Best of our wild blogs: 9 Nov 13

iSeahorse Identification Workshop - 8 November 2013
from Psychedelic Nature

Floods in Singapore and rising seas
from wild shores of singapore

Call of the Red Avadavat
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Seahorses on your iPad: new app allows anyone to track and document seahorses from news by Tiffany Roufs

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Fire breaks out at Tuas incineration plant

Channel NewsAsia 8 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: A fire broke out at an incineration plant -- Veolia Environmental Services -- in Tuas on Friday evening.

Three men sustained burn injuries and were sent to hospital.

Two men are at the Singapore General Hospital while the other is at the National University Hospital.

Firefighting operations are still ongoing to tackle pockets of fire. About 60 SCDF personnel are at the scene.

SCDF said the fire involved flammable chemicals at the plant.

After 90 minutes, the fire was brought under control.

Madam Fauzah, an eyewitness who works in a factory nearby, said: “Suddenly the whole building is shaking. So we thought there's an earthquake.

"So I run out, both of us -- me and my colleague -- ran out. Suddenly we saw… smoke and (heard loud)… explosions...”

- CNA/gn

Massive fire at Tuas plant leaves three injured
Today Online 9 Nov 13;

A fire at Veolia Environmental Services’ incineration plant, which affected an area of about two football fields, left three injured yesterday.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted to the fire at Tuas Avenue 10 at 5.17pm.

The fire, which involved flammable chemicals at the plant, took 90 minutes to put out in an operation that involved 60 SCDF personnel. At its height of the operation, firefighters encircled the plant with 12 jets and used two aerial platform monitors for aerial firefighting. As of about 9pm last night, the operation was ongoing to put out pockets of fire.

One man suffered first- and second-degree burns, while a second had first-degree burns. Both were taken to the Singapore General Hospital. A third man who sustained burns was taken to the National University Hospital before the SCDF arrived. Photo: Jacqueline Thien

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Falling demand for ivory in Cambodia and Singapore?

TRAFFIC 7 Nov 13;

Cambridge, UK, 7 November 2013 —Despite unprecedented levels of illegal ivory trade globally, there are positive signs that ivory markets in Cambodia and Singapore may be showing signs of decline.

Two separate surveys published in the latest issue of the TRAFFIC Bulletin suggest that there has been a significant reduction in ivory items for sale in markets in Cambodia and Singapore over the past decade.

Where large amounts of ivory were on sale in retail outlets in Phnom Penh during surveys carried out in 1994 and 2001, most of the approximately 900 ivory items observed for sale in March 2013 were estimated to comprise less than 30 kg of ivory.

Similarly, a TRAFFIC survey undertaken in Singapore in 2012 found a reduction in ivory products for sale and the number of outlets selling ivory, compared with a similar study a decade earlier. However, Singapore remains an important transit route for high volume consignments of illicit ivory between Africa and Asia, and within Asia.

Other features in the latest TRAFFIC Bulletin include a detailed account of the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, held in Bangkok in March 2013. This was one of the most positive CITES meetings in years, with decisive action being taken to halt the decline in a range of marine and timber species, and strong enforcement measures announced to halt illegal trade in elephants and rhinos. Other subjects in this issue cover efforts undertaken to improve forest governance in four Latin American countries—Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru; FairWild Standard certification for medicinal and aromatic plants; the illegal trade in Sumatran Laughingthrushes and hornbills; trade in Green Iguanas in Fonseca, Colombia; and a section dedicated to some of the significant wildlife seizures and prosecutions that have recently taken place around the world.

The TRAFFIC Bulletin is the only peer-reviewed journal in the world dedicated to studies of global wildlife trade, providing news on the trade in wildlife resources, the latest in related legislation, investigations and seizures, and original reports. The latest edition is available now for download (link below).

TRAFFIC Bulletin 25(2) (PDF, 2 MB)

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Toxic towns and poisoned rivers: a byproduct of industry for the rich

Argentina, Indonesia and Nigeria among world's top 10 most polluted places due to jewellery and other chemical processing
Stephen Leahy for IPS, part of the Guardian development network 8 Nov 13;

Parts of Argentina, Indonesia and Nigeria are among the top 10 most polluted places on the planet, according to a report by US and European environmental groups.

In these extraordinarily toxic places lifespans are short and disease runs rampant among millions of people who live and work there, often to provide the products used in richer countries.

"People would be shocked to see the conditions under which their lovely jewellery is sometimes made," says Jack Caravanos, director of research at the New York-based Blacksmith Institute, an independent environmental group that published the list this week in partnership with Green Cross Switzerland.

In Kalimantan, Indonesia, local people extract gold using mercury, which is a poisonous, potent neurotoxin. "They do this processing inside their homes, not realising the danger," says Bret Ericson, senior project director of the Blacksmith Institute.

Blacksmith has gone into those homes and measured mercury levels 350 times higher than what is considered safe, he told IPS. This directly affects the health of 10-15 million people, Ericson says. "It is also a huge source of mercury pollution worldwide."

Once released into the environment, mercury can end up in fish and other foods people eat anywhere on the planet. Low-cost, mercury-free methods for gold mining do exist but this knowledge is not widespread, he says.

The Top 10 toxic threats report is the latest in a series of annual reports documenting global pollution issues. The list is based on the severity of the health risk and the number of people exposed.

Previous reports have documented that the disease burden of pollution is comparable in scope to tuberculosis or malaria, posing a threat to 200 million people. Globally, one-fifth of cancers and 33% of disease in children can be blamed on environmental exposures, but this is far higher in low-income countries, the report points out.

The Blacksmith Institute has conducted more than 3,000 initial risk assessments in 49 countries since the last list of polluted sites released by the two groups in 2007. Some sites listed in 2007, such as the lead battery recycling site in Haina, Dominican Republic, have been fully remediated.

"The good news is countries such as India have come to grips with their pollution problems," says Ericson. India has imposed a "clean energy cess", or coal tax, to help finance a clean energy fund of up to $400m (£250m) which will clean up contaminated areas.

One of the emerging issues around toxic hotspots are clusters of poorly regulated small-scale industries found in many countries. There are more than 2,000 industries along the Citarum river in Indonesia, contaminating an area of 5,020 sq miles with lead, mercury, arsenic and other toxins, the report found.

"Cleanup is beginning thanks to a $500m loan from the World Bank, but it will take a decade or more to complete," Ericson says.

Near Buenos Aires, Argentina, an estimated 50,000 small-scale industries dump a toxic mix of chemicals and metals into the air, soil and water. At least 20,000 people living along the Matanza Riachuelo river are exposed to dangerous levels of toxins, the report shows. The World Bank is also funding a major clean-up, with Blacksmith providing technical support.

Some toxic hotspots are so big and so badly polluted it will cost billions of dollars and take decades to clean, says Stephan Robinson of Green Cross Switzerland. "There are places that will be on our list for many years," he tells IPS.

Russia has two of these. Russian authorities have finally acknowledged the issue and set aside $3bn to clean up Soviet-area legacy sites. One of these is Dzerzhinsk, a city of 300,000 people where chemical weapons such as sarin, VX gas, mustard gas, and phosgene were manufactured for 50 years. At least 300,000 tonnes of waste from their manufacture were disposed of in the groundwater.

Birth defects are very common and the average lifespan of residents has fallen to the low forties. The situation is similar in Siberia's Norilsk region, where the world's biggest nickel smelter has killed all the trees within a 20-mile radius. "There has been lots of talk about improving pollution controls in Norilsk but not much action," Robinson says.

A new site that will be on the list for years is the very polluted Niger delta in Nigeria. Millions of barrels of oil have been spilled over the years, and a UN study found two-thirds of the sites tested to be highly contaminated.

Petroleum and its byproducts are highly toxic and, when combined with poor nutrition, are a major unrecognised health threat for the 30 million people who live there, the report notes. The US has been the major export destination for Nigerian oil.

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