Best of our wild blogs: 24 Feb 14

Climate Change Adaptation: Aquatic Invasives and Coastal Restoration, 26-27 February 2014
from Psychedelic Nature

fish farm trash at SBWR @ 23Feb2014
from sgbeachbum

Mandai Forest Stream
from Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore

Dragonflies at Singapore’s Bishan Park
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Largehead Hairtail
from Monday Morgue

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LTA calls for tender to study environmental impact of Cross Island Line

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 24 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be calling for a tender for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Cross Island Line on Monday.

The tender will study the environmental impact of the Cross Island Line on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The consultant for the EIA is expected to start working on the project by the second half of this year.

LTA said the EIA team will include experts in hydrology and geology.

The EIA will be conducted in two phases for the various alignment options of the Cross Island Line in and around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

In phase 1, the consultant will do a baseline evaluation of the existing ecosystem and the physical conditions along the proposed corridors, and assessments of the potential impact to the environment.

The EIA consultant will also propose guidelines and recommend appropriate mitigating measures to carry out soil investigation works with minimal impact to the reserve.

In phase 2, the consultant will provide an assessment of the impact that may result from the construction and operation of the project.

LTA said it has worked with nature and environmental groups to finalise the scope of the EIA for the portion of the Line around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The groups are calling for the protection of the forest area and are concerned about the possibility of the Line being built through it.

The EIA report is targeted for completion in 2016 and it will assist the government in making a considered decision on the Cross Island Line alignment.

The 50-kilometre Cross Island Line was announced in January 2013 and is slated for completion in 2030.

- CNA/nd

LTA calls tender to evaluate Cross Island Line’s impact on nature
Study will help Govt decide CRL’s alignment; consultant to suggest suitable measures to reduce impact on reserve
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 25 Feb 14;

Two possible alignments of the Cross Island Line.

SINGAPORE — To assess the potential environmental impact of the Cross Island Line (CRL), a baseline evaluation on its two possible alignments, through or around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), will first be conducted to determine the existing eco-system and physical conditions.

The evaluation will form the first phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), for which the Land Transport Authority (LTA) called a tender yesterday to assist the Government in making a considered decision on the alignment of the 50km line.

Connectivity, travel times, costs and land-use compatibility are other factors under consideration, said the LTA.

After the first phase is concluded, the consultant will be required to provide an assessment of the impact that may result from the construction and operation of the line.

It will also need to propose guidelines and recommend appropriate mitigating measures, so activities carried out will have minimal impact on the nature reserve.

The consultant’s report, which is slated to be completed in the second quarter of 2016, may be gazetted for public disclosure.

Noting that Singapore has a long-standing commitment to environment sustainability, Senior Minister of State (Transport) Josephine Teo said an EIA of this scale is a first for rail development here.

In a Facebook post, she said: “An EIA of this scale is new for rail development and is necessary because the CCNR is special. In land-scarce Singapore, its very existence is testament to the high value placed on preserving nature even as we develop.”

The announcement of the 50km-long CRL, which will connect Jurong to Changi when it is completed in 2030, drew much consternation from nature and environment groups when it was announced in January last year.

The groups have raised concern that the alignment of the CRL, as well as the work to construct it, will have a detrimental environmental impact on the CCNR — a gazetted reserve under the Parks and Trees Act.

Members of the Nature Society Singapore (NSS) and the Cicada Tree Eco-Place submitted an ecological study of the reserve to call for the forest area to be protected.

However, their proposed alternative route, which goes around the southern part of the reserve, has raised concern from some residents in the Thomson area that their homes may be affected.

The area’s Member of Parliament Hri Kumar said the chairpersons of these private estates from Yew Lian Park to Windsor Park had a meeting with the LTA late last year to express concerns about land acquisition and disruptions due to construction work, if the CRL was to be diverted close to their estates.

Mrs Teo yesterday stressed that no soil survey or other physical work would be conducted within the reserve before the consultant provides its recommendations.

Addressing concern that the EIA might lead to a delay in the construction of the line, Mrs Teo added that the LTA would be calling a tender for a study on engineering feasibility of the line along stretches outside the nature reserve.

To commence in the second half of this year, the engineering study is expected to be completed in 2016.

Said Mrs Teo: “It will be a few years before we can finalise the CRL alignment and start construction. But the intent is clear — we must press forward to develop more rail lines because mass rapid transit is, in fact, the most environmentally sustainable way to achieve high-quality mobility for Singaporeans. Equally important is care for nature as we develop.”

Mr Tony O’Dempsey, the NSS spokesperson on the issue, said the group would provide input to the EIA as technical adviser and reviewer of the study.

He added: “We look forward to a report that provides a comprehensive assessment of the total biodiversity in the project areas, as well as a realistic assessment of the potential impact on the natural environment due to soil investigation and construction activity.”

LTA to suss out new MRT line's green impact
Adrian Lim MyPaper AsiaOne 25 Feb 14;

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) called for a tender yesterday to assess the environmental impact of a future MRT line on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The findings of the report, which is targeted to be completed in 2016, will help the Government decide on the route for the 50km Cross Island Line (CRL), of which a section will be located in the vicinity of the reserve.

Tender documents show two "indicative corridors" to be studied: one passing through the gazetted reserve; and the other skirting it, along the fringe of Bukit Brown and the nature reserve. Both are expected to run underground.

Announced in January last year, the CRL will connect Jurong and Changi, and is targeted for completion by 2030.

Besides the environmental assessment, the Government will consider factors including connectivity, travel times, costs and land-use compatibility in deciding the route, LTA said.

Physical activities within the nature reserve, such as soil investigation works, will be conducted only after the appointed consultant has provided guidelines and recommendations.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said yesterday that, while environmental assessments have been conducted for major maritime projects, a study of this scale is new for rail development.

Mrs Teo added that it will be a few years before the route can be finalised and construction can begin.

Included with the tender documents issued yesterday was a 125-page report put together by an environmental working group.

The report details the rich flora and fauna in the MacRitchie zone, collated from 20 years of surveys and studies. The area is home to over 400 species of plants, more than 200 species of birds and over 170 butterfly species, among others.

Mr Subaraj Rajathurai, one of the working group's members, hopes the group's involvement will continue and that the consultants will seek its expertise when necessary.

"(The area) is a very special thing. If you go around the won't find any cities with a rainforest, with original forests, right in the middle," said the director of Strix Wildlife Consultancy.

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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Increase in complaints related to high-rise littering

Ng Lian Cheong Channel NewsAsia 23 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: The number of complaints related to high-rise littering cases has increased by 50 percent over the past four years.

Some residents at Dover Crescent said the installation of surveillance cameras there have helped improve the problem.

The area was one of the top littering hotspots last year. Others include Sims Avenue and Toa Payoh Lorong 1.

But experts said the effectiveness of cameras remains to be seen, especially in cases where faces of offenders are not captured.

Technology may be the key to catching these litterbugs.

Liak Teng Lit, chairman of Public Hygiene Council, said: "The police have been using DNA technology for more serious crimes for a long time. You can use saliva samples, for example, to identity the DNA, and any other biological fluids you can get, you can (use it to) connect to them (offenders)."

Recalcitrant litterbugs can be fined up to S$10,000 under the amended Environmental Public Health Act.

For first-time offenders, the maximum penalty has been doubled - from S$1,000 to S$2,000.

The changes to the Act were passed in Parliament earlier last week.

- CNA/xq

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Bird spotted again at Sungei Buloh after 19 years

Longest record for Whimbrel ringed at Sungei Buloh wetland reserve
Today Online 23 Feb 14;

A Whimbrel. Photo: National Parks Board

SINGAPORE — Nineteen years after it was first ringed here, a Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) — a large wading bird — was spotted at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Jan 29, marking the longest record for the repeat sighting of an individual Whimbrel species in Singapore.

The Whimbrel is believed to be about 20 years old, said the National Parks Board (NParks) in a statement today (Feb 23).

Bird ringing is the process of catching wild birds and attaching a small ring with a unique serial number around its legs. It allows researchers to, for instance, study migration patterns and the longevity of different bird species.

“Repeat sightings of the same individual can be quite rare and we are very fortunate to be able do so,” said Mr Wong Tuan Wah, Director of Conservation at NParks.

“The Whimbrel and other migratory bird species can still be seen at Sungei Buloh and visitors will be able to observe them until around late March, which is usually the end of the migratory bird season,” he said.

The Whimbrel, which has a long down-curved bill about twice the length of its head, is commonly sighted on the mudflats of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Pulau Ubin.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve started the bird ringing process in 1990 and conducts bird ringing sessions at least once a month during the annual migratory bird season from September to March.

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Malaysia: Sabah turtle conservation - 3 landowners allow eggs collection

ruben sario The Star 23 Feb 14;

KOTA KINABALU: A private turtle conservation effort on an island off the east coast of Sandakan district is getting a boost with three landowners allowing the collection of the marine creatures’ eggs from their properties.

The conservation effort initiated by the Trekkers Lodge on Pulau Libaran would see staff collecting the turtle eggs laid within the properties of islanders Amiril Sayuti, Rashid Saburi and Mohammad Ghazali.

The lodge signed a memorandum of understanding with the three landowners in Sandakan on Saturday.

Trekkers Lodge managing director Alexander Yee said their turtle conservation programme began in 2011 under the guidance of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

He said that apart from egg collection for hatching purposes, the programme on the island located about 40 minutes by speedboat from Sandakan included awareness activities for islanders and visitors alike.

Another aspect of the conservation programme was an ongoing research effort to better understand the lifecycle of turtles.

Yee said, initially, his staff could only collect the turtle eggs within the confines of the lodge’s compound.

“Many of the islanders wanted the turtle eggs for themselves for food or to make some income,” he explained.

“However, we persisted in making the 450 islanders, many of whom are fishermen, aware about the importance of conserving the turtles,” Yee added.

Landowners boost conservation efforts
The Star 24 Feb 14;

KOTA KINABALU: A private turtle conservation effort off the Sandakan coast got a much needed boost with three landowners allowing the collection of the highly sought-after eggs for conservation.

The effort was initiated by the Trekkers Lodge on Pulau Libaran, and would see staff collecting eggs laid by the green turtle as well as the hawksbill turtle on land owned by Amiril Sayuti, Rashid Saburi and Mohammad Ghazali.

The lodge signed a memorandum of understanding with the three landowners in Sandakan on Saturday.

Trekkers Lodge managing director Alexander Yee said their turtle conservation programme began in 2011 under the guidance of the Sabah Wildlife Department.

He said apart from egg collection for hatching under a protected environment, the programme on the island – located about 40 minutes by speedboat from Sandakan – included activities to instil awareness for islanders and visitors.

Another aspect of the conservation programme was ongoing research to better understand the life-cycle of turtles.

Yee said initially his staff could only collect turtle eggs within the lodge’s compound.

“Many islanders want the eggs for food or to sell them,” he explained.

“However, we persisted in making the 450 islanders, many of whom are fishermen, aware of the importance of conserving the turtles,” Yee added.

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Malaysia: 'Waiting for suitable clouds'

Balqis Nasir and Ili Liyana Mokhtar New Straits Times 24 Feb 14;

CLOUD SEEDING: Meteorological Dept will inform National Security Council when time is right

KUALA LUMPUR : INTERMITTENT rainfall over the Klang Valley is predicted to continue until next week.

Meteorological Department deputy director-general (strategy and technical) Dr Rosaidi Che Abas said the brief rainfall over certain parts of the Klang Valley on Saturday night did little to alleviate the hot and dry weather.

He said the weather was still not conducive for the cloud seeding exercise to be carried out.

"The weather is quite unpredictable, but based on what we see, there will be no suitable clouds that could be used for the cloud seeding exercise until Wednesday.

"That is why we are monitoring the situation closely to find suitable large clouds that could allow a 80 per cent success rate for the seeding exercise."

Rosaidi said the clouds which were most suitable for seeding were cumulus clouds, alternately known as the towering cumulus clouds.

These clouds, which are known as fair weather clouds, resemble puffy cotton balls or cauliflowers.

He said seeding exercises could not be conducted on clouds that naturally produced rainfall.

Dr Rosaidi said there were two types of cloud seeding -- wet and dry seeding.

In wet seeding, about 150kg of salt is mixed with 1,000 litres of water, and the containers of salt solution are carried aboard a specific aircraft. Four containers could be carried at one time.

When the plane reaches an altitude of 1,200m to 2,100m, the solution is sprayed onto the clouds.

In dry seeding, hygroscopic flares are fixed onto racks on an aircraft's wings.

When the aircraft enters the base of the clouds, the flares are lit, causing salt particles to disperse into the clouds, thus creating a chemical reaction.

Rainfall is expected within five to ten minutes of cloud-seeding, Dr Rosaidi said.

The success rate for cloud seeding in Malaysia since 1974, stood between 57 and 65 per cent where in most cases, it would rain after the exercise was carried out.

National Security Council secretary Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab said cloud seeding depended on the availability of suitable clouds.

"The Meteorological Department will inform us when there are clouds that can sustain seeding operations. It is now closely monitoring the situation.

"Once the conditions are favourable, we will go ahead with the exercise as planned."

The dry spell in the country has led to water levels dipping closer to critical levels in reservoirs nationwide and the authorities have been urged to carry out cloud seeding to induce rainfall.

DRY SPELL: Supplies water
New Straits Times 24 Feb 14;

DRY TAPS: Military water tankers provide relief to thousands of residents

IT has been two weeks that the 30,000 residents of Taman Impian Ehsan, here, have been enduring dry taps.

With no fast solution to their woes in sight, hundreds of them took to the streets yesterday hoping to get some reprieve.

As they were sharing their plight with the media, three Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) water tankers were making their way to the neighbourhood to provide them with the much needed relief.

The tankers, each carrying 10,000 litres of water will be making trips there everyday until the problem is resolved.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the ATM tankers were deployed to assist Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) meet the water demand.

Syabas had since Saturday set up 12 static tanks there, each with a capacity of 1,200 litres.

Resident Paul Wong, 38, who has been residing in that area for ten years said the locals there were disappointed with the authorities which they said were not committed in addressing the problem.

"We have complained many times to so many parties but none of them were bothered.

Terpili Salim, 37, who was seen doing her laundry at one of the static tanks said the water supplied through the static tanks was not enough in meeting demand of the people in the area.

Syabas corporate communications and public affairs department assistant general manager Priscilla Alfred said the company had been sending many water tankers to the residents for their daily use since the beginning of the crisis.

"The current problem is that the supply cannot meet the demand as there are too many affected residents and the problem has stretched for so many days," she said.

Hishammuddin said ATM was giving priority to the people.

Serdang parliament rukun tertangga officer cooredinating Serdang Major (B) Abdul Rahim Mohd Amin said that Taman Impian Ehsan had been experiencing water shortage for more than 14 days, while Bandar Tun Hussein Onn was still facing water rationing.

"Yesterday, Syabas sent 12 water tanks with the capacity of 1,200 litres here, but was not enough as this neighbourhood comprises of 20 residential areas with more than 30,000 residents," Abdul Rahim said. The closure of the water treatment plants in Cheras Batu 11 and Bukit Tampoi due to the ammonia pollution in Sungai Langat was the main cause for the dry taps.

Rahim said he had earlier sought help from the National Security Council (NSC) but was told by the NSC that it could only step in if the state government declared a state of emergency.

In George Town, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said there had been no shortage in water supply and the current capacity of the three dams in the state would last until the end of March.

He said the water level at the Air Itam, Teluk Bahang and Mengkuang dams stood at 74, 90 and 50 per cent respectively and was adequate.

Lim said the supply would only be considered critical if water at the dams dropped to 40 per cent.

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Malaysia: Tests conducted on 800 wild animals reveal shocking results

zora chan The Star 24 Feb 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Seven new viruses have been discovered in about 800 animals sampled in Malaysian forests last year.

EcoHealth Alliance Malaysia project coordinator Tom Hughes said the viruses were found in many animals tested in the peninsula.

However, he declined to name the animal species that carried these viruses until further tests were carried out to determine whether they could be dangerous to others.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. We started our work with Malaysian authorities since 2005 with labs located at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan), Cheras and the Veterinary Research Institute in Ipoh.”

“The lab in Sabah started operations in Penampang in October last year,” he said.

He said the research findings would be made public once they are ready.

The alliance in Malaysia would be working closely with its global counterparts to see whether these viruses existed in other animals elsewhere, he said.

On Friday, Hughes gave a talk about research on zoonoses (infectious diseases that are transmitted between species including from animals to human).

US ambassador to Malaysia, Joseph Yun hosted the talk at his residence. The talk was aimed at raising awareness on Sabah’s conservation efforts.

Sabah Wildlife Department assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said researchers recently found that the altering landscape in Sabah had also changed wildlife behaviour such as those of the orang utan.

“Orang utans are arboreal animals but now they are spending more time on the ground. If they spend more time on the ground, they are at more risks of being hunted by human beings and clouded leopards.

“Orang utans are also susceptible to soil-borne diseases and their immune system are not ready to deal with organisms that are found in the ground,” he said.

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Malaysia: Malaysian Nature Society - Halt projects on Penang Hill

Predeep Nambiar New Straits Times 24 Feb 14;

MORE BALD PATCHES APPEARING: It wants full mapping of the area to be carried out

GEORGE TOWN: THE state government should stop all developments earmarked for Penang Hill pending a detailed study by the authorities to prevent further land clearing by owners.

Penang Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) chapter adviser D. Kanda Kumar said full mapping of the hill land must be carried out.

The public must be informed about hillslope developments.

Kanda said this would enable eco-friendly and sustainable development for the hill.

"What is worrying us is that more and more bare patches are appearing on the hill, especially near the viewing structures.

"We do not know how long more before the developments encroach on these sensitive areas.

"A good example is the destruction of the state's mangrove and forest reserves," he said yesterday.

Checks by the New Straits Times showed several bald patches on both sides of the hill's railway line, with irregular cuts, terraces and structures built haphazardly.

Citizen Awareness Chant Group said this could have been caused by rampant hill-clearing activities for agricultural purposes.

Kanda said the state government had failed to address the matter because of its weak political will.

"There has to be a strong political will so that actions can be taken against those who are responsible."

He said the state government and local authorities should also stop renewing the temporary occupational licences (TOLs) of those involved.

In response, state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the committee would look into MNS' suggestions.

"The TOL comes under the Land Office.

"I will bring MNS' recommendations to the attention of the state executive council."

Read more: NGO: Halt projects on Penang Hill - General - New Straits Times

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Indonesia: 46 elephants found dead in riau in three years - WWF

Antara 23 Feb 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - A total of 46 elephants were found dead in Riau province between 2011 and 2014, with most of them without ivory, spokesman to WWFs Riau branch Syamsidar said here on Sunday.

Quoting data collected by WWF, Syamsidar said in 2011 the bodies of 10 dead elephants were found in a timber estate in Duri city, Bengkalis and Kuantan Singingi districts. In 2012 there were 15 elephants found dead in plantation belonging to local people and companies operating in the province.

As in 2013, the bodies of 14 dead elephants were found, consisting of 13 in the Tesso Nilo National Park area and one in a timber estate managed by a private company. Recently, it was reported that seven more elephants were found dead in timber estate in Riau province, Syamsidar added.

"WWF expects the government will seriously investigate this case and those held responsible for killing the elephants are sent to jail," he said.

Meanwhile, spokesman to Pelalawan district police Adjunct Commissioner Lumban G Toruan said he had deployed police personnel to investigate the finding of seven elephant bones recently in the timber estate belonging to PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP).

The elephant bones are temporarily kept by Riau provinces Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) for further investigation to see the cause of the seven elephants death.

Earlier, spokesman from PT RAPP stated the company was ready to assist the police in the investigation process.

Reporting by Fazar Muhardi
Translating and Editing by Amie Fenia Arimbi

Editor: Aditia Maruli

Bones of seven elephants found in Riau`s industrial forest
Antara 23 Feb 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The bones of seven elephants were recently found in an industrial forest in Pelalawan district, Riau province, spokesman to WWF Riau branch Syamsidar said here on Sunday.

"The seven bones were not found at the same time and location. We found the bones of two elephants last week, and the bones of four more elephants the day after. Last Friday (Feb 21 ), we found another one," Syamsidar said.

Meanwhile, spokesman to Pelalawan district police Adjunct Commissioner Lumban G Toruan said he had deployed police personnel to investigate the finding of elephant bones in the industrial forest.

The elephant bones are temporarily kept by Riau provinces Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) for further investigation to see the cause of the seven elephants death.

Reporting by Fazar Muhardi
Translating and Editing by Amie Fenia Arimbi

Editor: Aditia Maruli

Seven Elephants Found Dead in Riau
Jakarta Globe 23 Feb 14;

Jakarta. The remains of seven critically endangered Sumatran elephants, likely killed by humans, have been found in Riau’s Tesso Nilo National Park, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said on Saturday.

“Only skeletons were left of the seven dead elephants,” WWF spokesman Syamsidar told Indonesian news portal

The elephants died around three months ago, probably at the hands of human poisoners, he said.

Five cubs and an adult female were discovered next to one another and a seventh male was found elsewhere in the park.

The remains were discovered over the course of the past week, Syamsidar said.

“Learning from previous cases of elephant deaths, we strongly suspect that [these deaths] were due to poisoning,” he said. “But autopsies are still needed to prove the suspicion.”

The latest findings brought the total number of elephant deaths in Riau over the past three months to 10, nine of which were believed to have been caused by poisoning.

Syamsidar said that the deaths were the result of human-animal conflict in an area where some membera of the local populations saw elephants as pests.

Park head Tandia said his office was investigating the incident.

The Natural Resources Conservation Agency’s [BKSDA] Riau office will perform the autopsies.

Indonesian elephants found dead, poisoning suspected
(AFP) Google News 24 Feb 14;

Jakarta — Seven Sumatran elephants have been found dead in western Indonesia and it is thought they were poisoned, a wildlife official said Monday, just the latest deaths of the critically-endangered animals.

Dozens of the elephants have died after being poisoned in recent years on Sumatra island, as the creatures come into conflict with humans due to the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations which destroys their habitat.

The latest to die were a female adult, five male teenagers, and a male calf believed to be from the same herd, said local wildlife agency spokesman Muhammad Zanir.

The remains of the elephants were found on February 16 just outside Tesso Nilo National Park and it is thought they died five months earlier, he said.

"There is an indication that they were poisoned," he said. "Some people may consider the elephants a threat to their palm oil plantations and poison them."

While Sumatran elephants are regularly found dead, it is rare to discover so many at the same time.

Swathes of rainforest have been destroyed in recent years to make way for plantations and villagers increasingly target Sumatran elephants, which they regard as pests.

While most concessions for palm oil companies are granted outside Tesso Nilo, in Riau province in eastern Sumatra, many villagers still illegally set up plantations inside the park, said WWF spokeswoman Syamsidar, who goes by one name.

Poachers also sometimes target the animals -- the smallest of the Asian elephants -- for their ivory tusks, which are in high demand for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

The WWF says there are only between 2,400 and 2,800 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild and warns they face extinction in less than 30 years unless the destruction of their habitat is halted.

Rampant expansion of plantations and the mining industry has destroyed nearly 70 percent of the elephant's forest habitat over 25 years, according to the WWF.

Protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the elephants as "critically endangered", one step below "extinct in the wild".

Read more!

Indonesia: Riau hotspots jumps to 1,234

The Jakarta Post 24 Feb 14;

The number of hotspots detected in Riau province jumped by nearby 20 times to 1,234 on Monday, scattered across eight regencies/cities, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

Ardhitama, a BMKG Pekanbaru analyst, said that the the Terra and Aqua Satellite detected 1,398 hotspots in total across Sumatra.

"All were detected this morning," he said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Ardhitama explained that of the hotspots in Riau, 525 were in Bengkalis regency, 209 in Siak, 141 in Meranti, 126 in Dumai city, 118 in Pelalawan, 74 in Indragiri Hilir, 48 in Rokan Hilir and four in Indragiri Hulu.

Other hotspots were detected on Monday in Riau Islands (43), Jambi (25), West Sumatra (5), Lampung and Belitung with one hotspot each.

Meanwhile, according to the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hotspots were also detected in a number of neighboring countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. (idb)

Riau visibility drops to 50 meters due to thick haze
The Jakarta Post 24 Feb 14;

Worsening forest fires in some areas of Riau have reduced visibility to around 50 meters, according to an analyst from the local office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) on Monday.

The visibility level was recorded in Pelalawan regency, the hardest-hit area, said BMKG analyst Ardhitama, adding that visibility in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau, was also reported to have dipped below 500 meters.

"The decreasing air quality is due to the forest fires that have caused thick haze blanketing the Riau area. According to data obtained from the satellite, the number of hotspots in Riau has since Sunday increased [Feb. 23] to 1,234," Ardhitama said in Pekanbaru as quoted by Antara news agency.

Bengkalis Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) chief Muhammad Jalal said raging fires had burned down four houses and a school building in Bukit Batu district.

"About 87 families had to be evacuated due to the worsening fires near their homes," Jalal added.

Respiratory infection sufferers on the rise in Riau
The Jakarta Post 24 Feb 14;

The number of patients with respiratory infections (ISPA) caused by clouds of haze in Riau has increased to around 20,000 from 15,000, the province's health agency says.

"The figures are from data compiled in several regencies and municipalities since the end of January to Feb.23," Riau health agency head Zainal Arifin said in Pekanbaru on Monday, as quoted by Antara news agency.

He said that the number of ISPA patients in January was less than 5,000 but grew to 15,292 last week and that now there were more than 20,000 people were suffering from the illness. The figures did not include patients suffering other haze-related illnesses such as skin and eye irritations.

Zainal urged Riau residents to reduce activities outside of homes or buildings as conditions had continued to worsen due to smoke clouds from land fires.

He said air-pollution levels in several regencies and municipalities in Riau such as Dumai city, Pelalawan and Siak regency were considered to be “dangerous” to health. (idb/ebf)

Read more!

Indonesia: 10 firms suspected of burning land in Riau

The Jakarta Post 23 Feb 14;

The Environment Ministry suspects that 10 companies were involved in burning land that led to haze pollution in Riau in 2013.

“The haze has disappeared but the legal process is still ongoing,” said Deputy Environment Minister for Environment Law Enforcement Sudariyono, in Pekanbaru on Sunday as quoted by Antara news agency.

He said the companies were named suspects at the end of last year.

According to Sudariyono, it had taken around six months for the ministry to name them as suspects, but the case dossiers had not yet been handed over to the court as the Riau High Prosecutor’s Office viewed the investigation dossiers of the land burning incidents as still incomplete, or P19.

“The cases cannot be tried yet in court as they are still at the P19 level,” he said.

The Environment Ministry is handling the cases of seven out of eight companies allegedly involved in burning land in Riau in 2013.

Four of the companies worked on cultivating industrial forests, comprising PT Sumatera Riang Lestari (SRL), PT Bukit Batu Hutani Alam (BBHA), PT Sakato Makmur Pratama (SMP) and PT Ruas Utama Jaya (RUJ).

The three other firms were palm oil companies, namely PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa, PT Bumi Reksa Nusa Sejati (BRNS) and PT Langgam Inti Hibrido (LIH).

The eighth case involves the Malaysian company PT Adei Plantation & Industry and is being handled by the Riau Police, with two suspects being tried at Pelalawan District Court.

Sudariyono said in the three cases involving PT SRL, PT RUJ and PT SMP, the ministry had named two suspects in each case.

SRL, for instance, was accused of burning land in Bengkalis regency, Riau, in 2013. Two individuals identified by the initials JS and RKT, had been named suspects.

“The two suspects are high ranking officials in the company,” said Sudariyono. (ebf)

US offers training for forest rangers in Indonesia
Antara 23 Feb 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The United States plans to offer training for forest rangers in Indonesia to enable them to tackle incidents such as forest fire and haze that is currently happening in Riau province, Deputy Chief of US Consulate General Trevor Olson said here on Sunday.

"The US has the program to improve the capacity of forest rangers in conducting their duty," Trevor said.

According to Trevor Indonesia and the US had not yet have a specific cooperation in the handling of forest fire incident.

While forest fire and haze, such as what happen in Riau province recently, had disturbed the daily life and business of people in the area including Americans living there, he said.

Trevor added he had visited Pekanbaru city a while ago and had a discussion with local authority on the challenge of handling forest fire in Riau province including the difficulty to sue people or companies who had deliberately caused forest fire.

Forest fire and thick haze appears in Riau province during the past week. It was suspected that some local people had deliberately started fire in an attempt to open new plantation.

Last Thursday, Riau Police stated it had identified 13 people who have been accused as Riau land burners that triggered haze in the area.

"Regarding information from the people, the 13th accused person namely Misroni had cleared land by burning the field. We have arrested Misroni," the Chief of Meranti Archipelago Resort Police Senior Commissioner Adjunct Pandra Arsyad confirmed.

Previously, the Police had detained 12 persons, out of which, seven were accused of burning several areas in districts such as Siak, Pelalawan, Bengkalis and Pekanbaru City as well as Indragiri Hilir, and Rokan Hilir.

According to the Police, Misroni worked as a farmer in Tanjung Samak Hamlet of Rangsang Sub-district.

Misronis neighbors had reported him to the Police after he burned the field and the neighboring land, to plant crops in January.

"We have arrested Misroni as his neighbor testified that he has burned the land and the neighboring field. People saw him burn the land deliberately," Pandra noted.

He added that there are at least 4-5 people who are ready to testify, after 50 hectares of their land were burnt because of Misroni.

Misroni, says Police, had escaped to Palalawan District after the fire from his land could not be controlled, when his neighbors tried to distinguish the fires.

"We have arrested Misroni after he returned to the village," Pandra explained.

All the suspects have been detained in each of the Police headquarter in the districts.

The haze had disrupted international and domestic flight traffic in Riau Province due to decreased visibility.

Besides that, some 15,292 residents in Riau Province have been suffering from respiratory problems due to haze from the forest fire that has covered the area since February.

Reporting by FB Anggoro
Translating and Editing by Amie Fenia Arimbi

Editor: Aditia Maruli

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Indonesia: Erosion threatens Semarang region due to mangrove loss

Ainur Rohmah, The Jakarta Post 24 Feb 14;

Severe erosion along Central Java’s northern coast from Kendal regency, Semarang, to Demak regency requires immediate attention if a threat to local livelihoods is to be averted, says an official.

Semarang Maritime and Fishery Agency marine and coast division head Siswanto said coastal erosion had seen the coastline move 1.7 kilometers farther inland, with Tugu the worst hit district.

Of Tugu’s total area of 2,923 hectares, some 1,200 hectares have experienced severe erosion.

“The development of a wood processing factory in Kendal has caused this erosion,” Siswanto said in Semarang recently.

The erosion, according to Siswanto, had decreased the city’s fishpond area from about 1,000 hectares in 2006 to 921 hectares in 2010, as well as damaged mangroves growing along the coast.

“We need to handle this issue now, but the problem is that the administration must prepare a budget of trillions of rupiah,” he said.

Coastal erosion also threatens the three districts of Patebon, Rowosari and Kaliwungu in Kendal regency, causing frequent seawater flooding, locally known as rob, in the coastal area. Damage to mangrove forests has been blamed for the situation.

Damage to coastal areas due to a lack of mangrove forests has also been experienced by other districts, including Kendal, Brangsong, Kangkung and Cepiring, and is also feared to have affected tourist locations like Sendang Sikucing Beach.

Kendal Tourism and Culture Agency tourism head Sri Bagus Darmoyo said if nothing was done to address the issue, the beach was likely to completely disappear.

Semarang Diponegoro University’s School of Civil Engineering Association has suggested building a coastal belt through Kendal, Semarang and Demak to address the erosion.

A member of the association, Nelwan, said the coastal belt could be made multi-functional to block the seawater as well as deal with traffic congestion along the province’s northern coastal highway, or Pantura as the area is more
popularly called.

“The realistic solution to land subsidence, rob, coastal damage and traffic congestion is a coastal belt line that also functions as a toll road,” Nelwan said.

The coastal belt, according to Nelwan, could stretch for 71.5 km of the area’s total length of 82.5 km.

The project is predicted to require Rp 7.1 trillion (US$604.57 million).

If the coastal belt also acts as a toll road then the project would need a total of Rp 9.5 trillion to be completed.

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El Nino threatens to return, hit global food production

Lewa Pardomuan PlanetArk 24 Feb 14;

El Nino threatens to return, hit global food production Photo: Enrique Marcarian
Farmer Rodolfo Picchi drives a tractor pulling a sowing machine to plant sorghum in the town of Estacion Islas in Buenos Aires province, November 24, 2012.
Photo: Enrique Marcarian

El Nino - the Spanish word for boy - is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years. The worst on record in the late 1990s killed more than 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage.

A strong El Nino can wither crops in Australia, Southeast Asia, India and Africa when other parts of the globe such as the U.S. Midwest and Brazil are drenched in rains.

While scientists are still debating the intensity of a potential El Nino, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology and the U.S. Climate Prediction Center have warned of increased chances one will strike this year.

Last month, the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization said there was an "enhanced possibility" of a weak El Nino by the middle of 2014.

"The world is bracing for El Nino, which if confirmed, could wreak havoc on supply and cause prices of some commodities to shoot up," said Vanessa Tan, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

Any disruption to supply would come as many crops have already been hit by adverse weather, with the northern hemisphere in the grip of a savage winter.

The specter of El Nino has driven global cocoa prices to 2-1/2 year peaks this month on fears that dry weather in the key growing regions of Africa and Asia would stoke a global deficit. Other agricultural commodities could follow that lead higher if El Nino conditions are confirmed.


"Production estimates for several crops which are already under stress will have to be revised downwards," said Phillip Futures' Tan.

"Wheat in Australia may be affected by El Nino and also sugar in India."

In India, the world's No.2 producer of sugar, rice and wheat, a strong El Nino could reduce the monsoon rains that are key to its agriculture, curbing production.

"If a strong El Nino occurs during the second half of the monsoon season, then it could adversely impact the production size of summer crops," said Sudhir Panwar, president of farmers' lobby group Kishan Jagriti Manch.

El Nino in 2009 turned India's monsoon patchy, leading to the worst drought in nearly four decades and helping push global sugar prices to their highest in nearly 30 years.

Elsewhere in Asia, which grows more than 90 percent of the world's rice and is its main producer of coffee and corn, a drought-inducing El Nino could hit crops in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and China.

And it could deal another blow to wheat production in Australia, the world's second-largest exporter of the grain, which has already been grappling with drought in the last few months.

El Nino could also crimp supply of minerals such as gold, nickel, tin, copper and coal if mines flood or logistics are disrupted.

In North America, crops in the U.S. Pacific Northwest could suffer as El Nino tends to cause rain to the area, with the major white wheat region already abnormally dry.

But El Nino doesn't spell bad news for all farmers. It could bring rain to drought-hit California's dairy farms and vineyards.

"El Nino has a bad connotation, undeservedly so in the U.S.," said Harry Hillaker, state climatologist in Iowa.

"Given the water supply issues they are having in California, more rain would be helpful."

And in Central America, while dryness associated with El Nino would curb coffee production, it would also help drive back the leaf rust that has blighted crops in the region.

(Additional reporting by Yayat Supriatna in Jakarta, Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat in Bangkok, Ho Binh Minh in Hanoi, Erik Dela Cruz in Manila, Dominique Patton and Niu Shuping in Beijing, Ratnajyoti Dutta in Delhi, Colin Packham in Sydney, Chris Prentice and Marcy Nicholson in New York, Peter Murphy in Bogota and Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Simon Webb and Joseph Radford)

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Sun-dimming volcanoes partly explain global warming hiatus - study

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 24 Feb 14;

Eruptions of at least 17 volcanoes since 2000, including Nabro in Eritrea, Kasatochi in Alaska and Merapi in Indonesia, ejected sulfur whose sun-blocking effect had been largely ignored until now by climate scientists, it said.

The pace of rising world surface temperatures has slowed since an exceptionally warm 1998, heartening those who doubt that an urgent, trillion-dollar shift to renewable energies from fossil fuels is needed to counter global warming.

Explaining the hiatus could bolster support for a U.N. climate deal, due to be agreed by almost 200 governments at a summit in Paris in late 2015 to avert ever more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

"This is a complex detective story," said Benjamin Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, lead author of the study in the journal Nature Geoscience that gives the most detailed account yet of the cooling impact of volcanoes.

"Volcanoes are part of the answer but there's no factor that is solely responsible for the hiatus," he told Reuters of the study by a team of U.S. and Canadian experts.

Volcanoes are a wild card for climate change - they cannot be predicted and big eruptions, most recently of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, can dim global sunshine for years.

Santer said other factors such as a decline in the sun's output, linked to a natural cycle of sunspots, or rising Chinese emissions of sun-blocking pollution could also help explain the recent slowdown in warming.

The study suggested that volcanoes accounted for up to 15 percent of the difference between predicted and observed warming this century. All things being equal, temperatures should rise because greenhouse gas emissions have hit repeated highs.


"Volcanoes give us only a temporary respite from the relentless warming pressure of continued increases in carbon dioxide," said Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change at the University of Leeds.

A study by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year suggested that natural variations in the climate, such as an extra uptake of heat by the oceans, could help explain the warming slowdown at the planet's surface.

The IPCC projected a resumption of warming in coming years and said that "substantial and sustained" cuts in greenhouse gas emissions were needed to counter climate change.

It also raised the probability that human activities were the main cause of warming since 1950 to at least 95 percent from 90 in 2007. Despite the hiatus, temperatures have continued to rise - 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have been this century, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

For the study, click on:

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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