Best of our wild blogs: 20 Nov 13

Wetland in a city!
from Life is a colorful canvas

Mammal crew guiding Sunburst students at Bukit Timah this afternoon from Otterman speaks

Red Junglefowl In Feather Maintenance
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Nomenclature chaos averted with financial bailout by Singapore

National University of Singapore funds arbiters of animal names.
Daniel Cressey Nature News 18 Nov 13;

Every year scientists describe thousands of new species, but the body that regulates this process and rules on disputes between taxonomists warring over animal names has been facing financial meltdown. Now, in a deal announced today, the ‘supreme court for animal names’ has been bailed out.

The National University of Singapore will fund the secretariat of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) for the next three years. The commission arbitrates on disputes between scientists over naming of species, and produces the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, which governs how species must be named.

“For 100 years after Linnaeus established bio-nomenclature there were no rules. There was chaos,” says Daphne Fautin, vice president of the ICZN and a zoologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. “The code brought some order to that.”

With the charitable trust that previously funded the work of the commission down to its last few pennies, there was a risk, says Fautin, that “chaos will reign again”.

Challenges ahead
The commission has faced some tough questioning in recent years as it has struggled with the rapidly changing face of taxonomy. Last year, after much clamouring from zoologists, the code was finally amended to allow species to be officially named in online-only publications.

The sheer number of species now being described — running to around 15,000 a year — has also presented challenges, admits Ng. The three years of support from Singapore will allow the ICZN to reassess its financial situation and deal with the scientific challenges it faces, ahead of a new edition of the code scheduled for 2018. “It’s time to re-invent ourselves,” says Ng.

The financial rescue of the ICZN is good news, says Mike Taylor, a palaeontologist at the University of Bristol, UK. The code needs to be able to evolve, he says — and that requires the guidance of the ICZN.

It is also crucial to have a body ruling on disputes, says Taylor, who has had a petition requesting a change to the ‘type specimen’ — the animal that serves as the exemplar for a species — of a dinosaur called Cetiosaurus with the ICZN since 2009. He hopes that the new financial security for the commission might allow it to speed up its decision-making.

These disputes can seem arcane to those outside the taxonomic world. But Taylor says it is vital that they be settled and that words mean the same things to the same people: “Clear communication is the foundation of science.”

Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2013.14191

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New residential developments announced under Draft Master Plan 2013

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 20 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans can expect some 15,000 new homes in central Singapore, more commercial hubs outside the city centre, and a new waterfront area in the future.

These are some of the plans laid out in the Draft Master Plan 2013.

The plan guides Singapore's development in the medium term and is reviewed every five years.

It was launched on Wednesday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

New developments are expected at Marina South - an area which is currently largely occupied by construction.

These include an 800 metre-long pedestrian street with an underground shopping mall connecting two MRT stations - Marina South and Gardens by the Bay, a high-rise walkway from Gardens by the Bay right to the seafront, as well as 9,000 new homes.

Development of the area is expected to begin after 2017.

Over at Holland Village, a new extension has been planned to create more walkways and meeting spaces.

Some 1,500 residential units and a community park have also been proposed.

The first batch of developments is expected to be up and running in the next one to two years.

And for Kampong Bugis, the third residential development outlined in the Master Plan, it is set to be an eco-friendly and car-reduced precinct.

There will likely be fewer car parks in the area and water taxis could be offered as an alternative commuting mode to the city.

Some 4,000 housing units have been planned for the area as well.

Kampong Bugis has also been identified as a pilot site to serve as a model for sustainable water management practices internationally.

And like in earlier plans, the draft adopts the decentralisation strategy which means having people working closer to where they are living.

Other than creating sustained growth of the City Centre, more commercial hubs will be developed in areas like the Jurong Lake District and Woodlands.

A mixed-use integrated township in the west is one such project. Named 2 West, the URA says it will create a work, live, play and learn ecosystem integrated within a manufacturing environment.

2 West will comprise of the 50 ha CleanTech Park, Nanyang Technology University, Wenya Industrial park and part of the future Tengah Town.

The relocation of Pasir Panjang, Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Brani terminals will free up 1,000 hectare of land by 2027. Some ideas have been planned for this vast area which will be called the Greater Southern Waterfront.

These ideas include building of a new reservoir between Tanjong Pagar and Pulau Brani, and creating an eco-corridor by joining up green spaces in the area such as Labrador Park, Southern Ridges and the Rail Corridor.

Other initiatives include dedicated cycling paths in the Central area, and new identity nodes at Holland Village, Serangoon Garden and Jalan Kayu.

This means URA will explore ways to conserve and enhance the special character of these three places as part of their land use planning.

The Draft Master Plan is on display at The URA Centre and on URA's website.

The public can give their feedback on the proposed plans, from Wednesday until December 19.

- CNA/fa

Community spirit, green living at heart of URA plan for Singapore
Three new residential districts unveiled: Marina South, Kampong Bugis and extension adjacent to Holland Village
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 20 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — Three new residential districts — two of which are piloting new urban-living concepts — along with a raft of proposals guiding the islandwide developments in the medium term have been unveiled today in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) draft Master Plan 2013.

Offering some 14,500 homes, Marina South, Kampong Bugis — which is near the Kallang River — and a new extension adjacent to Holland Village have been earmarked for private housing developments.

In particular, Marina South and Kampong Bugis will pilot schemes to reduce car usage and encourage residents to use “more green forms of commuting”, such as public transport, walking and cycling. The two precincts will also test environment-friendly concepts, such as exploring sustainable water-management practices in a high-density precinct and harnessing wind energy to cool the entire district.

The URA said the development of the three districts will be spread over the “next 10 to 15 years”.

While the three areas will consist of mostly private housing, the authority said that, under the draft Master Plan — which was embargoed till 3am today — it has “safeguarded enough land for 500,000 housing units, of which a large proportion will be for public housing”.

Apart from new towns such as Bidadari, Tampines North and Punggol Matilda, new public housing units will also be built in established housing estates such as Sembawang, Yishun, Hougang and Choa Chu Kang, providing more options for those who wish to live near their parents or residents who wish to relocate within familiar neighbourhoods.

The URA has also proposed 70 more buildings for conservation, including the former Queenstown Library and five blocks at Kampong Silat, the island’s second-oldest surviving public housing estate.

The URA Master Plan is a statutory land use plan, which guides Singapore’s development in the medium term by showing the permissible land use and density for every parcel of land here. Reviewed every five years, the plan also sketches out the authority’s vision to develop scarce land and meet residential, industry, transport and recreational needs. The pace of these developments is “dependent on global circumstances and market demand”, said the URA.

Among the eye-catching proposals in the latest urban-planning blueprint are a new waterfront “creative cluster” and “learning corridor” in the Punggol area anchored by a planned tertiary institution.

Urban planners have also outlined plans to provide 30 per cent more office space in the next 15 years in the downtown area, equivalent to adding twice the office capacity currently available in Raffles Place.

Marina South is envisioned as a “fenceless” residential precinct, similar to Robertson Quay and One North Residences. It will offer 9,000 private housing units and a total land area of 21.5ha will be developed. The area will feature an 800m-long pedestrianised street and an underground mall that will connect commuters to two MRT stations — Marina South and Gardens by the Bay — on the Thomson line.

An elevated landscaped walkway will link the Bay South Gardens to the seafront. Cycling paths will also be built to connect to other parts of Marina Bay. The URA said it is exploring the idea of an underground network of car parks in the district. If feasible, this will allow motorists to drive underground from one building to another.

To be developed only after 2017 or 2018, Marina South will be 30 per cent more energy-efficient than other districts, with buildings incorporating environmentally-friendly features, such as rain gardens and porous pavements. It will also be a test-bed to harness wind as a natural cooling system for the entire district.

At the 18ha Kampong Bugis, residents will be encouraged to commute using the MRT, bus and future water taxi services. It will also be a test-bed for sustainable water-management practices, with developments incorporating effective stormwater management systems and features such as bio-retention basins. To be developed after 2016, Kampong Bugis will offer about 4,000 private residential units.

The 6ha new extension at Holland Village, which will be completed within the next two years, will add another 1,500 private residential units within mixed developments.

Previously, some HDB blocks and a car park near Holland Village had been selected for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme as part of plans to redevelop the area.

New buildings in the area — which the URA noted was a popular haunt for Singaporeans and visitors — will be low- and medium-rise, as a way to ensure it retains its “eclectic” character, the authority said. On the cards are “pedestrian-oriented streets”, an underground parking station and a new access road.

The URA is holding an exhibition on the draft Master Plan at The URA Centre till Dec 19. The final plan will be released in the first quarter of next year.

Brochures for the various residential areas earmarked for new developments are also available at

URA unveils concept for Greater Southern Waterfront
Preliminary plans include 30km stretch of waterfront promenade and a reservoir
Sumita D/O Sreedharan Today Online 20 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — More than a year after plans were first announced to free up prime land for development by consolidating all container port activities in Tuas, Singaporeans have been given a glimpse of the vast transformation that could take place along the Republic’s southern front.

Preliminary conceptual plans unveiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) under its draft Master Plan include an uninterrupted 30km stretch of waterfront promenade that extends from Labrador Park to Marina South and encompasses Pulau Brani, a new reservoir created between the offshore island and Tanjong Pagar, and new residential and commercial districts along the coastline.

The Greater Southern Waterfront — with a land area about three times the size of Marina Bay — is “envisioned to be a seamless extension of the city and will open up new live-work-play opportunities”, the URA said.

The area was identified in the Land Use Plan published at the start of the year as one of two new commercial nodes. During the National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also alluded to it when he sketched out ambitious long-term development plans.

The URA said the plan for this “large-scale endeavour” will be worked out over the coming years and it welcomes ideas from the public for the new waterfront area.

The relocation of the City Terminals at Tanjong Pagar, Keppel and Pulau Brani by 2027 and the Pasir Panjang Terminal thereafter will free up 1,000ha of land for development.

The proposed reservoir could retain rainwater from the Greater Southern Waterfront and store excess water from Marina Reservoir. Differentiated waterfront districts could be built in areas such as Labrador, Tanjong Pagar and Pulau Brani. A network of canals, lined with shops and cafes, running through the new neighbourhoods comprising low- and mid-rise developments is also on the cards.

The city centre could also be extended southwards and be integrated with housing and businesses at the waterfront.

The land that will be freed up by the relocation of the container terminals may also allow for an expansion of public spaces. The Central Linear Park linking Marina Boulevard to Straits Boulevard could extend into the Greater Southern Waterfront, creating a pedestrian link to the area. This new axis could be designated a car-free zone, the authority said.

A green corridor linking Labrador Park, Berlayer Creek and Mount Faber to Pulau Brani could also be created and be connected to the Gardens by the Bay and the islandwide green network.

The waterfront promenade — where people can jog, cycle or take a leisurely stroll — will link up all the places of interest along the Greater Southern Waterfront and provide a “unique and varied waterfront experience”, it added.

Serangoon Garden, Jalan Kayu, Holland Village to be preserved
URA designates the three areas as identity nodes in view of their distinctive character
Sumita D/O Sreedharan Today Online 20 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — It is one of the oldest estates around and was once known as Ang Sar Lee (Red Roof in Hokkien) for the red zinc roofs in the neighbourhood. Now, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is drawing up plans to help preserve the identity of Serangoon Garden and the low-rise nature of the estate, and retain its iconic roundabout. Close to the famous Chomp Chomp Food Centre, Serangoon Garden Circus connects Serangoon Garden Way to Kensington Park Road and Chartwell Drive.

The estate, along with Jalan Kayu and Holland Village, is being added to the URA’s list of identity nodes that have been earmarked for preservation, in view of their strong and distinctive identities that resonate with Singaporeans. Their proposed inclusion was announced today by the URA at the unveiling of its draft Master Plan.

The layout of the Serangoon Garden estate, coupled with its popularity as a food haunt, has led to parking woes and worsening traffic bottlenecks. This prompted the authorities to institute a restaurant ban last year, so that shophouses could no longer be converted into eateries.

To further preserve the character of the estate, the URA aims to draw up guidelines for the urban design of the vicinity and ensure new developments will fit in with Serangoon Garden’s character and charm.

Jalan Kayu — another popular destination for foodies, especially roti prata lovers — has also been designated as an identity node. Some enhancements the URA has in mind for this laid-back estate include improvements to its pavements, lush planting and improved connectivity to its nearest LRT station, Thanggam, along the Sengkang LRT line.

The third identity node, Holland Village, will be extended to include new public spaces and mixed-use developments. Popular for its eateries and cafes, Holland Village will have a new extension that will retain its “urban village” feel and pedestrian links to connect the streets to the town centre.

The three areas join a list of 15 areas, including Thomson Village, Pulau Ubin and Tanjong Katong, which were designated as Singapore’s Identity Nodes in URA’s Identity Plan in 2002. About 70 buildings — including places of worship, warehouses and notable buildings, such as Alexandra Hospital, Queenstown Library and the former field assistant’s house at the Singapore Botanic Gardens — have also been gazetted for conservation under the latest Master Plan, which will be finalised next year. About 7,100 heritage buildings have been conserved by the URA over the past 23 years.

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Type of trees planted a factor in reducing emissions

Urban planners should pick woody trees and consider soil respiration to curb emissions
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 20 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE — Urban greenery is widely seen as a vital measure to cut carbon emissions, but if the wrong trees are planted, the carbon emitted from the soil might be more than what the trees absorb, a new study has found.

Case studies of Telok Kurau and Escandon in Mexico City found that vegetation in the Singapore neighbourhood, which is made up of 64 per cent woody trees and 36 per cent palms and other plants, absorbed 8 per cent of the area’s carbon emissions. But this is outstripped by the carbon emissions from the soil there (12 per cent of the area’s emissions).

In contrast, in Escandon, which has almost entirely woody trees (97.5 per cent), the 0.6 per cent of emissions from the soil is offset by the 2 per cent of emissions absorbed by the greenery. This is despite the fact that it has fewer trees in a given area and a smaller percentage of green surface than in Telok Kurau.

In their research paper on Telok Kurau published last month, urban air-pollution expert Erik Velasco and his co-authors wrote that tree-planting programmes must “consider the growth rate and potential carbon uptake when selecting type and species”. Priority should be given to woody trees and “large trees should not be replaced by young trees and palms, as it is the tendency along secondary roads in Singapore”. The study on Telok Kurau is the first of its kind for a tropical city.

Apart from picking woody trees over palms and ornamental plants — which take in less carbon — urban planners should also consider soil respiration in efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, said Dr Velasco, a research scientist at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology’s Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modelling.

“We could think that if we cover everything with pavement, we are not going to have emissions from soil (through roots and microbial activity), and it’s true. But then, we are not going to have trees and this is going to have a strong impact on the total carbon cycle.” He added that cities play a crucial role in efforts to mitigate carbon emissions.

To address concerns of accidents caused by tree branches snapping, Dr Velasco said, at the sidelines of a National University of Singapore workshop on climate change challenges yesterday, that more slow-growing native species could be planted.

Telok Kurau was chosen because a low-rise neighbourhood was needed to operate equipment that measures carbon-dioxide flux in the atmosphere. The neighbourhood emitted 6,502 tonnes per square kilometre of carbon dioxide per year, with the bulk (72 per cent) coming from vehicles. Human respiration contributed 17 per cent and the rest came from households (7 per cent), and vegetation and soil (4 per cent).

The findings have yet to be shared with the authorities as the research paper has just been published, said Dr Velasco. Similar studies for other cities in the region could be done, and he is looking to continue research on soil respiration and flux in fine particulate matter and other greenhouse gases in Telok Kurau.

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STB launches guidelines to get event organisers, hotels to go green

Channel NewsAsia 19 Nov 13;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has launched sustainability guidelines for the Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conferences & Exhibitions (MICE) industry in Singapore.

In a statement on Tuesday, STB said the guidelines are drawn from international standards and are meant to encourage local players to meet global sustainability requirements.

It said the guidelines apply across the business events ecosystem, including hotels, venues, event organisers and meeting planners, transportation, food and beverage, and audio-visual set-up.

The areas they address include waste management, efficient use of water and energy, and getting employees to develop a commitment to sustainable practices.

The statement said the first event to adopt the guidelines is the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainability Development to be held at Marina Bay Sands from November 25 to 26.

- CNA/nd

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Singapore expects UN climate negotiations to be complex

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 19 Nov 13;

BRATISLAVA: Singapore expects negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland, to be complex and difficult.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said he does not have high hopes for progress at the conference.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a business forum in Bratislava, Slovakia.

He is in the Slovak capital as part of a delegation which accompanied President Tony Tan Keng Yam's state visit to central and eastern Europe.

Dr Balakrishnan will leave for Warsaw from Slovakia to attend the UN conference.

At the conference, governments are expected to agree on steps towards a new agreement by 2015 aimed at among other things, keeping global temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius.

Dr Balakrishnan said he is not confident that even natural disasters such as the recent typhoon in the Philippines will spur action at the conference.

He said: "That will give an added sense of urgency, added dose of reality. But as I said, to translate that into a comprehensive global sustainable long-term fair outcome, there is a long way more to go before we reach that.

"But we will do our best, we will certainly try in our own way, try to be a force of positive reason and try to bring the world hopefully closer together."

- CNA/de

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Malaysia: Johor villagers all set to face the floods

Zazali Musa, Joseph Kaos Jr and Kathleen Ann Kili The Star 20 Nov 13;

JOHOR BARU: From storing away important documents and electrical items to having a boat, villagers are getting ready for the floods that come their way every monsoon season.

Housewife Rosliah Hamdani, 51, who has been staying in Kampung Sungai Laut here for the past 30 years, said she had sealed away important documents in a plastic bag.

“When the river started to rise during the rainy season, I decided to put away important documents for emergency evacuation.

“I even started moving electrical items such as computers and printers onto higher shelves and cleared rubbish from the river behind,” she said, adding that she lost RM5,000 in home appliances and other valuables during the flood in December 2006 when waters rose to the roof, destroying everything.

In Terengganu, Ismail Zakaria, who grew up in Kampung Permaisuri all his life, a flood-prone area near the Setiu river, has a fishing boat parked right next to his house – just in case.

“I fish as a hobby.

“But during the floods, this boat comes in handy,” said the 45-year-old entrepreneur, adding that the worst flood experience saw him, his wife and five children transferred to an evacuation centre.

Meanwhile, Johor executive councillor for public works Datuk Hasni Mohammad said Works Department district offices had been instructed to start preparing for floods.

“I have told them to monitor the irrigation and drainage system and take immediate action to clean up clogged drains in their areas,” said Hasni.

Johor Fire and Rescue Department director Datuk Ab Ghani Daud said annual leave for its personnel would be frozen immediately when the floods hit, adding that 1,100 officers, including 40 divers, were told to be on standby in high-risk districts of Batu Pahat, Mersing, Muar and Segamat. Also prepared are 30 rescue boats.

Malaysia bracing itself for onset of annual storms
Razak Ahmad, Zuhrin Azam Ahmad and Loshana K Shagar The Star 20 Nov 13;

PETALING JAYA: While the Philippines and Vietnam are recovering from the devastation of super typhoon Haiyan, Malaysia is bracing itself for the onset of the annual year-end floods and storms.

About 57,000 personnel from the Fire and Rescue Department, Civil Defence Department, police and military have been put on alert while resources that can cater to up to 1.3 million flood evacuees have been set aside throughout the country, said the National Security Council.

“All preparations are being coordinated by the National Disaster and Relief Management Committee and these have been discussed at state level,” council secretary Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab said in a statement to The Star.

The Meteorological Department has advised five states to prepare for widespread heavy rains during the northeast monsoon, which can cause flooding especially at the river basins.

The five states are Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak. The department said the southern parts of Johor could also be affected.

Thajudeen said that 1,910 lorries, 2,097 four-wheel-drive vehicles, 2,051 boats, 152 jetskis and 26 helicopters have been readied for the floods.

He added that the Health Ministry had set up 1,472 medical teams while the Social Welfare Department was preparing to open up to 4,969 evacuation centres that could accommodate 1.3 million people.

“We also welcome any aid from non-governmental organisations such as emergency equipment, food, financial assistance and manpower,” Thajudeen said, adding that groups interested in helping out can contact their respective state disaster operation centres.

In a statement, the Meteorological Department said the east coast states of peninsular Malaysia, coastal areas of Sarawak and east coast of Sabah will experience four to five episodes of widespread heavy rains that may continue for three to seven days.

“This can cause floods in the east coast states and the southern region of the peninsula from this month to January.

“Similar conditions will occur in the western and central parts of Sarawak from next month to February, and also the east coast of Sabah in January and February,” the department said.

The monsoon in Malaysia began on Nov 1 and is expected to last until the third week of March next year.

The first episode of heavy rains has been forecast for any time now.

“The northern peninsula could see increased rainfall due to moderate winds in the early stages of the monsoon. In contrast, areas like southern and eastern Pahang and southern and eastern Johor may experience rainfall below normal levels this month.

“Rainfall is also expected to increase in areas in Sabah like Kudat, Pantai Barat and Pedalaman this month,” the department said.

On whether the recent Typhoon Haiyan would have any impact on the local weather, the department said it was possible that any tropical storm system near Malaysia during this season could affect the weather, especially in coastal areas.

While the monsoon this time round is expected to be normal, each occurrence of heavy rainfall can cause flooding, the department said.

The public can obtain information on the weather and sea conditions and flood warnings via, or

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Tsunami-Blocking Mangroves Lure Carbon Investors: Southeast Asia

Neil Chatterjee Bloomberg BusinessWeek 19 Nov 13;

Replanted mangrove trees in Southeast Asia are getting credit for protecting against deadly tsunamis and typhoons such as Haiyan in the Philippines and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Mangrove regeneration in Northern Samar, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of the worst-hit Philippine city of Tacloban, helped minimize damage from the Nov. 8 storm, according to the Trowel Development Foundation, which oversaw the plantings. On Indonesia’s Sumatra island, where a 2004 tsunami killed 170,000 residents, companies including Danone and Credit Agricole SA (ACA) have put up about $4 million in exchange for tradable carbon offsets tied to the reforestation.

Mangrove trees have twisted webs of roots that absorb carbon dioxide linked to climate change and help protect coasts from tidal surges such as the one that killed at least 3,900 people when Typhoon Haiyan swamped the Philippines this month. The storm, one of the strongest to make landfall, has gripped UN climate talks in Warsaw this week, with a Philippine delegate tearfully calling for action to slow climate change.

“Had we not protected the mangrove trees against illegal cutting and had we not planted the areas surrounding the fish farms with native mangrove species, the super typhoon would have destroyed everything that the poor fisherfolks established,” Leonardo Rosario, a development consultant on the Northern Samar project, said by e-mail on Nov. 19.

The devastation in Tacloban was aggravated because it is near open seas with no mangroves to provide a buffer, he said. “So the super typhoon hit the land with its strongest might and high speed because there is no mangrove forest that should have slowed it down,” he said. “I hope the government would now realize the import of mangrove forests in protecting people, structures and livelihoods in the coastal areas.”

‘Very Much Degraded’
Mangroves in the Philippines have been lost at a rate of about 1 percent a year, with conditions “very much degraded,” Daniel Murdiyarso, a forestry scientist at the Bogor, Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research, said Nov. 18.

Mangroves, found on marine coasts and estuaries, may help low-lying coasts adapt to rising sea levels by increasing sedimentation, he said.

The trees have adapted to changing water levels by growing roots several feet above ground. They can help reduce the height and power of waves generated by storms, according to a Cambridge University report published in 2012 by The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International.

2004 Tsunami
A study in the wake of the 2004 tsunami off Aceh, Indonesia, which killed 220,000 people living near the Indian Ocean, showed that 30 coastal trees per 100 square meters may reduce the flow of a tsunami by 90 percent, according to a 2005 report in the journal Science.

The Aceh project by the Medan-based conservation group Yagasu involves restoring 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) on the northern coast of Sumatra. The program will help develop a methodology for a program letting Indonesian companies buy credits to voluntarily offset their greenhouse gas emissions, said Bambang Suprayogi, Yagasu’s founder, in a Nov. 18 interview.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who leaves office next year, pledged in 2009 to reduce Indonesia’s emissions by 26 percent at the end of the decade. Deforestation is the main cause of emissions from Indonesia, named by the World Bank as the third-largest emitter on earth in a 2007 report.

Warsaw Talks
Indonesia and the Philippines are among about 200 nations meeting in Warsaw this week for climate talks. Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, doesn’t have an obligation under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which envisioned that developing countries would host emission-reduction projects to generate offsets against pollution limits in richer nations.

The U.S. never signed the treaty, while Japan, Russia, Canada and New Zealand have opted against extending their commitments to Kyoto. The UN has yet spell out how credits from reforestation can be recognized.

Yagasu hopes to save 9 million tons of carbon dioxide over the Aceh project’s 20-year timeframe, Suprayogi said. While it has applied for UN validation, he expects most of the credits to be sold under a voluntary emission program to avoid the length and uncertainty of the UN approval process.

While Indonesia has 141 UN-approved projects designed to cut 249 million metric tons of emissions, the nation is designing its own program and methodology, Agus Purnomo, a presidential adviser for climate change, said in Jakarta on Nov. 14. The domestic plan would rely on companies voluntarily buying offsets, he said.

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Farmers hit by Typhoon Haiyan need urgent assistance

Regions most severely affected by the typhoon account for one-third of the total rice production in the country
FAO 19 Nov 13;

19 November 2013, Rome - Hundreds of thousands of farmers in the Philippines whose crops were destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan need urgent assistance to sow new seeds before the end of the current planting season, FAO warned today.

The typhoon caused damage in the central part of the country to the 2013 main season rice crop, harvesting of which was well advanced.

It also badly disrupted planting of the current 2013-2014 secondary season, which ends in late December.

There is concern that many storage facilities may have been destroyed, along with their contents.

Damage to the main season paddy crop both by Typhoon Haiyan and by Typhoon Nari, which hit northern parts of the country in October, as well as disruption to the planting of the second season is expected to result in lower rice production than anticipated for 2013.

FAO has downgraded its forecast for the 2013 rice production in the country to 18 million tonnes from the expectation of a bumper crop of 18.9 million tonnes at the beginning of the season, FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) said today.

The rice production shortfall of 900 000 tonnes will be felt disproportionally in the five most affected regions.

While rice production at the national level is likely to remain close to last year’s level, the damage at the regional level is more severe. FAO warned that farmers in areas hit by the typhoon could face severe food security and livelihood problems if they do not succeed in planting the next crop in the weeks ahead.

The five regions most severely affected by the typhoon in terms of cereal crop losses accounted for one-third of the total rice production in 2012.

Rebuilding essential

“Initial estimates reveal that hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice and other key crops like coconut have been affected due to the typhoon,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Division.

“Planting of the secondary season, mostly irrigated rice, was well underway and it is expected that crops are severely compromised. If we want to avoid entire regions of the country having to rely on food aid, we need to act now to help vulnerable families to plant or replant by late December,” he said.

In addition to providing seeds and fertilizers, rebuilding agricultural infrastructure such as storage and irrigation facilities destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan is critical for the longer-term outlook for the regions’ rice production.

The secondary rice season is largely dependent on irrigation systems, damage to which will impact the success of the crop.

An FAO assessment team is currently in typhoon-damaged areas to get a more detailed picture of crop and rural infrastructure damages and the needs of affected populations.

FAO appeal

FAO has called for $ 24 million for immediate interventions in fisheries and agriculture targeting 250 000 households as part of the UN-coordinated humanitarian Flash Appeal launched on 12 November.

The Organization plans to provide farmers with rice and maize seeds, tools, fertilizer and small irrigation equipment so that they can plant during the secondary season. Families will also receive vegetable seeds to help bridge the gap before the next harvest.

It also aims to provide support to affected fisher and fish-farming communities. In the medium-term, FAO will collaborate with partners on cash-for-work and food-for-work programmes to clear farms of debris and rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure.

Some 13 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan and over 4 million displaced, according to the latest estimates by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. An estimated 2.5 million people are currently in need of food assistance.

Philippines typhoon crop damage worth $110 million: FAO
Agnieszka Flak PlanetArk 20 Nov 13;

Philippines typhoon crop damage worth $110 million: FAO Photo: Wolfgang Rattay
An aerial view of fallen coconut trees is seen in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the eastern Samar town of Guiuan November 19, 2013.
Photo: Wolfgang Rattay

The typhoon that hit the Philippines has caused crop losses worth $110 million and inflicted damage to the agriculture sector of more than twice that figure, preliminary estimates from the United Nation's food agency showed on Tuesday.

Some 153,495 hectares (ha) of rice paddy, maize and other high value crops such as coconut, banana, cassava, mango and vegetables have been hit by Typhoon Haiyan, which killed at least 3,900 people when it struck on November 8.

"High winds, heavy rains and localized floods destroyed houses and infrastructure, including irrigation facilities, and resulted in losses of the main staple rice paddy, sugarcane and coconut crops, as well as livestock, poultry and fisheries," the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement.

The forecast for damaged areas included some 77,476 ha of rice crops and 20,951 ha of maize crops, it added.

The FAO also said that imports of rice are expected to increase by 20 percent next year to 1.2 million tonnes.

Earlier on Tuesday the Philippines' National Food Authority (NFA) said it will import up to 500,000 tonnes of rice from its neighboring countries, possibly before the end of the year, as it replenishes stocks that have been depleted by the ongoing typhoon relief efforts.

Because of Haiyan and another typhoon which hit northern parts of the Philippines in October, the FAO cut its 2013 aggregate rice paddy output forecast - including the main 2013 season and the 2013/14 secondary season - to 18 million tonnes from previous estimates of a bumper crop of 18.9 million tonnes.

"At the revised level, the 2013 paddy output would be slightly lower than that of 2012," it said.

The final output will depend on timely rehabilitation and provision of seeds and fertilizers to allow farmers to replant before the end of the sowing period, the FAO said, calling for $24 million for immediate action targeting 250,000 households.

Philippine authorities and international aid agencies face a mounting humanitarian crisis, with the number of people displaced by the catastrophe estimated at 4 million.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)

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Extreme El Niño cause found

The University of New South Wales Science Alert 19 Nov 13;

Unusual El Niños, like those that led to the extraordinary super El Niño years of 1982 and 1997, will occur twice as often under even modest global warming scenarios.

That is the finding of a new collaborative study, published in the journal Nature and led by researchers from the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, which has for the first time revealed the cause of these events.

These unusual El Niño events differ from the more common kind in that sea surface temperatures start warming in the west of the Pacific Basin and spread eastwards. Under normal El Niños, ocean surface temperatures first warm in the cold eastern Pacific and then expand west, in the direction of the Trade Winds and the ocean currents along the equator.

“These unusual El Niños appeared for the first time in the available record sometime after the mid 1970s,” says lead author, Dr Agus Santoso, of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre.
Scientists have struggled to explain why they occurred and if the frequency would change in the future.

“The most common theory used to explain these unusual El Niños was that competing air and ocean feedbacks drove the direction of the warming,” says Dr Santoso.

“But if this was true, La Niñas would have propagated in the same direction. Observations show they do not.”

In a world first, the researchers found the key to the mystery was the weakening of westward flowing currents along the Equator in the Pacific Ocean. As these currents weakened and even reversed, it allowed the heat during these unusual El Niño events to spread more easily into the eastern Pacific.

La Niña events didn’t behave in a similar way, because the currents are strong and flow to the west.

Importantly, using observations and climate models, the researchers were able to determine what this could mean for the future frequency of these unusual El Niños.

“Using observations we demonstrated the likely role of the weaker currents in the unusual behavior,” says Dr Santoso.

“These currents are well represented in a number of climate models. Using these models we confirmed, even under modest global warming scenarios, these unusual El Niño events doubled in frequency.“

Past experience shows that these super El Niño events bring more than just unusual weather conditions - they matter for people and economies.

The 1982 and 1997 events led to highly unusual weather events worldwide causing disruption in fisheries and agriculture costing tens of billions of dollars and leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of people. During the 1982 event, in the US alone, crop losses were estimated at $10-12 billion (the equivalent of $24-26 billion in current terms).

“While more frequent eastward propagating El Niños will be a symptom of a warming planet, further research is underway to determine the impact of such events in a climate that is going to be significantly warmer than today,” says co-author, Dr Wenju Cai, a senior scientist at CSIRO.

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UN climate talks in Warsaw: what you need to know

The aim is to forge a legally binding global climate treaty in Poland to cut carbon emissions. But it's easier said than done
Fiona Harvey 19 Nov 13;

What is happening in Warsaw?

It is COP19 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – or, in other words, the latest round of the ongoing United Nations talks aimed at forging a new global agreement on climate change. The talks began on 11 November but the real business – the "high-level segment" in which government ministers take part – opens on Tuesday with a short session and gala dinner for the assembled dignitaries, then the ministers get down to talks on Wednesday with the aim of finishing up on Friday evening.

Haven't we had this before? What has changed?

The UN talks have been going on since 1992, with annual conferences producing a few highs and lows along the way, but so far no comprehensive legally binding agreement. In 1997, the Kyoto protocol was signed, binding rich nations to cut their emissions by about 5% by 2012. But the US never ratified the treaty, so its impact was limited. In 2009, the Copenhagen summit ended in scenes of chaos, but it did produce commitments from all of the world's major economies, developed and developing, to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions – a historic first. However, those commitments only run to 2020, and are far less than the cuts scientists say are needed. In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced its most comprehensive review yet of the science of climate change, warning that the world is running out of its "carbon budget" – the amount of greenhouse gas we can pour into the atmosphere before warming the world by more than 2C, which scientists have identified as a crucial threshold beyond which many of the effects of climate change could become catastrophic and irreversible.

What is expected to come out of this year's talks?

The current goal of the negotiations is to forge an agreement, to be signed in Paris in 2015 and to come into force by 2020, that would involve substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from all the major economies, as well as commitments from poorer countries. But this meeting is just a staging point on the road to that goal – there is as yet no draft text for an agreement, no consensus on what a new deal should involve, or what legal form it should take.

That doesn't sound very interesting.

In terms of the business of this COP, much of it will be "housekeeping" – clearing the decks on various technicalities so that work can begin soon after on the draft text. But the Warsaw meeting has already provided more drama than was bargained for.

How so?

It began just two days after the most powerful typhoon ever to make landfall devastated the Philippines, with the loss of thousands of lives. Yeb Sano, leading the country's delegation, made an opening statement at the start of the discussions in which he broke down and connected the devastation wrought by typhoon Haiyan to climate change. His words had an effect on David Cameron, who also linked extreme weather to climate change.

Then, Japan came under attack for announcing that instead of aiming for a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, it would increase its emissions by 3%, saying this was necessary after the Fukushima disaster. But many onlookers feared that it would lead to further backsliding – there are doubts over what Australia's new climate-sceptic government will do about its existing agreements, and over the commitment of Canada and Russia to the talks.

What have the Polish hosts done about this?

Mostly, attract their own controversy – by giving a two-day platform at the talks to the global coal industry and highlighting the role of coal in energy generation. Coal is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, but it supplies most of Poland's energy, and the government takes a hard line within Europe, resisting calls for more action on emissions.

What about developing countries?

They want clearer commitments on the provision of much-needed finance to help them move to a low-carbon economy: $100bn by 2020 is the aim. Some of this will come from public funds in rich nations, but that pot is likely to be meagre, so ways have to be found to raise money from the private sector. At present, it is not clear how that will happen, or what will count towards the $100bn (£62bn).

Some developing countries also want to resurrect the issue of "loss and damage", which some interpret as compensation to poor countries from the rich for the effects of climate change, such as an increase in the number or intensity of typhoons and hurricanes. Rich countries are determined that this will not happen. The rich nations also want major developing economies such as China and India to take on more of a role in curbing emissions.

Will these disagreements jeopardise the outcome?

This meeting is still likely to end with a feel-good statement that some form of progress has been made towards the 2015 goal, but the danger is that between now and that crucial date any further upsets, backsliding, failure to agree finance or deepening rifts between rich and poor could derail the whole process. That would leave the world without an agreement on tackling climate change, which would send a poor signal to investors and let countries that don't want to cut their emissions off the hook for years to come. Against a background of still-rising emissions, that is likely to take us well beyond our carbon budget.

'Loss and damage' re-opens old wounds at climate talks
Matt McGrath BBC News 19 Nov 13;

UN climate negotiations are bogged down in a dispute over who will take legal responsibility for the loss and damage caused by climate change.

Rich countries say they will strongly resist this move.

Secretary general Ban Ki-moon opened the ministerial segment of the talks in Warsaw, Poland with a warning that the world was facing the wrath of a warming planet.

Mr Ban called on delegates to respond with wisdom, urgency and resolve.

He told delegates that climate change threatens current and future generations, referring to the recent disaster in the Philippines as an example of the extreme weather the world can expect more of.

He had recently visited Iceland and was told that it may soon be a land without ice thanks to rising temperatures.

He called on the negotiators to speed up their discussions that aim to secure a new global treaty in 2015.

However talks here in Warsaw are on familiar territory, the old divide between rich and poor countries over who has responsibility for curbing warming and critically, who will pay for the damage caused by climate change.

Many developing countries are working hard to adapt to climate change often with aid from richer countries.

But campaigners say those funds alone are not enough, because weather events are becoming more extreme and often overwhelm the steps poorer countries have taken.

This was exactly what happened in the Philippines says Dr Saleemul Huq, the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development.

"The Philippines is adapted to typhoons, the people have shelters and they went to them," he said.

"In normal circumstances you would have heard nothing about it, but in this case they died in the shelters because it was a super typhoon of unprecedented magnitude.

"That's loss and damage, you can't adapt to that."

At last year's UN talks in Doha the parties agreed that by the time they met in Poland, an "international mechanism" to deal with loss and damage should be established.

It has re-opened old wounds of division between rich and poor. The wealthier countries are fighting hard to have any legal responsibility for compensation diluted or removed. But according to Harjeet Singh from Action Aid, this time they won't get away with it.

"There is a lot of pressure on the rich countries, they recognise there is a challenge, but they are keeping their eyes closed, I don't think that will work anymore, they have to deliver," he said.

But not everyone is so sure about that. Many campaigners fear that the influx of politicians will mean a compromise deal will be done.

"I don't think we're likely to see some grand scheme materialise that addresses [loss and damage]," said Paul Bledsoe, an expert on energy and climate with the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

"I think reparations is the right word, in my view it's what's being sought, on issues like slavery or war reparations, historically they have a very difficult time occurring."

Mr Bledsoe believes the most likely outcome is that the richer nations will increase their commitments on finance in return for kicking the legal mechanism into the long grass.

The scale of the monies needed to help countries adapt to climate change was underlined here in Warsaw with a report that Africa would need $350bn annually if global warming rises to between 3.5 and 4C.

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) report says that Africa is already facing costs of between $7-$15bn a year by 2020.

But if action to cut carbon emissions is delayed, then the total costs could reach 4% of Africa's GDP by 2100.

Ban says people feel 'planet's wrath' over warming
Alister Doyle and Nina Chestney PlanetArk 20 Nov 13;

Ban says people feel 'planet's wrath' over warming Photo: Kacper Pempel
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP), U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk listen to Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec during the COP19 conference
Photo: Kacper Pempel

People around the world are feeling the "wrath of a warming planet", U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday, urging almost 200 governments to take tougher action to reach a deal in 2015 on fighting global warming.

Ban told environment ministers at climate talks in Warsaw they had a steep climb ahead to agree to cut rising greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say fuel more extreme weather.

The Warsaw talks are struggling to lay the foundations for a new global accord, meant to be agreed in 2015 and enter into force from 2020, that looks likely to be a patchwork of pledges by national governments rather than a strong treaty.

Many developed nations are more focused on spurring sluggish economic growth than fixing global warming, despite scientists' increased certainty that human emissions will cause more heatwaves, droughts, floods and rising sea levels.

Developing nations, led by China and India, insist that the rich must continue to lead while they focus on ending poverty.

"All around the world, people now face and fear the wrath of a warming planet," Ban said, referring to extreme weather events such as Typhoon Haiyan that killed more than 3,900 people in the Philippines this month.

Current pledges for curbing global warming were "simply inadequate", Ban said. "Here, too, we must set the bar higher."

He said governments needed to step up aid to help poor nations slow their rising emissions of greenhouse gases and to adapt to the impacts of warming.


No major nations have set tougher national goals for cutting greenhouse gases in Warsaw. Japan disappointed many last week by saying it was watering down goals for 2020 after closing its nuclear industry after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

A report by 49 experts in 10 nations on Tuesday said that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels will rise to a record 36 billion tonnes (1 tonne = 1.102 metric tons) this year.

"I am deeply concerned that the scale of our actions is still insufficient to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels," he said.

Governments agreed the 2C ceiling in 2010 as a maximum permitted to prevent dangerous change. Temperatures have already risen by about 0.8 C (1.4F) from before the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century.

Ban said there were some signs of hope, pointing to actions by governments, business, cities and farmers to cut emissions.

Ban has invited world leaders to attend a summit at U.N. headquarters in New York on September 23, 2014. "I ask all who come to bring bold new announcements and action," he said.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, whose country has been skeptical of tougher EU climate targets, urged better cooperation.

"The match is won by the team. In order to win, players have to collaborate," he said, in a tent set up on what is usually the pitch in Warsaw's main soccer stadium.

(With extra reporting by Stian Reklev, Susanna Twidale, Michael Szabo)

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Toxic waste 'major global threat'

Siva Parameswaran BBC Tamil Service 19 Nov 13;

More than 200 million people around the world are at risk of exposure to toxic waste, a report has concluded.

The authors say the large number of people at risk places toxic waste in a similar league to public health threats such as malaria and tuberculosis.

The study from the Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross calls for greater efforts to be made to control the problem.

The study carried out in more than 3,000 sites in over 49 countries.

"It's a serious public health issue that hasn't really been quantified," Dr Jack Caravanos, director of research at the Blacksmith Institute and professor of public health at the City University of New York told the BBC's Tamil Service.

The study identified the Agbobloshie dumping yard in Ghana's capital Accra as the place which poses the highest toxic threat to human life.

The researchers say that the report has not been hidden from governments, and they are all aware of the issue.

Agbobloshie has become a global e-waste dumping yard, causing serious environmental and health issues Dr Caravanos explained.

The study says that "a range of recovery activities takes place in Agbobloshie, each presenting unique occupational and ecological risks".

As the second largest e-waste processing area in West Africa, Ghana annually imports around 215,000 tonnes of second hand consumer electronics from abroad, particularly from Western Europe, and generates another 129,000 tons of e-waste every year.

The study warns that that Ghana's e-waste imports will double by 2020.

At the Agbobloshie site, the study found the presence of lead in soil at very high levels, posing serious potential health and environment hazards to more than 250,000 people in the vicinity.

Chernobyl in Ukraine ranks second in the study, while the Citarum River Basin in Indonesia ranks third.

Among the worlds top ten toxic threat sites as listed in the study, Africa, Europe and Asia have three sites respectively and Latin America one.

Children at risk
The study says that tens of thousands of women and children are at risk due to toxic dumping and environmental pollution.

"These are sites that are releasing toxic chemicals into air, water and soil. These are sites where children are particularly at risk and the numbers are rather high. We have not hidden this list from the respective governments and they are all aware of the issue" said Dr Caravanos.

He also agrees that the developed nations are part of this problem.

Dr Caravanos told the BBC that many westerners buy products without knowing the environmental impact.

He said Ghana actively wanted to progress in the IT field and as such started importing used computers from Europe 10 years ago. That had resulted in Agbobloshie becoming a dumping yard for e-waste from Europe.

In some places the damage caused to the land is so huge that it cannot be reversed, so the only option is to move people away and seal the contamination. Heavy metals are very difficult to remove from the soil, Dr Caravanos pointed out.

While the study sates that India has made significant progress in dealing with pollution issues on a national level, environmentalists and activists disagree with that observation.

The World Health Organization, in conjunction with the World Bank, estimates that 23% of the deaths in the developing world are attributable to environmental factors, including pollution, and that environmental risk factors contribute to more than 80% of regularly reported illnesses according to the report.

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