: "In order to know the ground below the nature reserve, one would need to make bore holes which are of a typical size 150mm in diameter down to at least some depth below the tunnel alignment level.

"For example, the bore hole may collapse while drilling, and we would have to take a look at the effect on the nature."

LTA said it will minimise the need for boreholes by using non-intrusive soil investigation methods during the study.

The 50km Cross Island Line was announced in January, and is slated for completion in 2030.

- CNA/fa/ac

Cross Island Line: LTA to study different paths, impact on environment
Sumita d/o Sreedharan Today Online 12 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE — Apart from an environmental impact assessment (EIA), extensive engineering studies will also be conducted before the alignment of the Cross Island Line (CRL) is finalised, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday.

Laying out the timeline for the EIA, which is expected to be completed in 2016, the LTA said it will call a tender in the first quarter of next year for a consultant to carry out an assessment of different CRL paths around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, including “possible direct crossing and skirting alignments”.

The EIA will be followed by 18 months of engineering studies to ascertain if it is physically possible for the line to run through selected areas. The CRL is slated for completion in 2030.

Previously, the authorities had said the alignment of the CRL would be finalised only after the EIA. But that did not allay the concerns of nature groups about the possibility that part of the 50-kilometre line could cut through the nature reserve.

The Nature Society (Singapore), for example, had put up a 39-page proposal in July for an alternative, longer route that cuts southwards via Lornie Road around the reserve.

The LTA yesterday reiterated that it “will consider all relevant factors, such as connectivity, travel times, as well as the environmental impact, implications to developments in the vicinity, and costs” before arriving at the final alignment. It added that before the EIA is conducted, nature groups will prepare a document of the relevant studies over the past 20 to 30 years and provide insights based on their extensive experience. Their report will form the base for the EIA.

Conservationist N Sivasothi said this “clear invitation” for environmental groups to participate in establishing the terms of reference and to evaluate candidates for the EIA was significant.

Mr Tony O’Dempsey, the Nature Society’s spokesman on the issue, said it was important that the EIA identify accurately the issues on the ground, the risks of damage and to prescribe monitoring protocols. Singapore Environment Council Executive Director Jose Raymond said that by calling for an EIA, the LTA is showing its concern about the possible environmental impact of running the CRL through the nature reserve.

Nevertheless, the LTA pointed out that some residents of the Thomson area have already raised concerns that their homes and living conditions would be affected by the alternative path proposed by the nature groups.

Mr O’Dempsey said that, while the Nature Society understands their concerns, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve is a “unique national asset” that should be kept intact.

LTA Chief Executive Chew Hock Yong said additional testing on the alternative route proposed by the Nature Society would not “make that much of a difference”. “Even if it costs a bit more, it’s money well-spent because we want to make sure that we have explored all possibilities so that, eventually, whatever configuration, details or alignment we take, we will be able to explain to the different stakeholders,” he said.

While stressing that it “was too early to tell”, he could not discount the possibility of more land acquisition due to the MRT line skirting around the reserve.

All possible routes for Cross Island Line to be considered: LTA
Sumita Sreedharan Today Online 11 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE — An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) will be conducted on all possible routes for the Cross Island Line (CRL) rail network.

This will include going across the Central Nature Reserve and skirting around it, as proposed by nature groups in Singapore.

This was announced by the Land Transport Authority today (Sept 11).

The nature groups will also be carrying out a study to determine the environmental impact, and the results will serve as a base for the EIA consultants.

The tender for the EIA will be called in the first quarter of next year and is expected to be completed in 2016.

Cross Island Line: Impact on nature to be studied
LTA: No decision on route at largest nature reserve until assessment done
Royston Sim Straits Times 12 Sep 13;

A STUDY to investigate the environmental impact of the Cross Island Line (CRL) on Singapore's largest nature reserve will begin next year.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday said it will call a tender in the first quarter of next year for the assessment, which will help it decide if this MRT line should pass through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve or skirt around it.

Apart from investigating the impact of possible alignments, the consultant will also have to suggest how to reduce any possible negative impact and come up with guidelines on suitable ways to carry out works such as soil investigation in the reserve.

LTA chief executive Chew Hock Yong stressed that no decision on the CRL's route will be made until this assessment and other studies are completed.

Announced in January, the 50km, fully underground CRL, which will connect Jurong to Changi, is targeted to be ready in 2030.

Nature and environment groups soon raised concerns that works for the MRT line could cause irreparable damage to the nature reserve, which they say has a unique, complex and highly sensitive ecosystem. The area that could be affected is near the MacRitchie Reservoir.

In July, the Nature Society (Singapore) released a 40-page paper that suggested running the line around the reserve to reduce damage to its ecosystem.

After several meetings with the LTA, the nature groups have agreed to help define the questions that the consultant needs to answer as part of the environmental impact assessment.

Nature Society spokesman Tony O'Dempsey said the groups will help ensure that there is a "realistic assessment" of the impact of physical works on the reserve.

Mr Subaraj Rajathurai, director of Strix Wildlife Consultancy, said the groups are now collating available literature and research on the reserve's ecology for the study, to ensure that the assessment is "very comprehensive".

"We have to be careful to cover all bases. The nature groups involve many people who have spent many years in the reserve. We know the sensitivities that need to be looked at and the flora and fauna that are at risk."

While the nature groups favour a route which goes around the south of the reserve, some residents in the Thomson area are worried about how the CRL may affect their homes.

Thomson-Toa Payoh Citizens Consultative Committee chairman Ronald Lim noted the area will soon see the start of three other major projects - a deep cable tunnel project, the Thomson Line and the North-South Expressway.

"If the CRL is also built in the area, residents have to put up with the inconvenience for up to 15 years. And who knows if acquisitions may be required?" he said.

He hopes the LTA study will also take into account the urban impact of the CRL.

The assessment, which will take up to two years, is expected to be completed in 2016. That will be followed by an 18-month engineering feasibility study on the possible routes.

After that, LTA will consider all the relevant factors, from the environment to travel time and cost, before deciding on the route. Said Mr Chew: "The findings will guide us in making a considered decision on which option best serves the interests of the public."

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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Underground work may worsen floods

Lim Hong Yin Today Online 12 Sep 13;

The fact that floods are occurring in different parts of Singapore may have something to do with the rate buildings are being built.

New buildings occupying vacant land means less space for rainwater to seep into the ground. More rainwater is channelled into our drainage system, overloading it.

Fixing localised floods may not sufficiently boost our overall capacity to drain rainwater effectively to prevent flooding. Massive construction underground will likely affect our natural water table, which may aggravate the situation, as underground water invariably finds new routes when obstructed by tunnels and underground structures.

The rate at which rainwater seeps into the open ground may then be affected. Rainwater would stay above ground for longer than it otherwise would. We seem to always note the increased rainfall, but have we studied if other factors, like development projects, also contribute to the flooding situation?

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Public consultations begin on Botanic Gardens World Heritage Site bid

Channel NewsAsia 11 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's National Heritage Board (NHB) and National Parks Board (NParks) have invited the public to provide their feedback on Singapore's bid for the Singapore Botanic Gardens to be nominated as its first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From now to December 2013, members of the public will be able to contribute feedback to the Nomination Dossier, which will eventually be submitted to the World Heritage Committee by February 1, 2014.

The committee will then deliberate on the nomination and decide if the Gardens will be inscribed as a World Heritage Site.

The Botanic Gardens was chosen for submission because it fulfills the criteria of having outstanding universal value.

Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said rubber seeds grown in the garden propelled the growth of the rubber industry, and the development of Singapore from a fishing village to one of the world's busiest ports in the 20th century.

Conducted in two stages, the public can contribute feedback on two key documents within the Nomination Dossier: the Nomination Document, and the Site Management Plan.

From now, the public will be able to comment on the Nomination Document, which provides supporting evidence on how the Singapore Botanic Gardens fulfils UNESCO's inscription criteria.

And from November to December, views will be sought on the Site Management Plan, which outlines how the Gardens will be managed if successfully inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Where possible, relevant feedback and information gathered from the public consultation process will be included in the Nomination Document.

The consultation process marks the culmination of a wider engagement on the nomination since 2010, when the government started its engagement of a number of stakeholders, such as the Singapore Heritage Society and the Nature Society (Singapore).

Underlining the importance placed on public consultations, Ms Jean Wee, director of the preservation of sites and monuments at NHB said, "The Singapore Botanic Gardens has been, and continues to be an important site of memory, and we would very much appreciate Singaporeans contributing their input in ways that they feel will support its successful inscription."

Dr Nigel Taylor, director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, also hoped that members of the public would contribute historical information and ideas about the Botanic Gardens, which could also be used to make the heritage tours of the Gardens more meaningful for visitors.

Members of the public will be able to view the documents, and submit their views at The Nomination Document will also be available for viewing at the three Visitor Information Counters at the Gardens.

The Botanic Gardens is currently on UNESCO's list of "tentative sites". If successful, it will join 981 sites worldwide that are recognised by UNESCO as having "outstanding universal value".

- CNA/fa/ac

Help in Botanic Gardens' Unesco site bid
Personal stories sought as 154-year-old attraction vies for UN heritage status
Melissa Lin Straits Times 13 Sep 13;

MEMBERS of the public are being invited to take part in the Singapore Botanic Gardens' bid for Unesco World Heritage Site status.

They have until December to give their feedback on the nomination dossier, which sets out why the 154-year-old attraction deserves the honour.

They can also support the bid by sharing anecdotes and memories of the gardens.

The National Heritage Board and the National Parks Board want the public's opinion on two documents that will be submitted to Unesco, known in full as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

One outlines how the gardens fulfil the nomination criteria, while the other is a site management plan that proposes how they will be run if the bid is successful.

Unesco World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural spots that have been deemed to have outstanding universal value.

To receive the honour, they must also meet at least one of 10 criteria. The gardens were nominated under two of them.

Firstly, they "exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape design".

Secondly, they are "an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history".

To show the gardens' value, the nomination papers listed the historically important roles they have played.

For example, "pioneering work on rubber cultivation and techniques for tapping" was carried out there in the 1880s and 1890s, laying the foundation for the early 20th-century rubber boom.

The gardens also introduced economically valuable crops such as oil palm and coffee to South-east Asia.

To this day, they play an important role in conservation, housing at least 34 "veteran trees" - many of which are more than 100 years old. A 6ha rainforest in the gardens contains trees native to Singapore which are now rare because of deforestation.

Members of the public can view the documents and give their feedback at Hard copies are also available at the gardens' visitor information counters.

Both documents will be submitted to Unesco by Feb 1. It will then decide whether to grant the gardens World Heritage Site status.

Singapore Heritage Society vice-president Chua Ai Lin said it is important to show the whole community supports the site's nomination. She added: "It's not just the institutional story (that's important) but how people relate to the gardens."

The nomination bid was first suggested in 2009 by the Singapore Heritage Society.

The following year, the Government asked foreign consultants to identify the sites with the best chance of being listed.

Their suggestions included the Civic District, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Haw Par Villa, the former Ford Factory and the Botanic Gardens.

After the nomination criteria were taken into account, the gardens emerged the clear winner.

An initial application pitching the idea was sent to Unesco last December.

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Wear-resistant film inspired by squid teeth

NTU-A*Star team studies organisms to come up with new biomaterials
Hoe Pei Shan Straits Times 12 Sep 13;

SQUID teeth, sea snails' egg capsules and a "glue" produced by mussels have inspired scientists to produce a range of new biomaterials which they claim are stronger than most plastics.

During its research and development, a team from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) used a new approach to integrating molecular biology and material science.

It studied the genetic sequencing of various organisms in an effort to understand, recreate and control certain properties of substances produced by animals or parts of the animals themselves.

The team believes the method will help to speed up the discovery and development of biomaterials to within months instead of years.

Biomaterials are matter, synthetic or natural, that can interact safely with biological systems.

The team found that the tiny sucker ring teeth located on a squid's tentacle are hardy and wear-resistant, even when wet. Using the teeth as a primary source, the scientists developed a silk-like biomaterial that is "harder, more rigid and more wear-resistant than conventional plastics".

This can be transformed into biocompatible films for food and drug packaging, or a solution to wear-resistant human implants that are exposed to water on a continuous basis.

"By comparison, silk - which is similar to the material we discovered in terms of molecular structure - is exceptionally strong when dry, but becomes weak when exposed to water," said NTU assistant professor Ali Miserez, who co-led the research.

The squid-inspired biomaterial is one of three that were studied along with a sticky underwater glue secreted by mussels and an elastic yet durable material taken from sea snails' egg capsules.

These natural substances were the original sources of the team's biomaterials. They can now be produced synthetically and in large quantities by bacteria in the lab, with their properties replicated or modulated through genetic engineering.

The versatile new biomaterials can be processed into different shapes and forms and are safe for use inside human bodies for purposes such as implants and bone-glueing. They are also made using eco-friendly processes with water as the typical solvent, while plastics rely on chemicals.

Dr Miserez said the team is "still identifying niche applications"and hopes to make commercial versions of its first biomaterials within five years.

Both the mussels and sea snails studied were species found in Singapore, and the team is exploring the potential of biomaterials from other organisms within Singapore's ecosystem - such as local sea cucumber and the matis shrimp species.

Dr Paul Guerette, who co-led the study, said: "It's very exciting for us to be in Singapore, because of the incredible biodiversity here... and the opportunity to engineer a whole variety of biomaterials we haven't even thought of yet."

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Indonesia: Lawmaker Accuses WWF of Instigating Harrison Ford Ministry Row

Jakarta Globe 11 Sep 13;

The fallout over pointed questions about the government’s inability to tackle illegal logging in a protected forest has continued with a legislator calling for the banishment of a leading environmental group.

Firman Subagyo, a deputy chairman of the House of Representatives’ Commission IV, which oversees forestry affairs, demanded on Tuesday that the World Wide Fund for Nature be removed from its forest conservation role in the Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra’s Riau province.

“They’ve been in Tesso Nilo since 2000 and there have been no changes. If anything, the condition of the park has only gotten worse,” Firman said as quoted by Antara, the state news agency.

He called for it to be replaced by a local group, saying the latter would better understand the character and culture of the local community, making it public advocacy against illegal logging and other forestry crimes more effective.

“The WWF’s activities are just [cosmetic], to serve their global environmental campaign and raise funds, rather than for sustainable development,” he said.

His remarks came on the same day that Andi Arief, a presidential adviser, lashed out at Hollywood star Harrison Ford for asking tough questions of Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan a day earlier about the lack of enforcement against illegal logging in Tesso Nilo.

He accused Ford, who was in the country to film part of his upcoming climate change-themed documentary “Years of Living Dangerously,” of “harassing state institutions” and “attacking the minister with questions.”

“His crew and those who were helping him in Indonesia must be questioned to find out their motives for harassing a state institution. If necessary, we will deport him,” Arief said.

Firman echoed the recrimination, saying that the actor should have “been more polite and not direct” when interviewing the minister on Monday.

“This is proof of WWF’s underhanded tricks by accusing the government of being inept,” he said.

This is not the first time authorities have attacked WWF’s work in Tesso Nilo, where it is engaged in helping slow the rate of deforestation.

In March, the Forestry Ministry threatened to terminate the government’s partnership with the group because of what it called a lack of progress.

However, the WWF has argued that without it, the entire national park would have been razed by 2007.

Indonesia threatens to deport Harrison Ford over 'confrontation' with minister
Actor is accused of harassing state institutions after interviewing forestry minister about illegal logging and climate change
Kate Hodal in Bangkok 11 Sep 13;

The Hollywood actor Harrison Ford has been accused of "harassing state institutions" in Indonesia and threatened with deportation after allegedly confronting a minister during an interview about illegal logging and climate change.

The forestry minister, Zulkifi Hasan, said he was left shocked by Ford's emotionally charged interview techniques and complained there was no time to go over the questions before filming began, local media reported.

"I suddenly had my face made up and was then interviewed," Hasan told the state news agency Antara.

"I was given a chance to make only one or two comments."

The Star Wars actor has been in Indonesia filming an episode for the climate change documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, which will air on the US television network Showtime in April 2014 and feature Matt Damon and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ford, 71, travelled to locations around the country to interview Indonesian activists and officials, including the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on issues including forest fires, peatland conservation and palm oil plantations.

But the forestry minister was so angered by his interview with Ford that he threatened to have the actor deported, despite the fact that Ford was due to leave on Tuesday anyway.

"There's no privilege for him although he is a great actor," the presidential spokesman Andi Arief said. "His crew and those who were helping him in Indonesia must be questioned to find out their motives for harassing a state institution."

He added: "If necessary, we will deport him."

Ford appears to have witnessed illegal logging taking place in Sumatra's Tesso Nilo national park and asked Hasan why deforestation was occurring in protected areas while the guilty seemingly had free rein.

"He was emotional," Hasan said. "I can understand that this is the first time for this American to come here and see Tesso Nilo. It seems that what he wants to see is any perpetrators involved in the damage immediately arrested."

The minister said he told Ford that illegal logging was a complicated issue in Indonesia and required a more varied approach to stem it than simple force.

Up to 15% of all the world's known plant, mammal and bird species reside in Indonesia's 17,000 islands, according to Greenpeace. Yet huge swaths of Indonesia's rainforests and peatlands have been cleared for palm oil and paper plantations, with additional concessions granted for mining and agricultural purposes.

Palm oil concessions sprawl across some 11m hectares in Indonesia, primarily in Sumatra and Kalimantan, figures from the US Foreign Agricultural Service show, with production since 2011 up 26% from the previous 10 years.

Yudhoyono, Indonesia's president, was forced to apologise earlier this year after forest fires, set by plantation farmers in Sumatra to clear land, led to Singapore's worst environmental crisis in 10 years and forced 200 schools to close in Malaysia.

Officials maintain, however, that the government is doing what it can to tackle climate change and deforestation, and Yudhoyono reportedly told Ford in their meeting on Tuesday: "We're trying to crack down on improprieties [like illegal logging] and we will be strict about it."

Forestry Ministry to review cooperation with foreign agencies
Antara 11 Sep 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia will reconsider its cooperation with the World Wild Fund (WWF) and other foreign agencies for their failure to help manage the country`s forests effectively, according to Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan.

After inaugurating an online licensing service facility here on Wednesday, the minister pointed out that the condition of forests jointly managed by the government and foreign agencies was worsening.

For instance, Zulkifli said, illegal logging was still taking place at the Gunung Leuser national park in Nangroe Aceh Daroesalam province and there was rampant deforestation at the Teso Nilo national park.

"Therefore, we will have to review such cooperation efforts," he explained.

As a result of mismanagement of such forests, Zulkifli noted, the government must bear the cost of reforestation.

"Although plenty of funds have come from abroad, we will still come under fire for what has happened," he said.

Zulkifli revealed that he would soon visit the Teso Nilo national park to resolve problems relating to nomadic farming there.

He stated that the forestry ministry was making sincere efforts to peacefully relocate the nomadic farmers living in the national park.

"We have replaced repressive measures with a welfare approach. Therefore, it is impossible to force the nomadic farmers to leave the national park. We are trying to find areas outside the national park to resettle them," Zulkifli said.

According to Landsat image analysis, 46,960 hectares of carbon-rich forests have in the past decade disappeared at the national park, which is home to elephants, tigers, and various other exotic animals.(*)

Editor: Heru

SBY Makes Environmental Case in New Documentary
Ezra Sihite Jakarta Globe 11 Sep 13;

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has defended his administration’s environmental credentials in an interview for a documentary being helmed by Hollywood star Harrison Ford, although other officials’ testy reactions to the actor’s probing questions, and the government’s actual track record, have cast doubt on the real level of commitment.

Julian Aldrin Pasha, a spokesman for the president, said on Tuesday that Ford spoke with Yudhoyono for about 40 minutes earlier in the day for his climate change-themed documentary “Years of Living Dangerously.”

Julian said Yudhoyono had emphasized that the government was “very serious” about protecting the environment but needed help from the international community to succeed.

“We want to work together with other countries, the private sector and businesses that may or may not be involved in the forestry, maritime or other sectors related to the environment,” he said.

He added that Ford had asked about government policies for environmental preservation and management, particularly as related to mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

He added that Ford also brought up the issue of illegal logging, something the actor had witnessed for himself while filming in the Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra’s Riau province a day earlier.

The actor reportedly asked why no law enforcement efforts were taken against the logging that was being done so openly.

“[Yudhoyono] explained that we’re trying to crack down on improprieties [such as illegal logging] and we will be strict about it,” Julian said.

He said Yudhoyono raised the issue with the National Police chief at a meeting later in the day and ordered him not to show any leniency against “those going against the environment.”

Yudhoyono’s interview was overshadowed, however, by threats from one of his advisers, Andi Arief, to have Ford deported for asking tough questions of Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan a day earlier.

Zulkifli said Ford’s “emotions were running very high” when addressing the issue of illegal logging in Tesso Nilo.

“I understand the American man just came here to see Tesso Nilo and wanted violators to be caught the same day,” he said as quoted by Antara.

The minister added he was not given the chance to explain the challenges of catching people who broke the law in Indonesia’s sprawling rainforests, where illegal logging is rampant.

“I was only given the opportunity to say one or two sentences during the interview,” he said.

Arief accused Ford and his crew of “harassing state institutions” and “attacking [Zulkifli] with questions.”

“There’s no privilege for him although he is a great a actor,” he said.

“His crew and those who were helping him in Indonesia must be questioned to find out their motives for harassing a state institution. If necessary, we will deport him,” he added.

Ford was due to depart on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s meeting with the actor was the latest occasion this year in which Yudhoyono has sought to burnish his green credentials while sharing a stage with an international celebrity.

In June, the president took part in a tree-planting ceremony with Portugal and Real Madrid football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in Bali — in a patch of mangrove swamp slated to be cleared for a commercial development.

Earlier that month, he took up an invitation from Greenpeace chief Kumi Naidoo to visit the group’s iconic ship, the Rainbow Warrior — the same vessel that the government had barred from docking in the country three years earlier in the wake of Greenpeace’s campaigning against pulp and paper and palm oil companies.

The government also barred the Greenpeace UK director from entering the country in October 2011 for a forestry conference, even though he arrived with a valid visa. The government said the reason for the refusal was a “state secret.”

A week later, a Greenpeace forest campaigner was deported from the country. By November, authorities in Jakarta had ordered the organization to leave its office in Kemang, South Jakarta, on the grounds that the area was strictly a residential zone, despite the fact that hundreds of office, commercial and entertainment businesses also operate in the same area.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) previously said that given the disconnect between the administration’s rhetoric on conservation and its actual policies, Yudhoyono’s newfound concern for the environment could not be seen as “anything other than image-building.”

— Additional reporting from AFP

President Yudhoyono talks about Indonesian environmental policy to Harrison Ford
Antara 10 Sep 13;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono here on Tuesday received a special guest, a Hollywood actor who came to interview him about the national environmental policy, Harrison Ford, in his office, Tuesday.

In the interview, the president explained about Indonesia`s seriousness to preserve and save the environment, forest and sea, as well as efforts to address climate change.

"Harrison Ford interviewed the President for a documentary film he is working on with theme on how to maintain or preserve the environment in order to save the world from climate change," said Presidential spokesman Julian A Pasha.

According to Julian, Ford asked the President about Indonesian Government policies related to the maintenance of environmental issues and efforts to address climate change.

"The discussion talked about more towards strategic issues and government policies in terms of managing, handling and save the environment in Indonesia because Indonesia is considered to have a major contribution to the global environment," he said.

Julian said that the interview went well and constructive.

He further said that President Yudhoyono was willing to take part in the documentary film because it have a positive impact.

"The making the documentary film itself is nonprofit and is intended for the benefit to rescue forest and environment conservation also to address climate change issues," he said.

On that occasion, the President explained that efforts to save the environment cannot be done alone, and need the support of all parties.

At the meeting, Ford also presented his findings at Tesso Nillo National Park in Riau.

"But it had been explained earlier, we are still trying to carry out enforcement against inappropriate practices on environment, this will continue to be emphasized. Earlier when the president met with the national police chief warned that the police must not hesitate to act decisively against those who violate the Indonesian environmental safety policies," he said.

Harrison Ford is known by a number of his world box office movies, such as Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Air Force One.

He is in Indonesia along with his team to do a documentary movie shooting about climate change which titled "The Years of Living Dangerously".

The movie mentioned as a joint production between James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and is scheduled to premiere in April 2014.

Editor: Ella Syafputri

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Malaysia: 'Gecko no longer linked to AIDS cure'

Isabelle Lai The Star 12 Sep 13;

PETALING JAYA: The Tokay Gecko is no longer being widely traded as a supposed AIDS cure, but is still in demand for traditional medicine uses, said Traffic South-East Asia.

The wildlife trade monitoring network said millions of the attractively-patterned lizards were being harvested from the wild to supply the traditional medicine trade in East Asia, which has been going on for hundreds of years.

“At the same time, the trade in Tokay Geckos for Novel Medicinal Claims (NMCs), including as a supposed cure for AIDS, has declined markedly,” said its senior programme officer Kanitha Krishnasamy.

She stressed that there was no evidence to believe that it was a cure for HIV or AIDS, pointing out that the World Health Organisation had refuted such claims.

According to Traffic’s report, regional demand for NMC trade in Tokay Geckos reached its peak from 2010 to 2011, after rumours surfaced in 2009 that its extract could provide a cure.

The 2013 report by Olivier S. Caillabet examined the Tokay Gecko trade in the region and included a case study in Peninsular Malaysia, the “purported centre of demand” in the NMC trade.

Despite the decline, it noted that the more prominent Tokay Gecko dealers appeared to be concentrated close to the Thai border, as well as being the source of the lizards entering the country.

“According to dealers interviewed during surveys, the primary consumers of Tokay Geckos for NMCs appear to be Singaporeans and locals. Some even claim the use of Tokay Geckos by Europeans and North Americans for medical research,” said Caillabet.

He said the interviews indicated considerable sums of money were paid, especially for large Tokay Geckos weighing over 300g, with some dealers claiming those weighing over 400g were valued at RM3.26mil (US$1mil).

“However, Traffic does not believe that these statements are credible. There is no evidence that such huge sums of money, as claimed by the dealers in Peninsular Malaysia, have been paid for Tokay Geckos weighing over 400g,” he said, adding that the dealers’ motivations for making such claims were not known.

The Tokay Gecko, sourced mainly from Thailand and Java, Indonesia, is highly in demand in the traditional medicine trade to treat various ailments and is widely consumed in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Caillabet said Customs import data revealed that Taiwan had imported around 15 million Tokay Geckos since 2004, while 1.2 million dried Tokay Geckos bound for Hong Kong from Indonesia were seized in 2011.

Missing Tokay gecko may have been sold, say police
Natasha Joibi The Star 12 Sep 13;

SHAH ALAM: The missing Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) which was linked to the murder of a man is likely to have been sold, said the police.

According to Se­lan­gor police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Shukri Dahlan, police have been trying to track down the missing reptile, but to no avail.

“We believe the animal may have been sold. The missing animal is the motive behind the murder,” he said at a press conference at the Selangor police headquarters here yesterday.

He added that a 60-year-old businesswoman, who is the main suspect, is believed to have hired a group of men to kill Syairul Helmi Azhar.

“The woman has some 16 police records for cheating-related offences.

“We believe the victim was shot while being involved in a scuffle with the hired thugs,” said SDC Shukri, adding that investigations are still ongoing.

Reporters were told that Syairul went missing after he was assigned the responsibility of finding buyers for his friend’s gecko.

His body was found two months later, on Aug 30, slumped in a Proton Saga in a mining pool located in Jalan Rantau Panjang Bestari Jaya.

He was believed to have been shot with a homemade gun.

A total of 16 suspects have been arrested since then, with four freed later.

The gecko that had led to Syairul’s death was nowhere to be found at the crime scene.

The Philippine government has issued warnings against using Tokay geckos, frequently traded for medicinal purposes in Vietnam and China, to treat AIDS and impotence.

Man killed over RM1mil tokay gecko
The Star 10 Sep 13;

SHAH ALAM: A man was killed over a tokay gecko which has a market value of RM1mil for supposedly able to cure various ailments, including HIV.

The man was found slumped in a car near a beverage factory here on Aug 30 of a gunshot wound.

Police have detained 16 suspects, aged between 21 and 60, to assist in the investigations.

Selangor police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Mohd Shukri Dahlan said investigations revealed that the man was killed for stealing a RM1mil gecko after agreeing to look for a potential buyer.

“We also detained a 60-year-old businesswoman, who is believed to have hired someone to kill the man,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

He said the businesswoman, who kept the gecko, told police that she handed over the reptile to the victim as he had promised to find a potential buyer. The man fled with it.

Mohd Shukri said the suspects were believed to have been hired by the woman to locate the victim.

The suspects found the victim, after which a fight broke out that led to one of the suspects to fire a shot which hit the victim.

Mohd Shukri said police seized several items from the suspects, including an iron pipe, six rounds of live ammunition, three spent shells, nine handphones and a screw-driver.

"We have yet to find the gecko lizard," he added.

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Indonesian farmers take legal action over haze

(AFP) Google News 11 Sep 13;

JAKARTA — Indonesian farmers in a province at the centre of Southeast Asia's worst smog outbreak for years have filed a lawsuit against the president in response to the haze crisis, activists said Wednesday.

Environmental groups Tuesday filed the class-action lawsuit at the Jakarta High Court on behalf of farmers from five villages in Riau province on Sumatra island.

They argue President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has not done enough to curb activities, such as slash-and-burn land clearance and logging, that lead to climate change, and their lives are being deeply affected.

In June, raging fires set to clear land in Riau cloaked the province and neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore in smog, with the haze hitting the worst levels for more than a decade.

Riau is at the centre of Indonesia's booming palm oil industry, and illegal slash-and-burn clearance is common, as it is the quickest and cheapest method for land to be converted for use as plantations.

A coalition of green groups filed the lawsuit, including forest protection group Jikalahari, which said the severe haze this year had prompted the action and had "deeply affected the communities".

"This haze affects all activities -- work, school, and even leads to flights being cancelled," Muslim Rasyid, head of the Riau-based group, told AFP.

As well as Yudhoyono, the forestry and environment ministers and the Riau governor are accused in the lawsuit.

"The president and his ministers have done little to protect communities from the effects of climate change," added Riko Kurniawan, director of Friends of the Earth in Riau.

Yudhoyono vowed in 2009 to reduce Indonesia's carbon emissions by at least 26 percent by 2020. To achieve this goal, the government has suspended the issuance of new land-clearing permits.

But activists say the moves have been ineffective with land clearance, both legal and illegal, still rampant, and fires often the method of choice.

Indonesia, home to around 10 percent of the world's tropical forest, has rapidly lost masses of its biodiverse jungle in recent decades to make way for paper and palm oil plantations.

The country is the world's biggest supplier of palm oil, the most commonly used vegetable oil found in everyday grocery items, like biscuits and shampoo.

SBY faces class-action lawsuit over ‘climate change effects’
The Jakarta Post 11 Sep 13;

Environmental activists have submitted a class-action lawsuit against President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over the claim he has failed to protect people in Riau province from the effects of climate change.

The lawsuit was also aimed at Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya and Riau Governor Rusli Zainal, who is now detained by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on graft charges.

“We filed this lawsuit to press President SBY to take action against his two ministers, whom we see as having no willingness to protect the public, especially the people of Riau province, from the effects of climate change,” Civil Society Forum for Climate Justice coordinator Mida Saragih told The Jakarta Post after filing the lawsuit at the Central Jakarta District Court on Monday.

Mida said the activists filed the lawsuit against the president because the people of Riau province were suffering from the effects of climate change, despite the President’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

She said according to Law No. 32/2009 on environmental protection and management, the government had to provide a healthy environment. “But we still see unsustainable development practices in Riau province,” she said.

Mida said climate change had caused the people of Riau to suffer from floods, droughts and acute respiratory infections. In July this year, Indragiri Hulu regency recorded an estimated 10,382 residents as suffering from such infections. The citizens also had to endure high temperatures.

“Temperatures reached as high as 37 degrees Celcius in Riau, the highest in the last 30 years.”

Mida added Riau had experienced massive land destruction caused by forest conversion from peatland into large-scale units of palm and timber plantations. “The condition was exacerbated by illegal logging and slash-and-burn clearing activities,” she said.

The group slammed the forestry minister for issuing permits allowing business on peatland.

“Peatland is protected. One cannot open plantations in those areas because it can cause environmental damage,” Mida said.

According to 2013 data from environmental NGO Jikilahari Riau Forest Rescue Working Network, the provincial administration had issued 61 business licenses as of September 2013, allowing businesses to develop plantations on peatland. “This action is against Law No. 32/2009,” she said.

They accused the environment minister of violating Presidential Regulation No. 71/2001 on the implementation of a national greenhouse gas inventory. “The environment minister has not provided any guidance on regional action plans for greenhouse gasses. Provincial administrations need these guidances to do something,” Mida said.

Resa Radityo from the Indonesian Center of Environmental Law (ICEL) said the activists, as well as the people of Riau, hoped the government could put more effort into tackling the environmental impact of climate change.

“We hope the government does not only create new councils on environmental affairs, but implements actions to handle environmental problems,” he said. (tam)

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Food waste harms climate, water, land and biodiversity – new FAO report

Direct economic costs of $750 billion annually – Better policies required, and “success stories” need to be scaled up and replicated
FAO 11 Sep 13

11 September 2013, Rome - The waste of a staggering 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year is not only causing major economic losses but also wreaking significant harm on the natural resources that humanity relies upon to feed itself, says a new FAO report.

Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources is the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity.

Among its key findings: Each year, food that is produced but not eaten guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet's atmosphere.

And beyond its environmental impacts, the direct economic consequences to producers of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually, FAO's report estimates.

"All of us - farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers -- must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can't," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

"We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day," he added.

As a companion to its new study, FAO has also published a comprehensive "tool-kit" that contains recommendations on how food loss and waste can be reduced at every stage of the food chain.

The tool-kit profiles a number of projects around the world that show how national and local governments, farmers, businesses, and individual consumers can take steps to tackle the problem.

Achim Steiner, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, said: "UNEP and FAO have identified food waste and loss --food wastage-- as a major opportunity for economies everywhere to assist in a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy. Today's excellent report by FAO underlines the multiple benefits that can be realized-- in many cases through simple and thoughtful measures by for example households, retailers, restaurants, schools and businesses-- that can contribute to environmental sustainability, economic improvements, food security and the realization of the UN Secretary General's Zero Hunger Challenge. We would urge everyone to adopt the motto of our joint campaign: Think Eat Save - Reduce Your Foodprint!".

UNEP and FAO are founding partners of the Think Eat Save - Reduce Your Foodprint campaign that was launched earlier in the year and whose aim is to assist in coordinating worldwide efforts to manage down wastage.

Where wastage happens

Fifty-four percent of the world's food wastage occurs "upstream" during production, post-harvest handling and storage, according to FAO's study. Forty-six percent of it happens "downstream," at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.

As a general trend, developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher in middle- and high-income regions -- where it accounts for 31-39 percent of total wastage -- than in low-income regions (4-16 percent).

The later a food product is lost along the chain, the greater the environmental consequences, FAO's report notes, since the environmental costs incurred during processing, transport, storage and cooking must be added to the initial production costs.

Hot spots

Several world food wastage "hot-spots" stand out in the study:

Wastage of cereals in Asia is a significant problem, with major impacts on carbon emissions and water and land use. Rice's profile is particularly noticeable, given its high methane emissions combined with a large level of wastage.

While meat wastage volumes in all world regions is comparatively low, the meat sector generates a substantial impact on the environment in terms of land occupation and carbon footprint, especially in high-income countries and Latin America, which in combination account for 80 percent of all meat wastage. Excluding Latin America, high-income regions are responsible for about 67 percent of all meat wastage

Fruit wastage contributes significantly to water waste in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, mainly as a result of extremely high wastage levels.

Similarly, large volumes of vegetable wastage in industrialized Asia, Europe, and South and South East Asia translates into a large carbon footprint for that sector.

Causes of food wastage - and options for addressing them

A combination of consumer behavior and lack of communication in the supply chain underlies the higher levels of food waste in affluent societies, according to FAO. Consumers fail to plan their shopping, overpurchase, or over-react to "best-before-dates," while quality and aesthetic standards lead retailers to reject large amounts of perfectly edible food.

In developing countries, significant post-harvest losses in the early part of the supply chain are a key problem, occurring as a result of financial and structural limitations in harvesting techniques and storage and transport infrastructure, combined with climatic conditions favorable to food spoilage.

To tackle the problem, FAO's toolkit details three general levels where action is needed:

High priority should be given to reducing food wastage in the first place. Beyond improving losses of crops on farms due to poor practices, doing more to better balance production with demand would mean not using natural resources to produce unneeded food in the first place.

In the event of a food surplus, re-use within the human food chain-- finding secondary markets or donating extra food to feed vulnerable members of society-- represents the best option. If the food is not fit for human consumption, the next best option is to divert it for livestock feed, conserving resources that would otherwise be used to produce commercial feedstuff.

Where re-use is not possible, recycling and recovery should be pursued: by-product recycling, anaerobic digestion, compositing, and incineration with energy recovery allow energy and nutrients to be recovered from food waste, representing a significant advantage over dumping it in landfills. Uneaten food that ends up rotting in landfills is a large producer of methane, a particularly harmful GHG.

Funding for the Food Wastage Footprint report and toolkit was provided by the government of Germany.

Read in more detail about FAO's specific recommendations for reducing food wastage:

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Brazil data suggests spike in Amazon deforestation

Paulo Prada PlanetArk 11 Sep 13;

Preliminary data released Tuesday by Brazil's space agency suggests Amazon deforestation spiked by more than a third during the past year, reversing a steady decline in destruction of the world's largest rainforest.

If substantiated by follow-up data typically compiled by the end of the year, the increase would confirm fears by scientists and environmental activists who warn that farming, mining and Amazon infrastructure projects, coupled with changes to Brazil's long-standing environmental policies, are reversing progress made against deforestation.

Last year, Amazon deforestation was shown to be at a record low.

The likely increase in deforestation has prompted concerns that Brazil may have let its guard down and provided an opening for loggers, ranchers and others eager to develop parts of a forest that is seven times the size of France.

Brazil's space agency, which tracks destruction of the rainforest using monthly satellite imagery, detected almost 2,766 square kilometers (1,067 square miles) of forest clearings from August 2012 through July 2013. The total area, more than twice the size of the city of Los Angeles, is 35 percent higher than the area cleared in the previous year, the agency said.

The measurement year ends in July, when visibility is best, because clouds often gather in the region much of the rest of the year, making satellite imagery difficult to collect.

A more complete tally for the period is compiled, using complementary satellite data and on-the-ground research provided by other government researchers. The additional data helps determine if clearings are the result of deliberate destruction or natural degradation caused by drought, wildfires or other factors.

Data compiled by Imazon, a private research institute, also points to an increase in deforestation over the past year. The group, the only other source of regular Amazon data considered reliable by many scientists, recently said destruction over the past year may have almost doubled.

(Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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