Best of our wild blogs: 3 Dec 13

Learn to Say ‘NO’
from Zero Waste Singapore

7 Dec, 9 am : Bukit Brown, Our Singapore Story
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

Butterflies Galore! : Dingy Line Blue
from Butterflies of Singapore

New organization works to raise the profile of the world's littlest bear
from news by Jeremy Hance

Von Schrenck's Bittern
from Monday Morgue and Team flocks to collect dead birds for research

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Malaysia: Flood havoc in Johor, Pahang

Hamzah Jamaluddin New Straits Times 3 Dec 13

ON ALERT: Police warn of more evacuations if wet spell continues

KUANTAN: THE first wave of flooding began in Pahang yesterday with more than 200 people evacuated here and in Rompin, Maran and Pekan.

As of 8pm yesterday, Maran was the worst hit with 90 people from Kampung Chendong, Kampung Bak Bak and Kampung Ulu Luit relocated to relief centres when their villages were flooded due to heavy rain since Sunday morning.

Another 77 people from seven villages in Rompin were evacuated.

Among the villages affected were Kampung Pertat, Kampung Kurnia, Kampung Pianggu and Kampung Kerpal.

Rompin police chief Deputy Superintendent Ahmad Johari Jahaya said the villagers were evacuated from 10am when floodwaters rose to more than a metre.

He advised people in flood-prone areas and along the river banks to be on alert as heavy rains were expected to continue over the next few days.

A state police operations centre spokesman said another 51 flood evacuees were from Kampung Padang Rumbia, Pekan while a family of eight in Kampung Chendor, Cherating near here were evacuated when their home was partially submerged.

A family of nine sought shelter at the Sungai Lembing police station when their home was badly affected by the floods.

"More people are expected to be evacuated as flood water is rising in several areas including the town area and Sungai Lembing," he said.

Among the affected areas here are Taman Pelindung Perdana, Taman Bukit Sekilau and Beserah.

Traffic was reduced to a crawl in the town centre when water rose to 0.5m at several stretches.

The Sungai Charu bridge at Km28 of Kuantan-Sungai Lembing road was closed to all vehicles when the river overflowed and part of the road caved in early yesterday.

In Johor, a downpour for the past 48 hours caused flash floods in several districts, leading to more than 691 victims being evacuated.

The victims are from housing estates in low lying areas in Segamat, Kluang and Mersing.

A Malaysian Metrological Department spokesman said more shelters would be opened if it continued to rain and the situation worsened.

Mersing recorded the highest number of evacuees with 260 victims from 64 families, who are seeking shelter at two centres at Sekolah Agama Air Papan and SK Tenglu.

Number of flood-affected rises in Johor
Desiree Tresa Gaspar The Star 3 Dec 13;

JOHOR BARU: The number of flood victims statewide has risen to 1,452, with the hardest hit area being Mersing.

State welfare director Khadijah Abdullah said in Mersing alone, 14 flood relief centres have been opened.

"Other than Mersing, six flood relief centres have also been opened in Segamat, two in Kluang and one in Kota Tinggi," she said when contacted Tuesday.

She added that a total of 354 families including children, babies and the elderly were being taken care of by welfare officers at the respective centres.

Flood situation worsens in Pahang
The Star 3 Dec 13;

KUANTAN: The flood situation in Pahang has worsened with more than 5,000 people in flood relief centres in four districts by Tuesday morning.

A spokesman at the Pahang police headquarters said the four districts were Rompin, Kuantan, Pekan and Maran.

"In Rompin, 2,595 victims from 23 kampungs have been placed in six centres," he said when contacted.

He said in Pekan, six kampungs were inundated, forcing 341 people to move to the centres, while in Kuantan, 23 kampungs were affected, causing 1,824 victims to be relocated to 23 centres.

In Maran, nine kampungs were hit, resulting in 633 victims having to take shelter in seven relief centres.

The situation is expected to worsen further following incessant rain since the past two days.

The spokesman also said that the Sungai Charu bridge at KM28 Jalan Sungai Lembing-Kuantan was closed to all traffic after the water level rose to nearly one metre at the stretch. - Bernama

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Indonesia: Activists Call for Halt in Mercury Imports After Treaty Signing

Jakarta Globe 2 Dec 13;

A coalition of activist groups has praised Indonesia for signing an international treaty on mercury emissions, but emphasized that the country has much to do to reduce the use of the highly toxic metal across the archipelago.

“We have to stop importing mercury and Indonesia must set a mercury-reduction target immediately in the national implementation plan,” said Yuyun Ismawati, a representative of BaliFokus.

On Oct 10, government representatives from 139 countries agreed to adopt the new mercury treaty, named the Minamata Convention on Mercury, in Kumamoto, Japan. As of today, 94 countries, including Indonesia, have signed the treaty.

The true extent of mercury poisoning was first found in Minamata. A local chemical factory dumped the metal into the city’s bay for more than 30 years, contaminating local seafood. After years of eating fish and shellfish, residents began to exhibit the signs of what is now called Minamata disease.

While the use of mercury in modern gold mining is a thing of the past, opportunist prospectors in Indonesia and other countries frequently rely on the metal to increase yield. A UNEP study showed that small-scale gold mining was identified as the single biggest source of mercury emissions around the world, while clandestine gold mining in Indonesia by small groups accounted for 57.5 percent of the country’s emissions, equivalent to 195 tons per year.

Mercury is imported into Indonesia through legal channels for use in light industrial and medical applications, but a black market exists for the self-employed gold trade. Yuyun said illegal mercury imports in 2012 were valued at around $31 million, traded illegally in as many as 850 locations across the country.

“It is so shameful that Indonesia is the top importer of the illegal mercury of the world,” said Nur Hidayati, head of advocacy and campaigns at environmental watchdog Walhi.

Gatot Sugiharto, coordinator of Community Green Gold Mining (CCGM), said that communities involved in gold mining would be broadly supportive of a program to implement non-mercury techniques. He emphasized, however, that the threat of criminal charges for miners would drive many away from engaging in the initiative.

Rossana Dewi from the Gita Pertiwi Foundation emphasized the human health consequences of mercury entering the food chain.

“When the food chain is contaminated, our food will be unhealthy and unsafe, risking the quality of life for our future generations,” Rossana said.

Henri Subagiyo, the director of Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), said that the government must ensure that it put in place a system that made polluters responsible for reparations backed by adequate law enforcement.

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Microplastics 'pose toxic threat to marine biodiversity'

Mark Kinver BBC News 2 Dec 13;

Tiny particles of waste plastic that are ingested by shoreline "eco-engineer" worms may be negatively affecting biodiversity, a study says.

So-called microplastics may be able to transfer toxic pollutants and chemicals into the guts of lugworms, reducing the animals' functions.

An estimated 150 million tonnes vanishes from the global waste-stream each year.

The findings have been published in the academic journal Current Biology.

"We are losing a large volume of plastic and we know it is going into the environment and the assumption being made by policymakers is that this material is non-hazardous, it has got the same ranking as scraps of food," explained co-author Mark Browne, an ecologist from the US-based National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

"The research we have done really challenges that," Dr Browne added, referring to the findings of lab work carried out by colleagues at Plymouth University, UK, led by co-author Prof Richard Thompson.

"Our findings show that the plastic itself can be a problem and can affect organisms.

"Also, when particles of plastic go into the environment what you find is that they accumulate large quantities of pollutants that are banned. So you have these particles themselves but also a load of nasty chemicals."

Important role
The team found that the tiny bits of plastic, which measure 1mm or smaller, transferred pollutants and additive chemicals - such as flame-retardants - into the guts of lugworms (Arenicola marina).

This process results in the chemical reaching the creatures' tissue, causing a range of biological effects such as thermal stress and the inability to consume as much sediment.

Dr Browne explained that this had consequences for the surrounding ecosystem.

"If the animals are not able to eat as much then there is a change in the function of the organisms and there is an impact on the semblance of the species found in an area," he said.

He added that the worms had earned the nickname "eco-engineers" as a result of their ability to eat organic matter from the sediment and prevent the build-up of silt.

"Through that process, it produces burrows and changes the whole assemblage of animals that live around it," Dr Browne observed.

"This is quite considerable because if you look at the total biomass of a shoreline, about 32% can be made up from these organisms."

He told BBC News that it was the first study of its kind to highlight the toxic risk posed by microplastics to marine organisms.

"For about 40 or 50 yeara, we have been finding very large concentrations of chemicals in animals. Then they started to find animals with larger concentrations of pollutants and plastics, so researchers began to establish this correlation.

"But no-one had actually shown whether chemicals could transfer from plastic when they are eaten by animals and accumulate in their bodies and reduce important functions that maintain their health."

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