Best of our wild blogs: 3 Feb 14

Northern Beauty of Semakau
from Peiyan.Photography

Oil spill reaches Semakau Landfill
from Peiyan.Photography

Kusu Reef: A reef with the lion city view under lots of stress
from Peiyan.Photography

Not-so-solo at Tanah Merah sandy shore
from wonderful creation

Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus chrysippus) eclosions
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Pink-necked Green Pigeon
from Monday Morgue

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LTA receives Cross Island Line working group's report

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 2 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: Nature groups have submitted their ecological study of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

LTA will use the study as a reference for consultants conducting the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Cross Island MRT Line. The EIA will help LTA decide if the MRT line should pass through the nature reserve or skirt around it.

Spanning almost the entire length of Singapore, the 50-kilometre Cross Island Line was announced in January, 2013 and is slated for completion in 2030.

The nature groups, which spent about three months collating available literature and research from the past 20 years on Singapore's largest nature reserve, are calling for the protection of the forest area and are concerned about the possibility of the Line being built through it.

The study was done by seven environmentalists, some of whom are members of the Nature Society (Singapore), the Singapore Environment Council, and Cicada Tree Eco-Place.

The result is a 120-page document describing the extent of biodiversity in the reserve located in the central part of Singapore. The document has recorded about 400 species of trees, 200 species of birds, 400 species of insects and 150 species of mammals and amphibians.

The groups want to provide a realistic assessment of the impact of any physical works in the forests.

They say the study will save the environmental consultants working on the EIA a lot of ground work.

"As soon as they come in they will have an appreciation immediately of what's there,” said Tony O’Dempsey of the Nature Society (Singapore). “They are off to a flying start with this document.”

“I think the agency has done a fairly good job of putting together the tender document, and the requirements that are in there, and we can expect some very high quality EIA consultants to tender for this project."

An expert familiar with EIA matters says the consultants will need to have diverse expertise.

"In addition to the technical aspects of engineering, the team should include at least some members who have environmental expertise -- particularly in botany, the soil sciences, how it affects the plants, vegetation, the trees etc., to review the report,” said Prof Leung Chun Fai from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the National University Of Singapore.

With the study in hand, nature groups hope to convince the consultants and authorities to preserve the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

"The nature reserve is like the green heart in the red dot, and every time there is a project around the edge and through the nature reserve, it takes a small bite out of the apple,” said O’Dempsey. “And if you take lots of small bites you are going to consume the whole apple after a while."

The LTA said the nature groups' study together with the earlier position paper by the Nature Society (Singapore) will be incorporated into the EIA tender.

They will also serve as useful resources for the EIA consultant in studying how the various alignment options could affect the nature reserve. LTA is expected to call the EIA tender by next month.

The assessment is expected to be completed in 2016, and this will be followed by an 18-month engineering feasibility study on the possible routes.

- CNA/rw

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Export ban leaves Singapore short of granite

The Star 2 Feb 14;

A shortage of granite due to an Indonesian export ban has left several construction projects in Singapore in a rocky state.

Contractors said that there had been delays for various projects since the middle of this month.

A Building and Construction Authority spokesman said yesterday that the industry was still importing granite aggregate from “many other regional sources”, though it declined to name them.

She said it was working with importers to ramp up supply from these “diversified” sources.

“If needed, the government will activate the release of the national stockpile to ease the temporary disruption in supply,” she added.

Granite aggregate is hard stones crushed into small pieces, and is different from granite slabs.

Indonesia, South-East Asia’s biggest economy, is a major supplier of granite aggregate to Singapore.

The Indonesian government ban­ned a wide range of minerals from being exported globally on Jan 12. It stopped shipping granite aggregate to Singapore around the same time.

It is understood that the regulations issued by the Indonesian government say that exports of raw or unprocessed granite out of Indonesia are not allowed.

Only granite that has been shaped, cut or processed can be exported.

It is understood that there is no specific ban on shipping granite to Singapore.

Since Jan 10, no granite aggregate shipments have been allowed to be shipped from Indonesian jetties, said the Singapore Contractors Asso­ciation last Friday.

“Many projects, both private and public, are affected by the disruption of supply,” said association president Ho Nyok Yong.

Contractors said that the shortage was reminiscent of Indonesia’s overnight ban on sand exports in February 2007, which sparked a “sand crisis”.

Indonesia also later that month detained a number of barges that were carrying granite to Singapore on suspicion of smuggling sand. This disrupted granite supplies although it was not banned at that time.

Contractors said Malaysia and Vietnam also supplied granite.

They noted that the supply disruption has made the biggest dent in projects that had just started or were midway through construction.

“We would have liked to speed up,” said Kenneth Siew, general manager of Expand Construction, which is building Housing Board projects in Sembawang and Punggol.

Construction at the Sembawang project is now progressing at a third of the original pace or even slower. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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Indonesia: Forest fires hit Riau’s regencies bordering with Malaysia

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 3 Feb 14;

A lack of rainfall has caused difficulties in controlling fires that have already destroyed hundreds of hectares of forest and land in several areas of Riau province — with Meranti Islands and Bengkalis regencies, which border Malaysia, reaching alarming conditions.

“Firefighters experienced difficulties extinguishing the flames as the area is dried peatland,” Meranti Islands regency’s Forestry Agency head M. Murod said on Sunday.

Fires have been burning since last week in the regency, and have spread to Rangsang Island and Tebingtinggi Island, destroying about 200 hectares of land belonging to residents. The flames also reached the concession area of forestry firm PT Sumatera Riang Lestari (SRL) and sago plantation PT National Sago Prima (NSP).

Hundreds of firefighters from the companies have so far not managed to control the blaze, Murod said.

He admitted he could not give the exact size of the companies’ land concessions that were razed by the fire. “The blaze is getting bigger and bigger inside the plantations. It’s difficult to identify. I have just received a report on losses suffered by residents,” he added.

He revealed the fire on Rangsang Island was being handled by a team of firefighters from PT SRL, assisted by local people, while his forestry agency and a team from PT NSP were focused on stopping the fire on Tebingtinggi Island.

“The firefighters are now working hard to control the fire. It’s even more difficult as it’s hot and windy now; small flames could become bigger fires,” he said.

Murod hoped the central government could soon help to extinguish the fire by setting up weather modifications, or making artificial rain, to avoid haze affecting neighboring countries, which could then trigger protests.

Meanwhile, at least 200 hectares of peat land have been destroyed by fire in Bantan and Bukit Batu districts, Bengkalis.

“The fire is continuing to spread to areas that can be reached by land transportation. Rain has not fallen in these areas for the past week. The fire is really difficult to control,” Bengkalis Disaster and Firefighter Agency head Mohammad Jalal said.

Jalal admitted that his agency lacked enough firefighters. “The spots are spreading, so we cannot focus on just one location.”

“We asked residents and non-governmental organizations to volunteer to help us stop the fires. It’s difficult because the operation to extinguish the fires should be conducted around the clock,” he said.

The blaze, which started last week, has already been extinguished once, but flared again due to hot weather and strong winds.

Jalal did not reject a possibility that the fire was caused by burning for land clearing. “We have often warned about avoiding fire in peatland. In the current hot weather and strong winds, the dried peatland could easily burn and it’s difficult to extinguish.”

Meanwhile, a thin haze continued to blanket cities including Pekanbaru and Dumai. In Tembilahan, the southernmost city in the province, visibility in the morning was reportedly 700 meters due to the haze.

The Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) reported that the number of hot spots was fluctuating but had reached a maximum of 164. Bengkalis had the highest number of hot spots, followed by Siak and Pelalawan, Indragiri Hilir and Rokan Hilir.

Meanwhile, forest fires also occurred in Kotawaringin Timur regency, Central Kalimantan, due to decreasing rainfall and burning for land clearing.

“Maybe because it has not rained in the last couple of weeks so some residents cleared their land by burning it,” Zainal, a resident, said on Sunday, as quoted by Antara.

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