Best of our wild blogs: 8 Oct 13

Ladies of The Straits Settlements Tour Report
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

12 Sat ’13 Tan Kheam Hock/ 13 Sunday ’13 Chinese Tour
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

World Monuments Watch 2014!
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Toilet-trained Wagler's pit viper @ Central Catchment Nature Reserve 04 Oct 2013
from sgbeachbum

Butterflies Galore!: Grass Demon
from Butterflies of Singapore

A posturing pair of Asian koels
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Pasir Ris Greenbelt- cleared in 2 weeks
from My Nature Experiences

Climate Change Challenges in Cities, 18-19 Nov 2013 @ NUS LT32
from The Biodiversity Crew @ NUS

Wed, 16 Oct 2013, 10.00am @ SR1: Alison Wee on “Genetic connectivity of four mangrove species from the Malay Peninsula”
from The Biodiversity Crew @ NUS

Recovering forests 'heal' themselves by speeding up nitrogen fixation
from news by Mrinalini Erkenswick Watsa

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Rescued macaque nursed back to health and released back to the wild

David Ee, Straits Times, 8 Oct 13;

A long-tailed macaque is seen in a tree after its release at Macritchie reservoir on Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013. The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) found the injured animal with a shattered pelvis at Macritchie reservoir in August. It was operated on and rehabilitated over six weeks before being released. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

A rescued long-tailed macaque that was rehabilitated has been released back to the wild.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) found the injured animal with a shattered pelvis at Macritchie reservoir in August. It was operated on and rehabilitated over six weeks before being released back into the forested area around the reservoir.

This is the first macaque to be attended to by Acres' newly formed macaque response team. Set up last month, the team aims to educate residents living close to the monkeys' forest habitats on how to prevent the monkeys from entering their homes by, for example, storing food away from sight. The team will also has plans to begin a 'behavioural modification' program to keep them away from human territories.

Acres executive director Louis Ng said the team's effort would hopefully show that there are alternative ways to manage the monkey population here other than culling. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) culled about 360 macaques in the first half of this year, about a fifth of their estimated population of 1,800. Complaints to the AVA about monkey nuisance have been growing from 730 in 2011 to 1,460 in the first eight months of this year.

A long-tailed macaque is seen up high in a tree after its release at Macritchie reservoir on Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

(From left) The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) campaign executive Sabrina Jabbar, 23, releases a long-tailed macaque from its cage on Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013, as Acres executive director Louis Ng looks on. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) campaign executive Sabrina Jabbar, 23, carries a long-tailed macaque in its cage to a spot where the monkey can be released on Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

A long-tailed macaque is seen in a cage before its release into Macritchie reservoir on Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

A rescued long-tailed macaque that was rehabilitated has been released back to the wild. PHOTO: ACRES

First rescued monkey released back into the wild
Long-tailed female macaque found seriously hurt in MacRitchie is first-ever monkey to be rescued and released in Singapore
Siau Ming En, Today Online, 8 Oct 13;

Mia, the long-tailed macaque, was released at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, the first rescue, rehabilitation and release operation of an injured monkey in Singapore on Oct 8, 2013. Photo: Don Wong

SINGAPORE — A rescued long-tailed macaque was released at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park this morning (Oct 8) by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) — the first rescue, rehabilitation and release operation of an injured monkey in Singapore.

About 6 weeks ago, ACRES was alerted to an injured female macaque — known as Mia — at MacRitchie Reservoir Park by members of the public.

Mia was found with a shattered pelvis and serious injuries in her left leg, and was removed on Aug 23 for surgery, a month-long veterinary treatment and rehabilitation.

This is also the first rescue mission led by a new Macaque Rescue Team that was set up by ACRES last month, to respond to conflicts between the macaques and people.

With only two full-time staff on the team, the rescue team currently handles the 24-hour hotline for macaque issues, among other responsibilities.

Mr Louis Ng, the Chief Executive at ACRES said, “Mia’s case highlights the fact that people in Singapore do care about and want to protect monkeys.”

Mia the monkey undergoing rehabilitation. Photo: ACRES

Mia the monkey undergoing rehabilitation. Photo: ACRES

Mia the monkey undergoing rehabilitation. Photo: ACRES

Mia the monkey undergoing rehabilitation. Photo: ACRES

Mia, the long-tailed macaque, was released at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, the first rescue, rehabilitation and release operation of an injured monkey in Singapore on Oct 8, 2013. Photo: Don Wong

Mia, the long-tailed macaque, was released at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, the first rescue, rehabilitation and release operation of an injured monkey in Singapore on Oct 8, 2013. Photo: Don Wong

Mia, the long-tailed macaque, was released at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, the first rescue, rehabilitation and release operation of an injured monkey in Singapore on Oct 8, 2013. Photo: Don Wong

Injured monkey released into the wild after rehabilitation
The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society hopes that rehabilitation can be seen as alternative to culling as it embarks on a behavioural modification programme for monkeys so that they stay within their habitats.
Channel NewsAsia, 8 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: A long-tailed macaque that was rehabilitated was released into the wild on Tuesday.

This is the first case for newly formed macaque rescue team, formed by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES).

ACRES hopes that rehabilitation can be seen as alternative to culling.

The macaque was found at the MacRitichie Reservoir Park in August with a shattered pelvis and serious injuries to its left leg. It took six weeks for this macaque to be nursed back to health.

Known to its rescuers as Mia, it took its first steps back into the wild on Tuesday morning.

Rescuers from ACRES were stationed at the park on Tuesday to keep an eye on her. They will then come back once a week to make sure she is eating and moving well.

It's not clear how the animal sustained its injuries but it was rescued by ACRES after members of the public called its wildlife rescue hotline.

Since the rescue team was set up a month ago, it has responded to some 30 calls - mostly from residents.

The team teaches residents how to prevent animals from entering their homes.

It also hopes to embark on a behavioural modification programme for monkeys so that they stay within their habitats.

This proposal has been submitted to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

A spokesman for AVA said: "We recently received a proposal from ACRES to conduct behavioural modifications on nuisance-causing and aggressive monkeys. AVA is currently studying the feasibility and effectiveness of ACRES' proposal."

Louis Ng, executive director of ACRES, said: "We're not here to protect the monkeys more than the people but we're here to say that both parties must be protected. The solution must be a multi-pronged solution that addresses the residents' and public's concerns, but also addresses the monkeys' welfare."

The rescue team will target areas with bigger monkey populations.

These are areas near the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Bukit Batok Nature Park, MacRitchie Reservoir, Woodlands Waterfront and Lower Peirce Reservoir.

Mr Ng said he hopes to expand the team from its current strength of two to four.

"Just last month, they've undergone training at our sanctuary in Laos about how to restrain the monkeys, how to do behavioural modification, and ultimately how to address this problem, with a solution that is long-term. They now work seven days a week to handle macaque calls to our hotline," he added.

AVA said between January and August this year, it received 1,460 complaints and feedback about monkeys. This is more than last year's 920 cases and 2011's total of 730 cases.

Over 100 of these cases this year were related to monkey aggression, such as monkeys snatching belongings and chasing pedestrians and cyclists, as well as monkeys biting, scratching, and injuring children, the elderly, and pets.

There were also other cases of monkey mischief that posed threats to public safety. For example, the AVA said that in January this year, it received feedback about a monkey that had been repeatedly dislodging glass window panes from a school chapel.

An AVA spokesman said: "AVA cannot take any chances that could compromise the health and safety of Singaporeans. We need to remain vigilant in our animal control efforts.

"To this end, we take a multi-prong approach where we work closely with relevant stakeholders such as government agencies, organisations, town councils, estate managements and animal welfare groups."

The spokesman added that AVA is of the view that sterilisation of monkeys will help to control the population and are working with NParks to study its feasibility as a long-term measure.

The spokesman pointed out that humane euthanasia is a last resort.

"We are also aware that releasing them back into the environment or forests will not resolve issues of monkey aggression, nuisance. As such, monkeys, accustomed to human food, would likely continue to venture out of the forests.

"In addition, studies have shown that monkeys cannot be easily relocated into a new location where there is a resident troop of monkeys as it may result in the 'newcomers' being driven out or killed.

"Indiscriminate release of aggressive/nuisance-causing wildlife back into the environment merely transfers the problem from one estate to the next. Relocation options are also limited in land-scarce Singapore," she noted.

- CNA/fa

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Lightning information service launched today

New service can be accessed via smartphone app, website or weather hotline
Today Online, 8 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE — The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) launched a lightning information service today (Oct 8). Members of the public can now access information on lightning strikes in Singapore through smartphone applications, the MSS website or the weather information hotline.

The smartphone app, Lightning@SG, is available for both iPhones and Android phones. Some features of the app include customising up to three locations of interest. Users can receive push alerts when lightning is detected within a pre-defined distance of six or eight kilometres from the locations. In addition, users are able to choose the type of lightning and thundery showers forecast for which they would like to receive a push alert.

Lightning information is also available on the MSS website (, and at the MSS weather information hotline at 6542 7788.

According to the Director-General of MSS, Ms Wong Chin Ling, Singapore has one of the highest rates of lightning activity in the world. “With an average of around 167 thunderstorm days a year, lightning strikes are a potential safety hazard for anyone engaging in outdoor activities in Singapore. Therefore, it is important for the public to be alerted of potential lightning risk when out in the open.”

Professor Liew Ah Choy, Professorial Fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering said that the Lightning Information Service provides excellent information. “The information will benefit and allow many entities, as well as the general public, to make good decisions based on the risk of impending lightning over their areas of interest,” he said.

MSS will also be distributing educational material on lightning safety to schools, community centres and facilities providing outdoor services to further educate the public on the potential lightning risk.

Free real-time lightning service launched
The Meteorological Service Singapore has launched a new free real-time lightning service on multiple platforms.
Channel NewsAsia, 8 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE: The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) has launched a new free real-time lightning service on multiple platforms.

It will be available as a mobile app called Lightning@SG, on the MSS website, and through the weather information hotline number.

With the app, smart phone users will be able to customise up to three locations of interest and receive push alerts when lightning is detected within a pre-defined distance of either six kilometres or eight kilometres from their location of interest.

Users will also be able to choose the type of lightning (cloud-to-cloud and/ or cloud-to-ground) and thundery showers forecast that they wish to receive a push alert on.

The lightning information service will be available on the MSS website via a link from the National Environment Agency website.

The website will display a scrolling ticker message when lightning is detected in the selected watch areas.

The public can also call the MSS weather information hotline (6542 7788) for real-time lightning information.

Singapore has one of the highest rates of lightning activity in the world given its location in the tropics.

On average, there are around 167 thunderstorm days a year in Singapore.

MSS says lightning strikes are a potential safety hazard for anyone engaging in outdoor activities in Singapore.

MSS says it is important for the public to be alerted of potential lightning risk when out in the open.

MSS will be distributing educational material on lightning safety precautions to schools, community centres and facilities providing outdoor services.

- CNA/fa

New app provides real-time alerts on lightning danger
Woo Sian Boon, Today Online, 9 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE — The danger of being struck by lightning can come down to a matter of minutes in Singapore, which has one of the highest occurrences of lightning activity in the world.

Now, the public can have real-time lightning information at their fingertips with a free smartphone application called Lightning@SG by the Meteorological Service of Singapore (MSS).

The app, available for iPhone and Android devices, was launched yesterday to help alert the user of potential lightning risks when out in the open. It gathers real-time data through the MSS’ new lightning detection system, which has four lightning detection sensors located in Sembawang, Changi, Ulu Pandan and Choa Chu Kang.

According to media reports, Singapore has an average of 0.35 lightning deaths per million people each year, compared to 0.2 in Britain and 0.6 in the United States, making it one of the lightning capitals of the world.

The months of April, May, October and November are the most lightning-prone because of the intense inter-monsoon weather conditions.

“With an average of around 167 thunderstorm days a year, lightning strikes are a potential safety hazard for anyone engaging in outdoor activities in Singapore. Therefore, it’s important for the public to be alerted of potential lightning risks when out in the open,” said Ms Wong Chin Ling, Director-General of the MSS.

Besides providing real-time lightning information on an interactive map, the Lightning@SG app also displays animated radar images and gives a three-hour forecast of thundery showers. It is also capable of detecting different types of lightning as well as total lightning activity.

One of its features allows users to save up to three locations of interest. Users can zoom in on these locations to view geographical references such as landmarks, public swimming pools and national parks.

The app will also alert users and warn them when lightning is detected or when there is a forecast of thundery showers within six to eight kilometres from their saved locations.

Besides the app, the public can also get lightning information at the MSS website, or call the weather information hotline at 6542 7788.

In 2011, a man was killed after he was struck by lightning during a fishing trip to Coney Island. Prior to that, a golfer was killed by a lightning strike in 2009 at the Tanah Merah Country Club.

The MSS will also be distributing educational material on lightning safety to schools, community centres, and facilities that provide outdoor services to further educate the public on potential lightning risks. WOO SIAN BOON

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Rising food prices? 7 in 10 Singaporeans are not fazed

Most households here are able to absorb higher food costs, according to global survey on the impact of inflation on spending
Today Online, 8 Oct 13;

SINGAPORE — About seven in 10 consumers in Singapore are relatively unconcerned by looming food inflation as most say they have enough flexibility in their household budget to absorb a price rise, without having to make major spending cuts elsewhere, according to a report by Nielsen released today (Oct 8) .

Those who would adjust their household budgets in response to higher good costs indicated that they would watch out for sales, stock up on regular items and buy in bulk.

According to the Nielsen’s Global Survey of Inflation Impact, 69 per cent of Singaporean respondents said that they were unlikely to make significant spending cuts to cope with rising food prices, well above the global average of 50 per cent.

The majority of respondents in other South-east Asian nations covered in the survey also said they higher food costs would not force them to make major spending cuts elsewhere — the figure was 78 per cent in Thailand, followed by Indonesia (70 per cent), Vietnam (70 per cent), Malaysia (66 per cent) and the Philippines (58 per cent).

Of the Singaporeans queried in the survey who said that they would rethink their household budget, 72 per cent said that they would look to adjust their outlay on out-of-home dining, followed by new clothes and accessories (59 per cent), snack foods (49 per cent) and recreation and entertainment (45 per cent).

Consumers in the other South-east Asian countries also named those four areas they are most likely to cut back on as well.

Food categories most vulnerable during inflationary times include products such as candies, cookies and other sweets, chips and other snack foods, carbonated beverages and alcoholic beverages.

Meanwhile, staples such as meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables and dairy products appeared largely immune to consumer cutbacks in the face of rising food prices, Nielsen said.

“As income levels steadily increase throughout the region, many South-east Asian consumers appear to be taking the rising cost of living in their stride,” said Mr Matthew Krepsik, Executive Director of Nielsen’s Marketing Effectiveness Practice in South-east Asia, North Asia and Pacific.

“In order to appeal to a broad range of consumer classes it will be increasingly important for FMCG companies to understand the diversity of consumer demand across the region to accurately gauge purchasing power and the scale of goods and services required to meet the needs of consumers in both developed and developing South-east Asian markets.

“If consumers are required to make trade-offs to extend their food budget, they will shift to core staples, pay more attention to promotions and special offers and look to cut back their spending on non-essential, indulgent and processed foods.”

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Fish cannot scream (and other reasons to protect the reefs)

Dionne Thompson, Straits Times Asia Report, 7 Oct 13;

I came close to losing my life twice while diving – once in the Philippines and the other time in Indonesia – but I’ve never lost my love for the sea and its life-giving bounty of coral reefs.

So, I was very happy to hear that the World Bank has decided to approve a multimillion-dollar project that will come up with clever models to put a value on coral reefs and their related ecosystems (mangroves, for example) that governments can understand and use in policy-making.

The project, which has a modest starting grant of US$4.5 million (S$5.6 million), focuses on Indonesia and the Philippines, where much of the world’s reefs and related ecosystems lie. It is meant to encourage stewardship of these marine resources, which provide not just food security and livelihoods but also natural protection against storms and rising sea levels.

To know the sea is to love it. But too many of us still seem to treat it as a magic larder that can be plundered at will with no consequences. Part of the problem, I feel, is that the destruction is taking place under water, where the damage is not easily visible.

On land, causes for sustainable mining and farming have gained traction, helped along by the sight of devastated rainforests and the cries of animals in distress.

But fish cannot scream. And far greater tracts have been quietly destroyed underwater by a single commercial fishing net than have been lost on land to a roaring forest fire.

Every year, an estimated 130,000 sq km are lost to deforestation.

Every year, 15 million sq km under the sea are raked by bottom trawling, just one of the many types of commercial fishing that damage the sea floor.

To quantify is to begin to understand. Even then, governments face an uphill battle.

At one of the more successful ecological dive resorts I’ve been to in Indonesia, it took years of convincing, and years of enforcing a no-fishing zone (including hiring armed patrols) before local fishermen realised that the exclusion zone actually improved their catches outside of it.

As dive resorts spring up in the region and more young people abandon fishing for diving, the scales are falling off for more local communities.

I’ve talked to dive guides who used to be fishermen and some of their revelations are astonishing. Shockingly, many fishermen cannot swim and therefore cannot see the long-term damage being caused by trawler nets or dynamite fishing, much less understand that reefs and mangroves are the nurseries of the sea and therefore need to thrive.

There is some research that suggests that all is too late and that we might as well stuff our faces with our favourite seafood. Fish populations have been declining and for some species of trout, cod and anchovy, the numbers are thought to have dwindled to dangerously low levels.

There may be some truth to that. Since I started diving 10 years ago, I noticed that repeat visits to the same dive sites have yielded fewer sightings of shark – the presence of the apex predator being an important indicator of reef health – and that diversity in reef life has shrunk.

But there is also much more research out there that suggests that it is not too late at all.

We can all do our bit to support life in the sea. Boycott seafood caught by bottom trawling and other equally damaging methods. Or avoid eating the bluefin tuna and other endangered species to give their numbers a chance to recover. Or even, learn to dive and see for ourselves why life in the sea is worth protecting so very much.

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Plastic bags: A matter of who would be paying

Kim Khoo Guat Seok, Today Online Voices, 8 Oct 13;

I agree that “Free plastic bags from supermarkets do not go to waste” (Oct 5).

I have been reusing plastic bags from all my shopping, including groceries, for 40 years now, and so did my parents before that, mostly for use as trash bags, with the cleaner ones saved for packing household stuff.

Using a plastic bag is an effective and cheap method of disposing trash. Any other method of containing solid, semi-liquid or liquid trash may bring about more water usage, to clean up spills.

My sister, though, lives in a country where supermarkets and malls do not give out plastic bags on certain days of the week. She has to buy trash bags to make up the shortfall.

While the purpose is to reduce the use of plastic bags, in Singapore it is a matter of who would be paying for the bags, and this would be a bigger burden for the lower-income. The environmental crusade would be better served by educating and persuading the latter to reuse.

This is the way to really reduce wastage. Throwing away a plastic bag is inevitable after usage, so it is a matter of not discarding it prematurely for the sake of the environment.

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Malaysia: River clean-up remedies

A river will be clean only if nothing fouls it up in the first place.
Jaron Keng, The Star, 8 Oct 13;

VARIOUS initiatives, from installing trash traps along rivers to building river water treatment plants, have been carried out to spruce up Sungai Klang under the River of Life project but two major sources of pollution – sullage and stormwater runoffs – are not getting much-needed attention.

The Federal Government has allocated RM4bil for the River of Life (ROL) project. It began last year and different parcels are in various stages of completion, all of which are to raise the river water quality from the current Class III and Class IV (not suitable for body contact) to Class IIB (suitable for body contact and recreational usage) by year 2020.

The project area covers Sungai Klang from its upstream until its confluence with Sungai Kerayong, as well as its tributaries, the Gombak, Batu, Bunus, Jinjang and Kerayong rivers – altogether totalling 110km. The clean-up effort will target pollution sources in Kuala Lumpur and the municipalities of Selayang and Ampang Jaya.

The past 30 years have seen billions of ringgit spent on numerous projects to revive Sungai Klang, yet, the river remain as murky as ever. Hence, scepticism has arose on whether the project can succeed in improving the water quality. However, according to the Department of Irrigation and Drainage, past attempts to clean up the Klang River systems have been in an ad hoc manner by different agencies and municipalities, and lacked ministerial-level co-ordination and follow-up monitoring.

The ROL consists of these key initiatives:

> Upgrade sewerage facilities and set up regional sewerage treatment plants.

> Install wastewater treatment plants at five wet markets to decrease rubbish and pollutants.

> Install gross pollutant traps at main drains to prevent litter, silt and grease from entering rivers.

> Use retention ponds to remove pollutants from sewage and sullage.

> Reduce pollution from squatters.

> Implement the Drainage and Stormwater Management Masterplan to upgrade drainage systems.

> A study on water quality improvement and hydrological assessment for Sungai Klang.

> Prevent river pollution originating from: erosion from urban development; restaurants, workshops and other commercial outlets; industrial effluent; and rubbish disposal.

Though comprehensive and relevant in cleaning rivers in the Klang Valley, most of the initiatives involve maintenance work, which is always not a priority in Malaysia. Missing from the list of initiatives is the control of sullage and runoff outflows to river. Gross pollutant traps can only trap solid waste and are not effective in removing other pollutants.

Likewise, the proposed wastewater treatment plants for five wet markets will not significantly reduce pollutants as there are too many sources of sullage and rubbish.

Sullage includes liquid waste discharged from baths, lavatories, laundries or sinks but excludes faecal water and urine. Sullage and stormwater runoffs are major pollution sources to water bodies in Malaysia. Sullage, specially from eateries, is a major problem.

Under the ROL, the installation of 20 communal grease traps in Ampang Jaya, 26 units in Kuala Lumpur and 20 units in Selayang are insufficient based on the large number of eateries in these municipalities and the practice of washing dishes beside drains at many restaurants. This “silent” pollution activity contributes significantly to river pollution.

As a country with high rainfall, Malaysia uses a sewer system with a segregated drainage and sewerage system. The drainage system is for stormwater (rainwater) discharges while the sewerage system is for wastewater discharges and treatment. This differs from the combined sewer system in other countries, where stormwater and wastewater are mixed in huge sewer tunnels connected to wastewater treatment plants. The combined sewer system is not practised here as the high rainfall can lead to sewerage overflow. The “open drain” approach, which eases the direct discharge of sullage into stormwater drains, is widely adopted here due to the local high precipitation.

Sullage, being a type of wastewater, should be discharged to a sewer line and channelled to a sewage treatment plant. However, in Malaysia, sullage is directly discharged into drains. Stormwater runoffs should flow to a retention pond, constructed wetlands or an infiltration basin which, besides serving as natural treatment facilities, can control flood and downstream erosion. Rapid development in the Klang Valley has resulted in more impermeable ground which causes more urban runoffs. Runoffs from wet markets, hawker areas and car wash shops end up in drains which flow into rivers.

Although the concentration of pollutants in sullage is not as high as sewage, the flow rate is much higher, resulting in higher pollution loading in rivers. According to a study by Dr Azni Idris of Universiti Putra Malaysia, the annual loading of sullage is higher than that of sewage in rivers at urban areas.

Under the ROL project, more trash rakes, trash screens and floating booms are being placed along rivers and in flood detention ponds. Also, gross pollutant traps are installed in major drains but these only remove litter, debris, coarse sediment and grease from stormwater and cannot improve the water quality. Similarly, grease traps in restaurants, which serve to capture oil and grease, cannot eliminate or reduce the pollution level of sullage.

Enforcement of relevant rules and regulations on sullage discharge is the fundamental solution to sullage management. The Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 forbids unauthorised connection of drains into public canals or streams; discharges from toilets and trade effluent into canals, streams, ponds or drains; and discharges of blood, brine, swill, noxious liquid or other offensive or filthy matter into public places. Pollution prevention or “source control” is the only pragmatic approach in preventing river pollution. Instead of spending billions of ringgit on river or lake rehabilitation and remediation, why don’t we do source control? Strong public awareness is essential for this. The public needs to understand the appropriate function of our open stormwater drains.

Both structural and non-structural measures have to be adopted to achieve the objectives of the ROL project. “River cleaning” is not a comprehensive solution without pollution prevention as pollution will continue after the cleaning.

To improve the river water quality to Class IIA, seven strategies are proposed:

> Identify the sources of runoffs (stormwater, sullage, sewage treatment plant effluent, wastewater from markets and slaughterhouses) in the Klang Valley and their outflow points.

> Prevent runoffs from entering rivers by diverting them to nearby constructed wetlands or retention ponds.

> Introduce more retention ponds or constructed wetlands to contain and treat all runoffs biologically.

> Monitor rivers in upstream areas (especially forest clearing at watersheds) and install sediment traps to prevent eroded sediments from entering rivers.

> Enforce regulations and penalise offenders who discharge sullage into drains. Prohibit restaurant operators from washing dishes at back lanes and beside drains.

> Review the existing Interim National Water Quality Standard which is based on only six parameters, namely biochemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, dissolved oxygen, pH, ammoniacal nitrogen and suspended solids. Introduce water quality assessments that include bio-indicator parameters such as Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI, which assesses the biological integrity of a habitat using samples of living organisms).

> Incorporate pollution loading as part of effluent discharge standards. The current standard only gauge the pollution level with “concentration (mg/l)”. Introduce standards for urban runoff quality with pollution loading as a parameter.

* Jaron Keng is a waste management consultant and secretary of Persatuan Rakan Alam Sekitar Hijau dan Biru.

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Malaysia: Lack of basic facilities to keep forest rangers going

Ivan Loh & Manjit Kaur, The Star, 8 Oct 13;

THE unavailability of basic amenities and the failure to establish the services of forest rangers have led to poor management in 16 recreational forests in Perak.

The Auditor-General’s report revealed that facilities were left abandoned and unused.

There are 16 recreational forests in the state that had been developed in stages by the State Forestry Department between 2010 and last year.

A total of RM3.45mil was allocated to the department for the purpose of recreational forest management and eco-tourism from the Forest Development Fund.

It suggested that the department ensure adequate facilities were available with proper maintenance. It also said there was a need to enhance cleanliness monitoring.

The report also said there had been 125 cases of breach of conditions on land use in both the Kampar and Kerian districts.

It recommended that the related authorities, including the Land and Mines Department, to work together with the local authorities and the Agriculture Department to detect and take action against any breach of the conditions on land use.

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Indonesia: Bali’s Warungs Find a Friend in Reusable Bag Movement Tas Pasar

Nadia Bintoro, Jakarta Globe, 8 Oct 13;

Across the globe, Bali, also referred to as the Island of the Gods, is renowned for its coastal beauty. Unfortunately, in recent years, many of the white sandy beaches that long have lured tourists from all over the world to Bali have become increasingly dirty and polluted, with piles of trash ruining the beautiful picture.

In fact, it has become so alarming that Bali is facing a crisis due to the overflow of garbage all over the island. Every day, the island produces about 10,000 cubic meters of garbage, 10 to 12 percent of which is plastic. With more than four million inhabitants, it is calculated that about eight million plastic bags are given out in Bali every day, be it at supermarkets, warung (roadside stalls) or boutiques.

This overflow of plastic trash, combined with an ineffective waste disposal system represents a serious danger for the environment. Out of the 10,000 cubic meters of garbage produced every day, only half of it is taken care of by the government. The rest is either being burned, dumped into rivers or discarded carelessly on the roadside and beaches.

The ineffective disposal of plastic waste poses serious threats. Much of the plastic waste that remains uncollected is burned, producing highly toxic smoke that can cause health problems, including cancer. The trash thrown away carelessly by the side of the roads can block sewer lines and cause flooding. And waste thrown into the sea might be ingested by sea creatures, causing death for turtles, fish and sea birds.

Aiming to tackle this problem, Tas Pasar (Market Bag) is a Bali-born social movement initiated by Australian David Eagles who has been living in Bali for 16 years, in collaboration with Balinese bodybuilding champion Komang Arnawa, and the Solemen Indonesia Foundation.

Their project revolves around the simple idea of reducing plastic trash by introducing a reusable bag.

“Thirty years ago, all Balinese women brought a basket to the market when shopping. But now nobody brings a bag. Everything, including the daily offerings, is taken home in plastic bags,” Eagles says, thus explaining the need to return to the old practice.

Tas Pasar calls for a holistic collaboration with local warungs, corporations and the tourism industry at large. Environmentally conscious business establishments in Bali can join the project with as little as a Rp 2 million ($174) donation to produce 500 reusable bags.

These bags are then distributed for free to warungs, which then have to agree to hand out the bags — free of charge — to their regular customers. The warungs will also benefit because their owners no longer have to buy plastic bags.

The average warung in Bali hands out 100 to 150 plastic bags per day to customers, costing owners approximately $40 to $50 per month. By encouraging the consumer to bring a reusable bag, and insisting on its proper implementation, the warung can make considerable savings in operating costs while keeping Bali’s environment clean and pretty.

The reusable bag is of the same size as a plastic bag. Some modifications have been made, for instance adding a short handle stitched on the top, suitable to hang on motorcycle, in the hope that it will provide extra incentives for people to carry while shopping.

Tas Pasar bags are made from spunbond nonwoven fabric, which is commonly used as an alternative to plastic.

“These are not fully environmentally friendly bags, but they are reusable,” Eagles explains.

The people behind Tas Pasar are currently thinking about issuing a bag made of 20 percent recycled material at a later date, but for now, the main focus remains on creating awareness and habit-building around reusing bags to protect the environment.

In order to make the project more widely known, Tas Pasar has also launched online and offline campaigns featuring Komang, whose two world championship titles in natural body building have made him a suitable celebrity advocate for this campaign.

Komang, a local hero to Balinese children, poses in the campaign poster with his muscles bulging, holding a bag in each hand, and says “Jangan lupa bawa tas sendiri, mari selamatkan Bali dari bahaya plastik” (“Don’t forget to bring your own bag, let’s save Bali from the hazard of plastics”).

Komang has also appeared at several campaign talks held at local schools to raise environmental awareness and the habit of using reusable bags among Bali’s younger generation.

The digital campaign can be accessed through the project’s website,, and on Facebook, where daily updates are provided.

To encourage people to keep using Tas Pasar, a small incentive is being put in place. Eagles explains: “The idea is to give people a small present for reusing the bags. At the moment, we give them stickers, but we’re thinking of giving them something else, like pencils, in the future.”

The project’s campaign slogan is also printed on the poster and on the bag, saying “ Tas Pasar, pakai setiap hari ” (“Tas Pasar, use it every day”) as a reminder for users to bring it for their daily shopping and show it off to the world.

Since the launch of the project in September 2012, 20,000 bags have been made and distributed to dozens of warungs across southern Bali.

Eagles says he is encouraged to keep going by the positive response of all those involved in the campaign.

“This project is still in its initial stage, but we have received much support from the sponsors and the warungs, so I’m very optimistic that zero plastic in Bali is reachable,” he says.

“We are hoping more sponsors will join this initiative.”

Read more!

Indonesia: Reforesting Program Bears Fruit, Wins Hearts

A look at villages in Central Sulawesi shows how a program to stop illegal logging has been embraced by the locals
Dessy Sagita, Jakarta Globe, 8 Oct 13;

Sigi, Central Sulawesi. Until a few years ago, Kalvin P. Boso was still known as the king of slash-and-burn in his village of Lonca, tucked away in Central Sulawesi’s Sigi district.

Lonca is located just eight kilometers from the district capital, Kulawi, but the road connecting the town to the village is narrow, muddy, with a deep ravine on one side and a rocky mountain on the other, all surrounded by protected forest.

Like most villagers in Lonca, Kalvin learned to cut trees and burn them down to clear the land as a child, unaware of the risks his actions created.

When trees are present, their roots help to prevent erosion by holding the soil together and absorbing water. With the roots gone, soil can slide around a lot more and water is able to build up on the surface, causing flooding and other natural disasters such as mudslides.

The practice also threatens the local water supply by damaging the soil’s ability to retain water.

“My parents were also farmers, and from when I was a student I was taught how to clear the land without understanding the consequences to the environment,” Kalvin, now 44, tells the Jakarta Globe.

Every year, Kalvin said, he cleared at least two square kilometers of forest to grow rice, corn or cassavas.

“Our villagers have been blamed for causing the floods in Palu every year,” says Amos Sumutju, the Lonca village chief referring, to the provincial capital.

Most villagers make it a habit to clear land and move on again the next year because they believed the soil is no longer fertile after a single season. This has placed their own lives in danger of disaster because of the growing expanse of critically degraded land.

Plan of action

The Forestry Ministry says more than 27 million hectares of Indonesia’s forests are now in critical condition due to illegal deforestation.

But land clearing by fire was stopped in Lonca village when the government introduced a program called Strengthening Community-Based Forest and Watershed Management to raise public awareness about illegal logging.

The program was established with the help of the United Nations Development Program, which, along with the Global Environment Facility, donated $7.5 million for the period 2009-2014 to revitalize watershed management in six locations in Indonesia by involving and empowering local inhabitants.

The six locations chosen for the project are in the provinces of North Sumatra, Lampung, Central Java, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara and Central Sulawesi.

“We first started out by approaching the locals,” says Erus Rusyadirus, the regional facilitator for the program in Central Sulawesi.

“I stayed for at least three days in every village, talked and spent time with the villagers, trying to convince them that slashing and burning trees was bad for their present and future.”

Hearts and minds

“It was very hard at first. A farmer once told me ‘I don’t care if you or the government tell me to stop cutting trees, I will not stop. Who can guarantee my livelihood or if my family can still eat the next day?’” Erus said.

After intensive guidance, many of the farmers, including Kalvin, began to understand that their village was in danger.

“Kalvin, who used to be known as the king of slashing and burning, is now the head of the community-based organization,” Amos said, referring to a group set up under the program.

The CBO receives a small grant for the program, which it can use to fund its activities. Every CBO has different programs, but focuses mainly on empowering the locals to find a new source of livelihood so that the farmers do not have to go back to slashing and burning trees.

Kalvin, for one, says the program has changed his life for the better.

“After listening to Pak Erus’s explanation about how clearing the land with the old method has put many people’s lives in danger, I started to realize how much I loved the environment, and as the leader of the group I feel a deep sense of responsibility to conserve the forest,” he says.

Along with the other CBO members, Kalvin works to raise awareness in his village and urges locals to farm on a permanent plot of land rather than clear new land each year. Most people in Lonca now grow cocoa and vegetables.

The group, with 16 other CBOs in Sigi, has also planted 240,000 tree seedlings.

“If you came to our village a few years ago, you’d see the whole area was brown. But now as you can see, it’s all turning green,” Amos says proudly.

Community empowerment

Residents in Simoro, in Sigi’s Gumbasa subdistrict, have proudly embraced their new livelihood and work enthusiastically to develop various activities improve the economic status of their village.

“Everything started to change in 2004 when our village was flooded and we saw giant logs floating everywhere,” says Herry, the head of the Gumbasa CBO.

Gumbasa was severely affected by flash flooding that year, which swept away several homes.

“At that time, slash-and-burn clearing was still very common. People would clear the land and started farming anywhere they wanted to,” Herry says.

“We even cleared land inside the Lore Lindu National Park.”

Lore Lindu, east of Lonca, is a protected forest area that was designated as part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. It spans 2,180 square kilometers and is home to numerous rare species, including 77 birds endemic to Sulawesi.

CBO groups around it were taught to make the best of their environment by cultivating honeybees, cows and chicken. They also grow vegetables and fruit, as well as producing snacks from the produce to sell in Kulawi.

To be able to join their local CBO, each person has to plant at least 15 trees in a watershed area.

The village has planted nearly 70,000 seedlings along the riverbanks since 2011, and an evaluation shows that more than 60 percent are growing well.

Simoro village has also issued a regulation that farmers can still farm in Lore Lindu as long as they are committed to preserving the environment.

“If they want to use the land inside the national park, they have to plant at least 50 trees and they have to promise they will not cut a single tree inside the protected forest,” Herry says.

The CBO there has done so well that it was named the best CBO in Indonesia during an award ceremony in Bali recently.


Saeful Rachman, the national program manager of the SCBWFM, says the project was created after a report was published about critically degraded watershed areas in Indonesia.

“Some changes happened because of natural disasters like floods, climate change and landslides, but most were due to illegal logging,” he says.

Saeful says the Forestry Ministry has started replanting trees, but its program is not very successful due to rapid population growth and declining vegetation area.

“Most of the time the watershed areas are degraded because of land conversion,” he explains.

Therefore, he says, the UNDP and the Forestry Ministry proposed the program to increase awareness and empower communities so they can find another source of livelihood that is sustainable.

“Most farmers were very skeptical at first when we introduced the program, but when we asked them to be the main actors and the agents of change instead of the subjects, we saw significant progress,” Saeful says.

“Not only did they stop cutting down trees, but the villagers actively started working on regulations to punish illegal loggers. We are so proud of them.

“The locations were chosen because of their biophysical conditions and the local government’s readiness to implement the program,” he adds.

Persuading the locals to stop slashing and burning was a tall order.

In Omu village, also in Gumbasa, the program had to deal with an indigenous tribe that had been living inside a protected forest for generations.

Aris Pasasa, the leader of the local CBO, says that when the project first started there were 13 families from the indigenous tribe living inside the forest.

“They had been living inside the protected forest since the 1960s, and every year they moved to a new location and cleared land,” Aris says.

“Approaching them was a difficult thing to do, not only because they did not speak Indonesian, but also because they would hide every time they saw someone who was not from their tribe.”

With much effort and the help of a translator, the CBO finally managed to persuade the families to move out of the forest. Aris even lent his land to the families to build huts and got other residents to hire them to work on their land.

“Now we worry less about flash floods or polluted and damaged water sources,” Aris says.

Additional goals

Saeful says the main objective of the program is not only to improve the condition of the watershed area, but also to push for the government to give its support and encourage local officials to come up with regulations that help the environment.

Aside from community empowerment to stop people from cutting down trees, the program also asks the communities to restore the critically degraded areas to pristine condition.

“Every year we plant 450,000 to 600,000 seedlings provided by the government, but the really special thing is that sometimes the villagers themselves are even willing to spend their own money to buy the seedlings and plant them, and that’s a very good sign,” he says.

Read more!

Indonesia: Serangan a ‘living lab’ for development

Desy Nurhayati, Bali Daily, 8 Oct 13;

Serangan village has been chosen as the hub for the newly launched Southeast Asia Sustainable Development Solution Network (SDSN), a global initiative by the United Nations.

The network found a natural home in Bali — where the Hindu philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, or three ways to happiness, encourages people to live their lives in a way that finds balance and harmony for people with each other, with nature and with creation.

This philosophy was adopted by the SDSN as a basic consideration for a sustainable development framework and a guide for developing the ideal blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.

The SDSN Indonesia and Southeast Asia Regional Hub were launched on Sunday by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during the inaugural Tri Hita Karana International Conference on Sustainable Development in Nusa Dua as a side event to the APEC Summit.

The implementation of this program is the establishment of the world’s first, fully integrated United in Diversity Creative Campus in Serangan.

This bold enterprise, an initiative envisioned with Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu and realized through the United in Diversity (UID) Foundation, will use Kura-Kura Bali (a project by PT Bali Turtle Island Development in Serangan) as a living laboratory to create solutions for sustainable development and support creative community.

“The Creative Campus will offer a platform for its partners and others to re-imagine how to learn in the 21st century, combining in-person teaching with digital learning, practical work experience and experimental studios. Programs will be available for students at any stage of their career, offering an opportunity to engage in lifelong learning and develop new skills,” said I Gede Ardika from the UID board of trustees, who is also a former culture and tourism minister.

The founding partners for the Creative Campus initiative include Microsoft, WPP – a world leader in media and advertising, and Mitra Adiperkasa- Indonesia’s leading retail marketing company. The campus is also working with MIT Sloan School of Management, Tsinghua University, University of Indonesia and Surya University.

As the home for the SDSN Southeast Asia regional hub, the Creative Campus will collaborate with the University of Indonesia Research Center on Climate Change, and Conservation International.

The first footprint of the campus is the ecologically sustainable area called Three Mountains, or Tiga Gunung. The area will host various activities over the coming months.

This initiative will be developed more completely over the next year, including design of the campus and the curriculum.

Located in the Southeast of Bali, between Nusa Dua and Sanur, Serangan village is home to more than 3,800 villagers. This small community is attempting to bring back the charm of the traditional Balinese village culture that is now lost in parts of Bali.

With a community of Hindu, Muslim and Chinese families, people have been living in harmony in six banjar (customary hamlets) for generations. There are eight Hindu temples, one mosque and one Chinese temple together on the one island, where harmony in diversity works.

Conducted by the Serangan villagers together with the UID, ongoing community development programs include bank sampah (garbage bank), bang uang (referring to the bangkuang, a local turnip) and bank sapi (cow bank).

“Together with UID, we identify the problems shared by the local community and lay out long-term plans to provide sustainable solutions for the island and its inhabitants,” said I Wayan Patut, a Serangan resident who was awarded the prestigious Kalpataru for his efforts in conserving the environment.

The bank sampah, or waste management program, is an initiative aimed at creating a new sustainable source of income for local people through their efforts in keeping the village clean. Under this project, they sort the garbage, with organic waste turned into fertilizer and inorganic waste recycled to create handicraft products.

The bang uang is a program dedicated to reviving a specific variant of bangkuang, a local turnip, that once thrived in Serangan’s soil. It is a crunchy, refreshing, edible tuberous root, also known to have skin-whitening effects.

The bank sapi is a program rooted in the local agricultural practices. The high cow population in Serangan provides a source of organic fertilizer for the bangkuang plantation, thereby creating a closed-loop sustainable approach.

Read more!

Indonesia: WALHI plans to sue government over forest fires

Jakarta Post, 8 Oct 13;

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), a conservation group, has said that it will file a lawsuit against the government for failing to control the annual forest fires in Sumatra.

WALHI said that it would file the case at the Central Jakarta District Court through its ‘Pulihkan Indonesia’ (Restore Indonesia) advocacy team.

Wahyu Wagiman, the team’s spokesman, said that they would attempt to make the case that the government – namely President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, related ministers, and Sumatra regional officials – had consistently failed to enact a policy to prevent forest fires, especially in Riau and Jambi.

“They’ve failed to prevent forest fires, they’ve failed to reduce the number of forest fires and they’ve failed to react quickly enough to tackle forest fires,” Wahyu said on Monday.

“They’ve also failed to enforce the law, especially against big corporations, and not just small farmers,” he added.

Wahyu said that the group also demanded that the police make better progress in determining the cause of the fires and who the perpetrators were.

WALHI said that it had gathered data since June that they used to back up their claim that the President’s administration lacked the conviction to deal with the forest-fire issue.

Data collected includes information from injured parties as well as an academic paper on ‘estimating material and other losses from environmental destruction.’

Sumatra saw 9,236 fire hotspots in June alone, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (NASA FIRMS), with 89 percent located in Riau province.

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Indonesia: Mangrove to be planted in North Sumatra, Aceh

Apriadi Gunawan, Jakarta Post, 8 Oct 13;

North Sumatra and Aceh provinces have been chosen by foreign sponsors as the locations for a mangrove-planting program for carbon sequestration in Indonesia.

The sequestration program is fully sponsored by eight foreign companies from France and Germany.

The foreign corporations, Danone Group, Schneider Electric, Credit Agricole Bank, Hermes International, Voyageurs du Mondo, La Poste Group and CDC Climat Bank from France and SAP Germany, have agreed to appoint non-governmental group Yagasu to implement the carbon-sequestration program.

Yagasu executive director Bambang Suprayogi said the program was the first of its kind in Indonesia, only the third country in the world after Senegal and India to carry out such a program.

“We must maintain this trust and responsibility and answer it with proof that Indonesia has the capability to run the program,” Bambang told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the Monitoring Livelihoods Project workshop at Grand Aston Hotel in Medan on Monday.

The workshop, which runs until Oct. 11, is being attended by representatives from the sponsor companies as well as other participants from France, Switzerland, Senegal, Mexico, India and Guatemala.

Bambang said that Indonesia was entrusted with managing the program for the next 20 years. He said the main focus of the program was planting as many mangrove trees as possible along the eastern coasts of both provinces. He estimated that at least 5,000 hectares of land would be planted by 2014.

“The cultivation of 5,000 hectares of mangrove trees will involve 2,012 families in 65 villages in 11 regencies and cities in both provinces,” he said.

He expected that Indonesia would be able to absorb 30 tons of carbon with the cultivation of 1,000 hectares of mangrove trees annually.

Livelihoods program director Jean-Pierre Rennaud, from France, said North Sumatra and Aceh were picked for the carbon sequestration due to their ecological wealth. Rennaud added that mangrove tree planting in both provinces was very urgent following the 2004 tsunami.

He said mangroves had many functions, including preventing coastal erosion and absorbing carbon. He said the corporations would continue to monitor and evaluate the mangrove planting program so as to get maximum results and benefits for the community at large.

Yagasu program community coordinator Meilinda Suryani said Indonesia had one of the largest mangrove areas in the world with 25 percent of the world’s total mangrove area of 18 million hectares.

Meilinda said mangrove forests contained a huge amount of organic materials which did not decay, so mangrove forests functioned more as a carbon absorber rather than a source of carbon. “Mangrove trees have more leaves so they have the potential to absorb more carbon than other plants,” she said.

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Indonesia: Get ready: MRT project will worsen traffic

Sita W. Dewi, Jakarta Post, 8 Oct 13;

Mass rapid transit (MRT) project operator PT MRT Jakarta is preparing to minimize the disruption the MRT construction, set to commence very soon, will have.

MRT Jakarta president director Dono Boestami said the company would do whatever necessary to disseminate information regarding the project to the public.

“We are installing CCTV cameras at every construction point and residents can check the real-time video on our website so they can plan their trips accordingly,” Dono told a press conference on Monday at a Jakarta hotel.

The company has also coordinated with the Jakarta Transportation Agency, the City Police as well as accounts on Twitter such as @lewatmana to distribute information regarding the construction activities.

“We will also distribute brochures on the construction activities so motorists can plan reroutes in case of traffic jams,” he said, explaining that disruption to traffic flow would be inevitable.

“Just think of it like fasting. We fast during the day and break at dawn. I hope residents will understand that all the suffering will bring a good result once the project is completed,” he added.

Separately, Governor Joko Widodo reiterated that residents should be cooperative to ensure the project would be a success.

“Traffic gridlock is a consequence we should all bear. I hope residents will understand,” he said.

The company plans to hold a ground-breaking ceremony for the first MRT track, which will connect Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta and the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, on Thursday in Dukuh Atas, Central Jakarta.

The contractor has also prepared mitigation efforts in case of heavy rainfall, according to MRT Jakarta construction director Muhammad Natsir.

“A number of pumps will be prepared to anticipate flooding,” he said.

The consortium includes developers with dozens of years of experience, which should impact positively on the project as a whole.

The MRT construction project is divided into eight packages, comprising three underground civil works, three elevated civil works, the MRT system and the MRT rolling stock.

Consortiums Shimizu-Obayashi-Wijaya Karya-Jaya Konstruksi and Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Company-Hutama Karya have been appointed to carry out the three underground work packages.

The construction of the first phase of the MRT track will be funded by a ¥125 billion (US$1.29 billion) soft loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The central government agreed to repay 49 percent of the loan, while the city administration will pay the rest over a loan period of 40 years, with a grace period of 10 years at an interest rate of below 1 percent.

The track will have six underground stations, seven elevated stations and capacity for up to 173,000 passengers per day. The first phase of work requires Rp 3.6 trillion in funding.

The construction of the first MRT track is expected to be completed by the end of 2017 and set to operate in the first quarter of the following year.

Read more!

Thailand: Official leaps into talks over anchors in Phuket coral

Naraporn Tuarob, Phuket News, 8 Oct 13;

PHUKET: Thanate Munnoy, Director of Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, has called a meeting for Thursday (October 10) to discuss the problem of insufficient moorings at Koh Racha Yai.

Mr Thanate was reacting to video footage posted on YouTube by “Save Phuket”, showing anchors from four tourist speedboats dropped in among the coral surrounding the island, and identifying the speedboats attached to them.

He told The Phuket News, “Yes, I’ve already seen the clips.” He said that no immediate action would be taken against the offenders. “The first thing we can do is to warn them and discover why it happened.

“Was it because of a lack of moorings, or a lack of understanding or caring?

“On Thursday we plan to hold a meeting to bring together tour operators, officials, and related bodies to discuss just what is happening and to work out how we can solve the problem.”

The meeting will be held at Rawai Municipality offices, at a time to be confirmed.

Read more!

Thailand: Payung logs worth B40m seized

Bangkok Post, 8 Oct 13;

Police seized 635 logs of Siamese rosewood, or payung, worth more than 40 million baht in Sadao district of Songkhla province in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Pol Lt-Col Chavalit Kangkarat, commander of Border Patrol Police Company 437, said.

A 20-strong team of border patrol police set up a checkpoint on Kanchanavanich road in Sadao municipality on Monday night, after receiving a tip there would be an attempt to smuggle a huge amount of protected Siamese rosewood timber through the border city to Malaysia.

About 1am on Tuesday, police spotted a heavy truck with licence plate No 75-0975, Songkhla, and signalled the driver to stop for a search. They found the payung logs hidden under a covering of smoked rubber sheets.

The truck’s driver, Somchai Nual-aiad, 43, a resident of Moo 5 in tambon Pangla of Sadao district, was arrested on charges of smuggling the protected wood.

Mr Somchai told police he was paid 500 baht to deliver the cut logs to a man at Ban Dan Nok, near the Thai-Malaysian border in Sadao district.

Read more!

Thailand: Activists blast 'animal safari' show

Bangkok Post, 8 Oct 13;

Animal rights activists have expressed concerns about the welfare of wildlife featured at a show at Seacon Square.

The shopping mall's exotic animal show is entitled "Seacon Pet Planet: The Safari" and runs until Sunday.

The show features 35 species of animals, including vulturine guineafowl, snakes and a lion cub which visitors can feed with milk.

Roger Lohanan, secretary-general of the Thai Animal Guardians Association, described the show as "mild wildlife exploitation".

The animals are forced to live in a confined space in an unfamiliar environment, he said.

He questioned whether the exhibition was run under the close supervision of animal welfare specialists who could offer advice on caring properly for the animals.

"I have repeatedly said that a shopping mall is not a suitable place for wildlife exhibitions," he said. "Those poor animals are put under pressure and become unhappy in their new environment. They are stressed by the process of transportation, and by loud noises and crowds of onlookers."

He said wildlife exhibitions have become big business for wildlife owners, who are well-paid for loaning the rare and exotic animals.

Surapol Duangkhae, of Wildlife Fund Thailand, expressed similar concerns.

He said putting wildlife on show in a shopping centre will never send the right message.

"It just shows how pretty they appear. Behind the scenes, wildlife exhibitions could turn into secret markets for selling exotic wild animals. So in a way, these shows could support the illegal trade of wildlife," Mr Surapol said.

However, Charun Poopat, Seacon Square's vice-president for marketing, insisted the mall's intentions are good.

He said the shopping centre wants children to learn more about wildlife and management believes the exhibition will allow children to get closer to animals and learn more about their behaviour.

He also said the animals are closely supervised by zoo keepers who take care of food and sanitation for them, especially the baby tigers and lions which come from a Safari Park in Kanchanaburi province.

Mr Charun said that since the lion and tiger cubs are from a zoo, they are familiar with people and cages.

"I understand the concerns, but we do our best to take care of the animals. I have created the show for education purposes only," he said.

Many comments were posted on the mall's Facebook page asking it to stop torturing animals by running the show.

Read more!

Raising awareness on the issue of unsustainable fishing: not “just” the Ganges River Dolphins’ problem!

IUCN, 8 Oct 13;

Unsustainable fishing practices are a key issue in the Indian Brahmaputra river system and threaten the local population of Endangered Ganges River Dolphins, now reduced to just 300 remaining individuals.

For Dr. Abdul Wakid, project leader for SOS grantee Aaranyak and member of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group, “the restrictive regulations enforced by the State Fishery Department are instrumental in preventing over-fishing. The seasonal ban in particular gives fish more time to grow rather than be caught at a sub-optimal size. Such measures are highly beneficial to the Ganges River Dolphins, who primarily feed on fish, but they are also essential to ensure the sustainability of fisheries. However, we quickly realised that local fishermen felt undermined by these regulations, which they did not understand and perceived as detrimental to their own interests.”

For the project team, the next step was clear: they had to educate local communities on the motives behind the seasonal fishing ban and other such measures, explaining how sustainable fishing practices would not benefit the dolphins only, but also the fishermen themselves and their children.

In collaboration with the Assam Fishery Department, the project team conducted, in June and July 2013, an extensive fish and fishery conservation awareness campaign among local communities in 28 areas important for dolphin conservation, covering 13 districts. Almost 2,000 community members, most of them fishermen, participated in interactive talks held by fishery officials on the topics of illegal and unsustainable fishing. A leaflet in Assamese providing details on the fishing ban season regulations was also distributed to reinforce awareness on the legislation and link it to the messages promoted in the campaign. Fishermen are more likely to respect the ban regulations if they understand the reasons for their existence, explained Wakid.

The campaign was very well-received by participants, with 90% of those surveyed describing the meetings as relevant and informative, and a similar percentage strongly agreeing on the need to sustainably manage fisheries. In general the fishermen like the dolphins and that makes it more likely that they will respect the fishing ban according to Wakid.

Reflecting on the campaign’s outcomes, Dr Abdul Wakid appears satisfied: “the message is getting out there and people are taking ownership of it. Since the campaign, several communities took steps to prevent unsustainable fishing in their local area, leading to fewer reports of unsustainable fishing practices.”

Read more!

Pygmy Hog Conservation: Hunting for genetic diversity in the long grass of Assam

IUCN, 4 Oct 13;

To save the Pygmy Hog species first you have to catch a Pygmy Hog, or two. But quite how one captures such a shy, diminutive animal – India’s most threatened mammal - is partly science, partly experience and a lot of luck. So the successful capture of 3 wild hogs in March 2013 represented an important if small contribution to the captive breeding gene pool.

According to Goutam Narayan, director of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP) implemented by EcoSystems India, an SOS -Save Our Species grantee, the captive population he founded in 1996 with his first batch of hogs continually needs new blood. This new blood will improve the prospects of future reintroduced populations. Starting with 6 animals, Narayan has periodically replenished his breeding stock with wild capture three times since the project began.

Genetic diversity for captive breeding is key but it is not easy to acquire, Narayan confides with a wry smile over a cup of chai tea. Considering their size, habits and habitat, finding wild Pygmy Hogs is literally like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Then there is the challenge of capturing them! They are notoriously elusive, even with appropriate netting and coordinated flushing using trained elephants and personnel. After years of attempts, Narayan is confident of just one thing: that nothing is certain.

The recovery programme, that has successfully reintroduced two populations in Assam, has already released 60 captive bred hogs into the wild over the last five years. After a failed capture attempt in 2012, the pressure is now on to find new animals in 2013 to ensure the programme builds on its successes to date. Fortunately the wild gene pool is growing and diversifying with each release. This year, another batch of 14 hogs was released in May. These numbers are significant in light of the fact that the last naturally surviving population of the species may now count less than 200 animals.

This year, after trying for two weeks the project team managed to trap a male and two female Pygmy Hogs. Some of the critical success factors in Narayan’s attempts include:

1. Permits: Pygmy Hogs are Critically Endangered animals living in a National Park. Even if you have been doing this for years, you need permission from several government organisations before you even consider going in there with your elephants and mahouts.

2. Timing: March is the best time after the extensive annual grass burning between December and February. The hogs are confined to the pockets of fresh grass and should be easier to flush out.

3. Equipment: The list is long and includes specially hand-made nets, 40-50 metres in length; a team of elephants and mahouts; especially designed boxes for transporting individual animals; veterinarian and veterinary supplies at the ready and tea for the team – these are long days.

4. Persistence: Altogether the team did 72 drives over 6 days in 2 parts of the park. That’s 10-15 drives a day, capturing 3 animals in total. That’s a lot of tea and a few hogs!

5. A soft touch: Transporting such precious cargo requires a light touch, gently placing the animals in their crates along with some of the hog’s favourite nibbles followed by peace and quiet to allow them to adapt to their new surroundings 3 hours drive away in Potasali - headquarters for Narayan’s breeding progamme.

Reflecting on the success of the operation, Narayan is preparing now for the next phases in the project’s annual cycle with a greater degree of confidence for the pygmy hog’s future. New blood means new hope. With the annual release of captive bred hogs taking place each April or May and the growing media interest around the event the glimmer of hope is getting brighter by the year.

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India: Rhino shot dead in Pobitora, rhino carcass found in Kaziranga

Business Standard, 8 Oct 13;

An adult rhino was shot dead by gang of poachers in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Morigaon district this evening, while a carcass of a rhino, suspected to have been killed by poachers, with its horn removed, was recovered from Kaziranga National Park today.

At about 6 PM forest guards in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary heard more than seven rounds of gun shots near the Tamuliduba camp and on searching they found the carcass of the rhino with its horn intact, the sources said.

A gang of four poachers killed the rhino from close range, they said, adding, the armed Forest Protection Force cordoned off the area to track them down. Forest Department officials soon rushed there.

The 38.8 sqkm Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, located about 30 km east of Guwahati, has the densest population of the Great Indian one-horned Rhino in its effective 16 sqkm rhino habitat.

Earlier in the day, the carcass of the adult male rhino was recovered near Debeshwari No 2 Nullah in the Agratoli range of the Kaziranga National Park this afternoon by patrolling forest guards, park officials said.

Several empty cartridges of .303 rifle were found near the animal which forest officials suspect was killed last night.

Altogether 34 rhinos have lost their lives during the year, the officials said.

Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain had yesterday announced that the government was planning to install solar fencing in Kaziranga National Park to protect wildlife.

Anti-poaching laws to be made more deterrent, says Gogoi, 7 Oct 13;

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Monday said that the laws will be made more deterrent in the coming days to curb poaching

"We will bring in harsher laws against poachers," said Gogoi while speaking at a state level function on the occasion of 59th Wildlife Week at Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra here.

He said the government has already made the laws stringent by amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Gogoi said punitive action against poachers by sentencing them to life in jail added with equipping forest personnel with sophisticated weapons to match the firepower of the poachers has "yielded positive results".

"When the government has brought the militancy under control over the years, there is no reason it should fail in stopping the poachers," he said.

The chief minister also lauded the efforts of the forest officials and guards, saying it was due to them that a silent revolution has been taking place in wildlife conservation efforts in Assam.

"The slew of conservation efforts have led to rise in the rhino, elephant, tiger and other wildlife population in the state. The forest guards and officials of the environment and forest department deserve encomiums for the conservation efforts which have had led to increase in the wildlife population in the state," he said.

The chief minister's statement comes as the state government has been drawing flak over last several months for its failure to stop poaching of one-horned rhinos, particularly inside the protected areas.

According to official records, at least 30 rhinos have been poached in Assam this year, including 21 in highly secured Kaziranga National Park, three in Manas National Park and one in Pobitara wildlife sanctuary.

Gogoi appealed the media to highlight the conservation success stories to boost the morale of the forest personnel who are working under adverse conditions to protect the wildlife from poachers.

"The media must also pitch in their efforts to build an atmosphere in which the poachers are condemned in the strongest possible term and despised and hated for their heinous crimes against wildlife," he stressed.

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Nepal arrests 14 over rhino poaching

BBC News, 7 Oct 13;

At least fourteen alleged members of a gang of rhinoceros poachers have been arrested in Nepal, officials say.

Those arrested include Buddhi Bahadur Praja, the alleged leader of a cross-border smuggling ring.

Police accuse Mr Praja of killing more than 12 rhinos in Nepal in the past six years. There has been no immediate comment from any of those arrested.

Researchers say rhinos are killed so their horns can be used in traditional medicines, despite no proven benefits.

"It was a joint operation by the Nepalese army and the special police," Kamal Jung Kunwar, a senior official at Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, told the BBC.

"Fourteen people have been arrested in this operation in the past three weeks. We have seized two guns and four bullets from the gang."

Mr Kunwar said it was the biggest arrest of poachers in a single operation in recent years.

"It was one of our informers who provided us vital clues about the location of these poachers," he added.

Grave concern
Nepal's protected forests were estimated by a census in 2011 to be home to more than 500 rhinos, most of them in Chitwan National Park, about 120km (75 miles) south-west of the capital Kathmandu.

Nepal faced a serious problem of rhino poaching about 10 years ago when the country was affected by civil war between government forces and Maoist rebels.

In 2002, about 37 rhinos were killed by poachers, triggering grave concern over the future of one-horned rhinos.

Their population dropped from an estimated 612 in 2000 to less than 375 in 2005.

But numbers have increased to more than 500 after a series of anti-poaching measures were taken by the authorities.

"This year so far only one rhino has been killed by poachers in Chitwan Park," Mr Kunwar said.

Officials say there are more than 1,000 Nepalese soldiers in the Chitwan national park involved in anti-poaching activities. They operate from more than 40 positions, some deep inside the forest.

Nepal police arrest 14 for rhino poaching
Police in Nepal have arrested 14 rhinoceros poachers including the alleged mastermind of a cross-border smuggling ring Buddhi Bahadur Praja, who has been accused of killing 12 rhinos over the past six years.
Channel NewsAsia, 7 Oct 13;

KATHMANDU: Police in Nepal have arrested 14 rhinoceros poachers including the alleged mastermind of a cross-border smuggling ring, a national parks official said Monday.

Tikaram Paudel, an official at the Chitwan National Park which is home to most of the country's rhinos, said police arrested Buddhi Bahadur Praja, the alleged kingpin of a network extending from Nepal to China's Tibet, in mid-September.

His arrest in the popular tourist city of Pokhara helped authorities uncover a network of poachers, said Paudel.

"He would supply the rhino horns to Kathmandu-based smugglers who would supply them to Tibetans," he said.

Police have accused the 55-year-old smuggler of killing 12 rhinos over the past six years.

Police arrested four more smugglers and eight poachers in an operation that followed Praja's capture, recovering two guns and four bullets from the poachers living in villages near the country's national parks.

A 14th man was arrested for supplying weapons.

Rhino poaching in Nepal carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail and a 100,000-rupee ($1,013) fine.

Thousands of rhinos once roamed the plains of Nepal, but their numbers have plunged over the past century due to poaching and human encroachment of their habitat.

Around 534 rhinos roam Nepal's protected areas including the Chitwan National Park, according to a census in 2011.

The animals are killed for their horns, which are prized for their supposed medicinal qualities in China and Southeast Asia.

A single horn can sell for tens of thousands of dollars on the international black market, and with porous borders, weak law enforcement and proximity to China, the impoverished Nepal has been made a hub for the illegal trade.

- AFP/jl

Rhino poacher Chepang, smuggler gang arrested
Ramesh Kumar Poudel, Republica, 5 Oct 13;

CHITWAN, Oct 5 : Police busted a racket of rhino horn smugglers along with a notorious poacher, Buddi Bahadur Chepang. According to Chitwan National Park (CNP), 14 local and international smugglers of wildlife parts have been arrested along with most wanted poacher Chepang.

Police had long been searching for Chepang, who was convicted in three cases of rhino killing and was sentenced to 15 years´ imprisonment. However, he has been on the lam.

CNP informed that the smuggler gang was apprehended in the course of “Operation Unicornish” conducted to quash the rhino poaching and rhino body parts smuggling racket.

Organizing a press meet in Chitwan, CNP informed that the arrested gang included local poachers as well as international smugglers. CNP further claimed that the group was arrested when it was trying to enter the national park to kill the rhinos.

As per information given at the press meet, ´Operation Unicornish´ was conducted between September 12 to October 1. Two years ago also, CNP had launched ´Operation October´ and a group of smugglers dealing in rhino body parts was arrested.

Out of the nine cases against him at CNP, Buddhi Bahadur Chepang was convicted in three. He was arrested on September 13 in Pokhara with the help of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police.

“Smugglers operate at various levels. At the first level, smugglers buy arms from the Indian market and bring them to Nepal for poaching. Killing rhinos and obtaining the horns also fall within this level,” said Tika Ram Poudel, assistance conservation officer at CNP. According to him, in the second tier of activities local smugglers buy the rhino horns, and subsequently, in the third step of the smuggling process, take the horns to Kathmandu. Poudel informed that the rhino horns are smuggled out to the country in the fourth and last phase of the smuggling.

CNP claims that all the smugglers operating at all four levels of the smuggling mechanism have been arrested during Operation Unicornish. Poudel further informed that poacher Chepang, who is from Chitwan, has killed 12 rhinos since 2005.

Along with Chepang, police have arrested Bir Bahadur Praja, Dilli Bahadur Praja and Damu Praja of Bhandara, Raju Praja, Ramesh Praja and Ram Bahadur Praja of Korak VDC, Durga Kumal of Meghauli and Gopal Hajar Dusad of Mathol VDC in Parsha district. Police have also seized weapons from the smugglers.

“Had these smuggler not been arrested, they would have killed more rhino as they were prepared for it,” said Poudel of CNP. In the course of the operation, four people dealing in rhino horns have also been arrested.

Dithi Lama, Nurpu Chhuden Lama and Hitan Lama, all of them from Gorkha district and now living in diffrent places in the capial, have been arrested on the charge of dealing in rhino horns. Similarly, police have also arrested Norsang Lama of Jorpati in Kathmandu, for his involvement in the rhino horn smuggling.

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