Best of our wild blogs: 5 Dec 13

Help stop mass balloon release at Punggol on 31 Dec 2013
from wild shores of singapore

Juvenile Asian Glossy Starlings eating Rhopaloblaste ceramica fruits from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Chequered Lancer
Butterflies of Singapore

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Saltwater crocs find permanent home at Sungei Buloh

Chng Kheng Leng and Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 4 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE: Saltwater crocodiles appear to be finding a permanent home at the Sungei Buloh wetlands.

The National Parks Board is monitoring their numbers at the reserve, and urges visitors to be careful.

There are no official figures, but rangers and regular visitors estimate there are four to six saltwater crocodiles at Sungei Buloh.

They are usually in the water, and have also been spotted on the mudflats.

But some visitors have encountered a crocodile across a footpath at least once.

The saltwater crocodile is the largest of all living reptiles.

Experts said space constraints could limit the growth and sizes of those in Singapore.

Subaraj Rajathurai, founder of Strix Wildlife Consultancy, said: "Because fishing is not allowed and poaching is not allowed, the area is teeming with life. So the rivers are stocked with lots of available food for the crocodiles -- there is no reason to seek for food elsewhere. Humans are not part of their normal diet, and certainly not the ones (crocodiles) in Singapore because they're too small."

The crocodiles could have swum over from Malaysian waters, prompted by construction across the Causeway, said Director of the ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre Anbarasai Boopal.

Members of the public are advised to stay calm and back away slowly if they encounter crocodiles.

Vilma D'Rozario, who heads environmental NGO Cicada Tree Eco-Place, said people should not use flash photography during a crocodile encounter, and should hold on to their children at all times when on the Sungei Buloh reserve boardwalks.

- CNA/gn

Not one, but three crocs sighted
Ethan Lou My Paper 6 Dec 13;

OUT of the murky waters rose two beady eyes. Then four, then six.

As the sun descended and the tide receded, three saltwater crocodiles had come out to feed.

We were at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Wednesday where, on Nov 20, schoolchildren on a field trip saw one right on the footpath. That crocodile was barely 20m away, with nothing separating it from the children.

The crocodiles that we saw were safely in the water. But a visit to the spot where the children chanced upon the crocodile can be mildly unnerving. The footpath is barely 5m from the water at high tide and one wonders what is stopping crocodiles from slithering onto land more often.

Sungei Buloh is home to an estimated eight crocodiles, though they rarely rear their snouts.

Dr Benoit Goossens, who studies saltwater crocodiles in Sabah, Malaysia, said the one sighted on Nov 20 was basking, a process in which the reptile lies in the sun to regulate its body temperature.

It is a common thing, though crocodiles usually do it closer to water, Dr Goossens said.

He added that a basking crocodile is not dangerous, and the first thing it does when provoked is usually to "jump in the water for safety".

Even if not basking, only females protecting their eggs or crocodiles larger than 4m are dangerous to humans, Dr Goossens said.

And according to Mr Ben Lee, a nature advocate who studies crocodiles, none of the Sungei Buloh crocodiles are that big,

Before our trek began, Mr Lee showed us pictures of the "grandmaster", the largest he had seen, which measured only about 3.7m.

He said the crocodiles are no cause for concern.

In a statement issued by the National Parks Board (NParks), its covering director, Ms Sharon Chan, said that NParks has increased patrols in the area.

"If we spot any crocodiles on public footpaths, we will advise the public to stay away from those areas," she said.

However, not all will listen. We met two wildlife photographers who had spent an entire Sunday camped out on the path where the crocodile first appeared, hoping to catch a glimpse.

One of them, Mr Tan Yong Guan, said: "Don't let the authorities remove the crocodiles. This is the last such place in Singapore."

He added, pointing to one in the water: "Crocodiles are shy creatures. If I talk too loudly, it would run away."

Croc spotted on Sungei Buloh reserve's path
David Lee Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Dec 13;

The saltwater crocodile lying across the main footpath in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 20 November 2013. It had been about 20 metres ahead of some schoolchildren from the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) who were on a school field trip. Photographer Richard Seah estimated that the crocodile was 3 metres long.

SINGAPORE- In what the National Parks Board (NParks) has called "a rare occurrence", several visitors to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve came across a saltwater crocodile lying across the main footpath.

On Nov 20, a teacher and a small group of seven-year-old schoolchildren from the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) encountered the crocodile while on a field trip.

It entered the water after the teacher and another visitor approached it tentatively.

The group returned to the reserve's entrance immediately after that.

The saltwater crocodile, notorious for attacks on people in parts of Australia and East Malaysia, is the world's largest living reptile and one of the most vicious predators known to man. It had been common here 40 years ago before being hunted close to extinction.

The crocodile had been about 20m ahead of the schoolchildren, who were asked to stop and wait quietly, said a UWCSEA spokesman.

"No one was alarmed or worried," she added.

Photographer Richard Seah, 58, the other visitor, estimated that the crocodile, which stretched across the entire width of the path, was 3m long.

"It was pretty still, so I wasn't afraid. But thinking back, if it decided to attack me I probably could not have outrun it," said the regular visitor to the reserve.

Up to 10 saltwater crocodiles are estimated to live in Singapore waters around the north-western coastline, up from two in 2008.

There have been regular sightings in recent years in Sungei Buloh and around Kranji Reservoir.

Experts say some may have been forced out of Johor waters by development there, and that their presence here is a sign that protected habitats such as Sungei Buloh are flourishing.

NParks director for conservation Wong Tuan Wah said that the crocodiles in Sungei Buloh are usually found in the water or at mudflats away from visitor routes.

Visitors should heed the warning signs in the reserve, he said, sticking to paths and staying calm and backing away slowly if they encounter a crocodile.

He added that NParks will be monitoring the situation to ensure public safety. More than 100,000 people visit Sungei Buloh each year, including many school groups.

Dr Benoit Goossens, a wildlife conservationist who studies saltwater crocodiles at the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysia, reiterated experts' views that there is "realistically very little" danger to the public as long as people heed safety notices and behave responsibly.

Reptile expert and National Geographic Channel host Brady Barr especially cautioned people against feeding them.

"The real danger starts when crocodiles start associating people with food," he said. He too stressed that there was no need to panic as the risk was "very minimal".

But he called for the authorities here to study and track the local crocodile population so they can monitor them better.

"That way you know what you're dealing with," Dr Barr told The Straits Times.

Dos and don'ts


Stick to designated footpaths

Pay attention to warning signs and safety advisories

If you encounter a crocodile, stay calm and back away slowly


Do not linger at the water's edge or enter the water, especially at night or while fishing

Do not approach their nests, as protective female crocodiles may turn aggressive

If you encounter a crocodile, do not approach it

Do not feed them. This makes them associate people with food, encouraging them to approach

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Proposed semi-expressway to enhance accessibility in Punggol

Sumia D/O Sreedharan Today Online 5 Dec 13;

SINGAPORE — A semi-expressway in Punggol could be on the cards to link the fast-growing estate to Seletar, Pasir Ris and other towns along the northern coast of the island.

This proposed development is on top of a new road that will be built to connect Punggol Central to the Tampines Expressway (TPE) and the Kallang–Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE).

Meanwhile, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has also called a tender for a new road to be built and for existing roads to be extended in the Punggol Matilda district. The work under the tender is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Plans for the enhancements to Punggol’s road network were first revealed in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Draft Master Plan which was released last month.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesperson said the proposed semi-expressway will provide an east to west link for several towns in the northern region. It will also serve the Punggol North area, which has been planned for housing, commercial and education activities, the spokesperson added.

A feasibility study will be carried out and the “alignment and form” of the new semi-expressway are still being looked at by the relevant government agencies.

On the construction timeline, the spokesperson said if implemented, it will be “timed in tandem with future developments in Punggol North in the longer term”.

Compared to a full-fledged expressway, a semi-expressway carries a smaller load and has lower speed limits. Existing examples are the West Coast Highway and the Nicoll Highway, where vehicles are allowed to travel at a maximum of 70kmh.

When fully developed, Punggol will be Singapore’s largest town, at twice the size of today’s Ang Mo Kio estate. Citing traffic jams and packed trains during peak hours, residents had previously raised concerns that the fast-expanding town is under-served by roads to other parts of the island.

Punggol residents TODAY spoke to said the proposed enhancements could not come soon enough.

“More roads and connections to the expressway as soon as possible are welcomed so we have more options to beat the bottlenecks,” said marketing executive Alvin Ng, 34. Property agent Karen Lim, 33, added: “The TPE is the fastest way out of Punggol right now. Having more links should spread out the traffic and make the drive to and from work more comfortable.”

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Member of Parliament Janil Puthucheary, who is in charge of the Punggol West ward, reiterated that he has received feedback from residents about the need for more transport links in the town.

The decision to build the new road to connect Punggol Central to the TPE and KPE came after a feasibility study was completed this year.

Under the HDB’s tender, which was put up two weeks ago, a new road called Sumang Lane will be built in the Punggol Matilda district.

A HDB spokesperson said that, in tandem with the development of Build-To-Order projects, two existing roads — Punggol Field and Sumang Walk — will also be extended in the Matilda and Waterway West districts. The new road and the extensions to be built over the next two years range from 180m to 800m in length.

The spokesperson noted that key infrastructure such as major roads, drains and sewers are provided ahead of the development of a town or neighbourhood. “This is to prepare the site and provide accessibility and connectivity to support future developments. Other roads serving the area are (built) concurrently with the building developments,” she added.

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The real waste about packaging

Dennis Posadas Today Online 5 Dec 13;

Everyday, millions of people around the world consume their burgers, soft drinks, candies and other products that involve packaging. These, plus waste food and other materials, end up in the trash with nary a thought from consumers.

If a community strictly enacts segregation, sorting, recycling and reuse, and is able to convert some of the residual waste into heat or steam, then that’s great. But in the real world, there are slobs and those who won’t cooperate; taking the effort to separate those plastic knives from their fastfood meal to dump it into the plastics bin is too much of an effort for some.

Relying on culture and chance might be an option for some – but among many Global 100 corporations, a new trend has sprouted to adopt a serious zero landfill mindset.

Spurred by the threat of more sanitary landfills (which in poor countries are just a step above unregulated dumpsites) from millions of tons of used product packaging bearing the names of household brands, many corporations now see zero landfill as the way forward.

Building more landfills is extremely difficult, and the practice of segregating, composting, recycling – while it sounds good in theory – has not always been effective in practice.

Already companies like P&G, Unilever, Nestle, Kraft, Ford, Toyota and others have put zero landfill as part of their major corporate sustainability goals. This means that these companies plan to evaluate their performance internally and to their shareholders, by measuring how they are able to avoid landfill for their wastes.

In zero landfill thinking, the first step is to try to avoid generating waste in the first place. While a burger might require biodegradable wax paper that keeps it clean but eventually disintegrates, some products do not really require packaging.

Take the ubiquitous dish-washing sponge or the shaving razor. Often we see it sold with plastic wrap packaging – but corporate sustainability officers might also consider selling it in a clean glass bin to consumers to avoid creating unnecessary waste.

If waste is created, like packaging that cannot be done without, then effort should be taken to work with communities to collect it, and to treat it as a resource, say to generate heat or electricity, through waste-to-energy plants.

Waste food can be composted, or converted into methane through anaerobic digesters and converted into electricity, for example. Wastes like plastic, aluminum and glass containers can be recycled.

If consumers see this as a trend and jump on the bandwagon, we can see a fruitful collaboration between corporations and consumers to see what packaging can be done without, with the rest treated as a resource for heat or electricity, if not recycled.


Dennis Posadas is the author of Greenergized and is working on a new business fable on innovation and sustainability.

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Daily rubbish pick-up is out of sync with times

Richard Hartung Today Online 5 Dec 13;

Nearly 40 years ago, technology brought real benefits to the streets of Singapore as daily waste collection became the norm and cleanliness improved tremendously. Today, however, daily rubbish collection results in higher costs and more congestion on the streets.

Residents in three Public Waste Collection (PWC) sectors — Jurong, Clementi and City — saw their waste collection fees rise in October, and residents in other sectors will soon feel the pinch.

Changing how often rubbish is collected could not only help to reduce costs, but also bring other advantages.

The story began in the ’60s, when lorries plied the streets and workers picked up garbage bins manually to dump the contents into the back.

In the early ’70s, however, companies started bringing in automated trucks that helped pick up bins and dump the rubbish into the back. The greater efficiency of those trucks and the need for fewer staff meant that rubbish could be picked up daily.

At a time when open garbage bins meant that odours from decaying waste might waft through the neighbourhoods and pests could get into them, daily pick-up offered major benefits.

Over the years, rubbish collection has evolved even further. New versions of bins have better lids that keep both rubbish and odours inside, for example, and larger bins can hold more waste.

Despite those advances, and even as the nation has grown cleaner, long-standing practices still endure and rubbish is picked up every day. Yet, in other places that can be equally hot and humid, rubbish is picked up weekly or sometimes even less often.


The consequences of daily pick-up include higher costs, streets that are more crowded with garbage trucks, as well as the need to hire more workers.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) recently announced that the fee for waste collection for residents in Jurong would increase from S$6.08 to S$7.49 each month, and the rates in the Clementi and City sectors would go up too. Landed property households pay even more, with the cost rising from S$20.33 to S$24.81 in Jurong.

The NEA said costs have risen due to higher fuel prices and manpower costs. While it said consolidation from the nine PWC sectors to six would achieve gains in efficiency and mitigate rising costs, the agency did not say anything about changing the fundamental practice of daily waste collection.

Some observers believe a change in collection frequency could yield real benefits, including lower costs to consumers, a reduction in workers needed for these low-skill, low-pay positions and less road congestion. Using existing bins (or providing larger ones if needed) could enable less frequent collection, with no significant drop in hygiene or cleanliness.


A look at what happens in other places offers insights that could be useful for Singapore if changes are considered.

In South Africa, for example, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has a clear rationale for suggesting weekly collection — linking that frequency to the life cycle of a common house fly and ensuring rubbish does not stay in the bins long enough for flies to breed. The exception is daily removal for putrescible waste from restaurants, which decays faster.

In Western Australia, which has high humidity and high temperatures in the summer, a recent survey by the Department of Environment and Conservation found that 94 per cent of municipalities have fortnightly waste collection.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has studied collection frequency in a multitude of climates throughout the US, said tradition and public health concerns are the main reason for more frequent — twice-weekly — collection in some cities.

In reality, the EPA found, there are no significant problems with weekly collection year-round and health hazards can be reduced by using bins with lids. Less frequent collection, it said, also reduces labour and vehicles as well as pollution and even the amount of rubbish.

If congested urban areas with hot and humid climates required different practices than everywhere else, cities such as New York or Tokyo would need to change their practices in summers that can be hotter than Singapore. Year-round, however, collections average two to three times each week in New York and twice-weekly in Tokyo.

Although policymakers here have discussed changes in waste collection practices, they have primarily focused on waste reduction and recycling.

While Parliament has discussed collection frequency — as when then-Minister of Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim said in 2007 that “we are looking into the number of bins, the frequency of collection” — little has actually changed.

Perhaps it is time to look more at the long-standing practices of waste collection frequency and take a new approach towards less frequent collection in order to achieve a multitude of benefits.

Richard Hartung is a consultant who has lived in Singapore since 1992.

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Malaysia: Floods worsen with no quick reprieve in sight due to high tide and rough seas

P. Aruna, Ong Han Sean, Nick Naizi Husin, Syed Azhar, Yee Xiang Yun, Shaun Ho and Carmen Hon The Star 5 Dec 13;

PETALING JAYA: The floods have worsened in Johor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, with no quick reprieve in sight due to the high tide and rough seas, warned the Meteorological Department.

Insufficient drainage infrastructure is compounding the situation, according to the Drainage and Irrigation Department.

Pahang is the worst hit, with almost 20,000 people evacuated to 73 relief centres in five districts as of 5pm yesterday. A spokesman of the state flood operations centre said Kuantan alone had more than 12,000 people at 46 relief centres.

Water and electricity supplies were cut off in most areas in Kuantan yesterday after several substations were hit by floods and roads in the city were inundated by up to 1m of water.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, who is in charge of the National Security Council, told the Dewan Rakyat that rescue operations went into full swing on Tuesday.

“A helicopter was dispatched to Kuantan to help in operations and I will be heading there myself later today (Wednesday),” he said.

Although rainfall is expected to lessen in the four states, the National Weather Forecast Centre of the Meteorological Department said yesterday it would take a few days for the flood waters to subside as the tide was now at its peak of about 4.5m high.

Its director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah added: “We do not expect the floods to get worse but they will take some time to subside – at least another two or three days.”

On Tuesday, the Meteorological Department issued a Level 2 orange warning for five areas in Pahang and Terengganu due to heavy rains.

Yesterday, the orange warning was extended to eight towns in three states – Kuantan, Rompin, Pekan and Maran (in Pahang), Dungun, Kemaman and Hulu Terengganu (Terengganu) and Kuala Krai (Kelantan).

The yellow warning, which is a weather alert to make people aware of the situation and take preventive action, was issued to 17 other areas, including Hulu Perak on the west coast.

The orange status is to warn those in affected areas to prepare to act if the situation worsens while the red status, which is the highest alert, is a warning for severe weather and to take immediate action.

These warnings, issued by the Meteorological Department, are only based on the rainfall pattern and not on the level of flooding.

Although Johor is still seeing worsening floods, the orange alert for the state has been lifted as rainfall has lessened.

The DID’s river basin and coastal management division director Datuk Lim Chow Hock said uncontrolled land clearing and rapid development were the reasons the floods seemed to be getting worse every year.

“The land cleared for housing and commercial purposes increases every year. Unfortunately, the development of drainage infrastructure is not able to keep up to that pace,” he said.

In a state of crisis
New Straits Times 5 Dec 13;

KUALA LUMPUR: THE situation in Pahang remained grim as the number of flood evacuees in the state have increased -- as well as in Terengganu, Kelantan and Johor -- to nearly 34,000 victims.

As of yesterday evening, it was reported that the number of evacuees stood at 19,748 victims in Pahang, Terengganu (5,115), Johor (8,402) and Kelantan (639).

Kelantan was the latest state to be hit by floods, with state authorities informing residents in low-lying areas to brace themselves and to take precautionary measures.

However, electricity and water supply, which has been disrupted since Tuesday, were currently being restored in stages.

In light of the situation, the Malaysian Meteorological Department has issued an orange-level warning of continuous heavy rainfall in several areas of Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu until today. It said heavy rains, with intermittent moderate rain, were forecast for Kuala Krai in Kelantan; Kuantan, Pekan, Rompin and Maran in Pahang; and Dungun, Kemaman and Hulu Terengganu in Terengganu.

It also issued a yellow-level warning of heavy rains for the same period in Jerantut, Pahang; Besut, Setiu, Kuala Terengganu and Marang in Terengganu; Tumpat, Kota Baharu, Pasir Mas, Tanah Merah, Machang, Pasir Puteh and Bachok in Kelantan; Sik, Baling and Padang Terap in Kedah; and Hulu Perak, Perak. The rains are expected to cause floods in low-lying areas.

In Kuantan, the situation remained chaotic as the state capital and surrounding areas were left paralysed by the lack of electricity and water supplies, which have been disrupted since Tuesday.

Phone lines and mobile coverage were also erratic, adding to the confusion and preventing evacuees from getting in touch with their loved ones.

Many businesses here remained closed because of lack of power and communications services, which have since been restored in stages starting from about 3pm yesterday.

As at 10pm yesterday, more than 22,395 flood evacuees were recorded in the state, with 14,004 evacuees placed at 69 relief centres here.

The figure was higher than the 3,672 evacuees recorded on Tuesday. Rompin recorded the second highest number of flood victims at 4,144, followed by Pekan (3,061), Maran (1,005) and Jerantut (6).

Evacuees placed at shelters complained about the lack of food, drinking water and other amenities, especially in Sungai Isap, Permatang Badak, Bukit Rangin and Chenderawasih near here.

"We have no food and could not get a single drop of water the whole day," said Johana Mohd Taib, whose family of four were relocated to SM Bukit Rangin at 10am yesterday.
The 42-year-old housewife said the floodwaters rose up to 2m high at her home, adding that many homes in the vicinity had been submerged.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said the state government had requested that army and General Operations Force camps be turned into flood relief centres because of the high number of evacuees.

"We plan to have a centralised kitchen where we can prepare meals for the victims. It will ensure that sufficient food can be sent to relief centres, with the help of armed forces personnel," said Adnan, who helped send a pregnant woman and her two children to the centre in Sungai Isap.

It is learnt that the flood situation was among the worst in Kuantan's history, with some districts being inundated for the first time.
The last time Kuantan faced a major displacement of people was in 2007 when 5,730 people were evacuated.

Berita Harian stringer Ainal Marhaton Abdul Ghani said her family was moved to SK Kampung Belukar after their home in Kampung Kurnia was flooded.

"My husband is down with fever and there was nothing much we could do, as the food is insufficient and we cannot charge our handphones," she said before her phone went dead at noon yesterday.

In response to the floods, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim called on individuals and non-governmental organisations to assist flood victims.
"(We do) not have enough volunteers in relief centres to help sick victims and the elderly. We need them to help relocate victims during the evacuation," she said after inspecting the relief centre at SK Pandan here yesterday.

Two people were believed to be missing after they fell into floodwaters in Sungai Isap, Kuantan.

The two were in the midst of shifting their household belongings when they fell from their fibreglass boat at 8.30pm. The two victims are Jamal Ali, in his 40's, a Pekan Umno committee member, and his son, known only as Megat.

The incident was confirmed by Kuantan police chief Assistant Commissioner of Police Mohd Jasmani Yusoff.

Lipis was the latest district in Pahang to be hit by floods, bringing the total number of districts affected to six.

In Johor Baru, the number of victims as at noon yesterday has increased to 8,705 from 8,205, the bulk of whom had been relocated to 49 relief centres throughout the state. The 49 centres are in Kota Tinggi (three), Kluang (five), Mersing (21), Segamat (18) and one each in Batu Pahat and Muar.

Seven roads have been closed to traffic, including Jalan Semaloi, Lopuk Melikai, Jalan Teluk Lipat and Jalan Aris in Mersing.

Also affected were Jalan Johor Baru-Mersing near Kota Tinggi, which is not accessible to light vehicles, while Jalan Japi-Bukit Tempurung and Jalan Felda Meloi in Segamat are closed.
The majority of the 57,090 students taking the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations in 382 centres state-wide would not be affected by the floods.

Johor Education director Mohd Nor A. Ghani said the department's only concern were students and invigilators at SMK Nitar in Mersing. He said the school was accessible only to heavy vehicles.
"Special arrangements will have to be made for those going to SMK Nitar."

Johor Taman Negara director Suhairi Hashim said 67 residents of Kampung Orang Asli Peta in Endau and seven staff of the Endau-Rompin National Park were evacuated due to rising water levels.

The road leading to the national park has been closed since Nov 1.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the state government, working with the National Security Council, had opened a state flood operations room, which would be operational round the clock.

Khaled also urged parents and guardians to watch their children with care during this season.
In Kuala Terengganu, the number of people evacuated in Kemaman, Dungun and Hulu Terengganu has swelled to 5,393 as at 10pm yesterday. Kemaman still topped the list, with 2,961 evacuees from 729 families seeking shelter at 37 relief centres.

Multimedia and Communication Minister and Kemaman Umno deputy chief Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek and several Umno Youth delegates to the Umno general assembly in Kuala Lumpur rushed back to Kemaman to help the relief work there. Shabery's deputy, Datuk Jailani Johari, who is also Hulu Terengganu Umno chief, rushed back from the general assembly yesterday afternoon, as the number of flood evacuees in the district rose to 1,106.

In Dungun, 1,035 people from 269 families took shelter at 11 evacuation centres. Flood-hit areas in Dungun have been confined to the interior, such as Kampung Pasir Raja, Kampung Balai Besar, Kampung Rantau Panjang and Kampung Nyior.

Flood waters have caused the Kuala Jengai police station here to be cut off since yesterday.
Deputy state police chief Datuk Hamzah Mohd Jamil said all important documents and equipment were loaded onto a mobile police station near SK Kuala Jengai.

"We anticipated that the 59-year-old station would be affected by the floods and had started moving our equipment two months ago."

Hamzah said the rising floodwaters had not deterred policemen from carrying out their duties, as 15 policemen from the Kuala Jengai station and 10 from state headquarters were on standby for the relief operation.

Marang was the latest district to be affected by floods.

In Kota Baru, the first group of 639 flood victims in the state was evacuated from Kuala Krai and Gua Musang yesterday.

Six evacuation centres in Kuala Krai have been opened: the district's veterinary office, SK Banggol Guchil, SK Manek Urai Lama, SMK Laloh, SRJK (China) Yuk Chai and SM Teknik Kuala Krai.
A spokesman said the victims were mostly from Kampung Guchil, Manek Urai Lama, Mengkebang and Olak Jeram.

In Gua Musang, 101 people were evacuated from Paloh to two centres in the area.

Water at three flood-measuring stations in the state were above the danger level as at 6pm.

The water level of Sungai Lebir in Tualang, Kuala Krai was 35.88m (danger level 35m) and Sungai Kelantan measured 25.43m (25m danger level) at the Krai Steps and 16.65 m (16m danger level) at the Guillemard bridge in Tanah Merah.

The water level of Sungai Golok in Rantau Panjang was 8.93m, just below the danger level of 9m.
Three roads in Kuala Krai have been closed to light vehicles. They are the Bukit Sireh-Kampung Bedal-Kuala Nal road at Kampung Bukit Sireh, the Guchil-Batu Balai road at Batu Balai and Sungai Durian-Chenulang road at Chenulang.

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Coal Rush Ravages Indonesian Borneo

Angela Dewan Jakarta Globe 4 Dec 13;

Samarinda, East Kalimantan. Barges loaded with mountains of coal glide down the polluted Mahakam River on Indonesian Borneo every few minutes. Viewed from above, they form a dotted black line as far as the eye can see, destined for power stations in China and India.

A coal rush that has drawn international miners to East Kalimantan province has ravaged the capital, Samarinda, which risks being swallowed up by mining if the exploitation of its deposits expands any further.

Mines occupy more than 70 percent of Samarinda, government data show, forcing entire villages and schools to move away from toxic mudslides and contaminated water sources.

The destruction of forest around the city to make way for mines has also removed a natural buffer against floods, leading to frequent waist-high deluges during the six-month rainy season.

And despite the 200 million tones of coal dug and shipped out of East Kalimantan each year, its capital is crippled by frequent hours-long blackouts as the city’s aging power plant suffers constant problems.

Farmer Komari, who goes by one name, has lived in a corner of Samarinda half an hour from the city center since 1985 and used to get by growing small amounts of rice and breeding fish.

But the mines have poisoned the water used in his fields and small ponds, he says.

“The rice is basically grown in poisonous water,” said the 70-year-old, standing among his paddies, ankle-deep in brown sludge near the bare, one-room wooden shack where he lives with his wife.

“We still eat it but I think it’s pretty bad for us,” he says, adding that the water makes his skin itch.

Along with 18 other farmers, Komari has filed a civil suit against government officials, blaming them for contaminating their water sources and allowing rampant mining.

They are not seeking compensation, instead asking the government to oblige a coal company next to their homes to decontaminate the water and provide health services.

‘Cronies have done this to Samarinda’

Udin, who owns and drives a rental car and was born in Samarinda 30 years ago, said the city today has been transformed.

“When I was kid, my home was a jungle with orangutans and so many different colorful birds. But now it is bleak,” he said.

According to Jatam, a group representing communities affected by mining across Indonesia, the root of the problem is obvious — local officials have been lining their pockets with bribes from companies in exchange for granting them permits to mine.

“A bunch of cronies have done this to Samarinda. We call them the mining mafia,” said Merah Johansyah from the group’s Samarinda branch.

Jatam and Indonesian Corruption Watch recently reported a case to the country’s anti-graft agency, alleging an Indonesian company, Graha Benua Etam, in 2009 bribed Samarinda’s former energy and mining department chief in exchange for a permit.

They say at least four billion rupiah ($340,000) was handed out in corrupt payments, and that some of the money flowed to a former mayor for a political campaign.

The company could not be contacted for comment.

Bribes are being paid for more than just permits, Johansyah said.

He said they also help companies mine in areas they are not supposed to and avoid obligations such as consulting communities and carrying out environmental impact assessments.

Law enforcement, often a problem across the sprawling archipelago of more 17,000 islands where power is heavily decentralized, is also lax.

Campaigners say that companies have ignored their legal obligation to fill abandoned deep pits once their activities are complete. More than 10 people, including seven children, died between 2011 and 2012 from falling into these holes, according to local media reports.

Coal mine destruction spreading

This grim picture of Samarinda is a far cry from what it once was — a lush jungle with orangutans and exotic birds, many native to Borneo.

It is a common story across the world’s third-largest island, which was once almost entirely covered in trees but has now lost around half of its forest, according to the WWF.

Like in the Amazon, the rainforest on Borneo acts like a sponge, soaking up climate change-inducing carbon from the atmosphere.

A recent report from NGO the World Development Movement warned the coal rush is spreading to better conserved parts of Borneo, such as Central Kalimantan.

The forest in that province is currently almost untouched but companies such as Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton have plans to begin mining for coal.

BHP said that any development it carries out in Kalimantan “will be subject to detailed environmental and social impact assessments”.

Despite the destruction, Borneo continues to attract nature lovers from around the world to see the oldest known rainforests on the planet and its more than 1,400 animal species and 15,000 types of plants.

But environmentalists warn there might not be much left to see if the environmental devastation continues at the current pace.

Agence France-Presse

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U.N. launches Green Climate Fund with little in its coffers

Author: Stian Reklev and Choonsik Yoo PlanetArk 5 Dec 13;

The Green Climate Fund, designed as the United Nations' most important funding body in the battle on climate change in developing nations, launched its headquarters on Wednesday in South Korea, but uncertainty over finances clouded the event.

The launch was largely symbolic, as the Fund, set up by developed nations to channel most of the $100 billion they aim to spend each year by 2020, is not expected to be fully operational until the latter half of next year.

Rich nations, reluctant to stress their already fragile economies, have not paid up as scheduled. Now the Fund has just $40 million at its disposal, a sum promised by South Korea that must also cover administrative expenses.

"The Fund is on track to start its resource mobilization next year with a rapid and substantial initial capitalization, so that we can get the money flowing to the countries in greatest need," said Jose Maria Sarte Salceda, co-chairman of the fund's board.

The Fund will help pay for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and projects in poor nations to protect communities at risk from the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, prolonged droughts and damage to food crops.

Rich nations promised in 2010 to provide $10 billion per year in fast-start climate finance over 2011 to 2013, and scale funding up to $100 billion annually by 2020.

But inflows have fallen far short of expected levels, with new finance even dropping by more than two-thirds in 2013 from 2012, Britain's Overseas Development Institute says.

For example, it said in a recent report, "Funding in response to German flood damage in 2013 was four times higher than funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change since 2003."

Most of the climate finance that has emerged so far will be distributed by national governments or private funds run by multilateral organizations such as the World Bank.

Germany and Sweden have signaled willingness to contribute, Executive Director Hela Cheikhrouhou told reporters at Wednesday's opening ceremony, with Sweden intending to pay $45 million into the fund.

"The office opening is both a symbolic and practical demonstration that the Fund is ready for business," she said in a statement, but added it would become fully operational around the second half of next year.

The fund was set up at UN climate talks in Mexico in 2010 in recognition that climate change has historically been caused mainly by greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries.

At climate talks in Poland last month, developing nations pushed for a detailed plan to scale up funds, and proposed a target of $70 billion in 2016, but failed to win over developed countries.

The finance aspect remains a sticking point in efforts to agree a new global pact on climate change that nearly 200 nations hope to clinch in Paris in December 2015.

Major emerging economies such as India say they do not want to commit to targets for capping carbon dioxide emissions before the developed world has delivered on its promises on climate finance.

"What is wrong with the Global Climate Fund is that there is no money there," Indian Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan told a news conference during last month's talks in the Polish capital of Warsaw.

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Humans Threaten Wetlands' Ability to Keep Pace With Sea-Level Rise

Science Daily 4 Dec 13;

Left to themselves, coastal wetlands can resist rapid levels of sea-level rise. But humans could be sabotaging some of their best defenses, according to a Nature review paper published December 5 from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

The threat of disappearing coastlines has alerted many to the dangers of climate change. Wetlands in particular -- with their ability to buffer coastal cities from floods and storms, and filter out pollution -- offer protections that could be lost in the future. But, say co-authors Matt Kirwan and Patrick Megonigal, higher waters aren't the key factor in wetland demise. Thanks to an intricate system of feedbacks, wetlands are remarkably good at building up their soils to outpace sea level rise. The real issue, they say, is that human structures such as dams and seawalls are disrupting the natural mechanisms that have allowed coastal marshes to survive rising seas since at least the end of the last Ice Age.

"Tidal marsh plants are amazing ecosystem engineers that can raise themselves upward if they remain healthy, and especially if there is sediment in the water," says co-author Patrick Megonigal of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. "We know there are limits to this, and worry those limits are changing as people change the environment."

"In a more natural world, we wouldn't be worried about marshes surviving the rates of sea level rise we're seeing today," says Kirwan, the study's lead author and a geologist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. "They would either build vertically at faster rates or else move inland to slightly higher elevations. But now we have to decide whether we'll let them."

Wetlands have developed several ways to build elevation to keep from drowning. Above ground, tidal flooding provides one of the biggest assists. When marshes flood during high tide, mineral sediment settles out of the water, adding new soil to the ground. It's one of the more convenient response systems to today's threat: When sea level rise accelerates and flooding occurs more often, marshes can react by building soil faster. Below ground, the growth and decay of plant roots adds organic matter -- an effect rising carbon dioxide (CO2) seems to enhance. Even erosion can work in favor of wetlands, as sediment lost at one marsh can be deposited on another. While a particular wetland may lose ground, the total wetland area may remain unchanged.

But everything has a threshold. If a wetland becomes so flooded that vegetation dies off, the positive feedback loops are lost. Similarly, if sediment delivery to a wetland is cut off, that wetland can no longer build soil to outpace rising seas.

Direct human impacts, not rising seas or rising CO2, have the most power to alter those thresholds, the scientists report. Groundwater withdrawal and artificial drainage can cause the land to sink, as is happening right now in Chesapeake Bay. Because of this kind of subsidence, 8 of the world's 20 largest coastal cities are experiencing relative sea-level rise greater than climate change projections. Dams and reservoirs also prevent 20 percent of the global sediment load from reaching the coast. Marshes on the Yangtze River Delta survived relative sea-level rise of more than 50 mm per year since the 7th century C.E., until the building of more than 50,000 dams cut off their supply of sediment and sped up erosion.

In addition to building vertically, marshes can also respond to sea-level rise by migrating landward. But, the authors note, human activities have hindered this response as well. Conventional ways of protecting coastal property, such dykes and seawalls, keep wetlands from moving inland and create a "shoreline squeeze," Kirwan says. Because rates of marsh-edge erosion increase with rates of sea-level rise, the authors warn that the impacts of coastal barriers will accelerate with climate change.

Journal Reference:
Matthew L. Kirwan, J. Patrick Megonigal. Tidal wetland stability in the face of human impacts and sea-level rise. Nature, 2013; 504 (7478): 53 DOI: 10.1038/nature12856

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Experts say the IPCC underestimated future sea level rise

Guardian 5 Dec 13;

A new study surveys 90 sea level rise experts, who say sea level rise this century will exceed IPCC projections

It looks like past IPCC predictions of sea level rise were too conservative; things are worse than we thought. That is the takeaway message from a new study out in Quaternary Science Reviews and from updates to the IPCC report itself. The new study, which is also discussed in depth on RealClimate, tries to determine what our sea levels will be in the future. What they found isn't pretty.

Predicting of sea level rise is a challenging business. While we have good information about what has happened in the past, we still have trouble looking into the future. So, what do we know? Well it is clear that sea levels began to rise about 100 years ago. This rise coincided with increasing global temperatures.

What causes sea level to rise? Really three things. First, water expands as it heats. Second, glaciers melt and water flows to the oceans. Third, the large ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica can melt and the liquid water enters the ocean; often the water transfer is added by calving at the ice fronts which result in icebergs that float into the ocean. In the past, much of the sea level rise was related to the first cause (thermal expansion). Now, however, more and more sea level rise is being caused by melting ice.

But this is all the past. What we really want to know is, how much will sea level rise in the future? There are a number of ways to predict the future. First, we can look at the deep past and see how sea level changed with Earth temperature long ago.

A second way to predict the future is through computational models. These models are computer programs which create a virtual-reality of the Earth. These virtual reality models are very useful because they allow scientists to play "what if" scenarios; but, they have their weaknesses as well. One of their weaknesses is that they don't necessarily capture all of the phenomena which cause sea level rise. It is believed by most scientists that the computer programs are too conservative.

How does this all relate to the current study? Well the authors took a different approach. They decided to ask the scientists themselves. What do they think sea level rise will be by 2100 and 2300 under different greenhouse gas scenarios? The authors found 360 sea-level experts through a literature survey. They then worked to find contact information for these scientists and finally, they sent a questionnaire. After receiving 90 expert judgments from 18 countries, the results were tallied. So, what do experts think?

Sea level rise over the period 2000–2100 for high and low warming scenarios. The ranges show the average numbers given across all the experts. For comparison we see the NOAA projections of December 2012 (dashed lines) and the new IPCC projections (bars on the right).

According to the best case scenario (humans take very aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gases), the experts think sea level rise will likely be about 0.4–0.6 meters (1.3–2.0 feet) by 2100 and 0.6–1.0 meters (2.0–3.3 feet) by 2300. According to the more likely higher emission scenario, the results are 0.7–1.2 meters (2.3–3.9 feet) by 2100 and 2.0–3.0 meters (6.5–9.8 feet) by 2300. These are significantly larger than the predictions set forth in the recently published IPCC AR5 report. They reflect what my colleagues, particularly scientists at NOAA, have been telling me for about three years.

How should we plan for this rise? Some areas can be protected by expensive walling off of ocean water. Other locations simply cannot be saved. Particularly, in areas that have porous subsurfaces, it isn't possible to stop the rising waters. Dealing with the costs of relocation, storm surges, and rising waters will be expensive. This is just another reason why reducing emissions is the best, most cost effective way of adapting to climate change.

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