Best of our wild blogs: 7 Mar 14

Job: Research Assistant Position in freshwater ecology
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Over 500,000 specimens are being prepared for the BIG move! – zbNOW 5 March 2014 from Raffles Museum News

Grey-rumped Treeswift taking turns to incubate egg
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Peatlands biosphere reserve facing severe encroachment in Sumatra
from news by Rhett Butler

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Waste oil collected from grease traps was for processing into biodiesel: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 6 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency's (NEA) investigation into earlier incidents of individuals extracting used cooking oil from grease traps in Jurong, has revealed that the waste oil collected from the grease traps of eateries was sent for processing into biodiesel.

NEA is now investigating another similar incident in Toa Payoh that took place on March 3.

Food establishments are required to provide grease traps and maintain them regularly through licensed general waste collectors.

There is a proper system in place for the collection and disposal of waste from grease traps, with such waste being collected by the licensed operators who are equipped with vacuum trucks.

The waste is then disposed of at the water reclamation plant of national water agency, PUB.

NEA said it will take enforcement action against any unauthorised waste collectors, and any licensee who violates the conditions of the licence or illegally disposes of the waste.

Upon conviction, offenders are liable to a maximum fine of S$2,000.

NEA also carries out checks at food shops to ascertain that the ingredients used, including cooking oil, are from approved or licensed sources, and will take action against operators who flout the rules.

Members of the public who come across any information on unauthorised collection of waste from grease traps should note down details of the incident and contact NEA at 1800-2255632 or

- CNA/ms/sf

Oily business
The New Paper AsiaOne 7 Mar 14;

The two men had dashed past her, surprising her as she was serving coffee to customers.

"They looked like they were running for their lives," said Ms Feng, who runs a drinks stall at the market and food centre at Block 74, Lorong 4 Toa Payoh.

Hot on their heels were several police officers, the 35-year-old told Lianhe Zaobao.

The two men had allegedly been pumping oil out of a grease trap near the food centre on Monday morning. They fled when the police arrived.

Similar two-man operations have been spotted by the public near hawker centres in Yishun and Jurong West, raising concerns over where the oil waste goes after collection.

One fear is that they could be drawing "gutter oil", which is oil waste and grease that is collected in grease traps near hawker centres and other food outlets that is treated and used again for food preparation. The sewerage system, where the grease trap is located, can be accessed by inserting a pipe through a manhole.


Ms Feng said she had seen people at the manhole to draw oil every one or two weeks and that it had been going on for a year.

"They usually go at around 6am with a long pipe and a metal drum. They would finish drawing oil in 10 to 15 minutes and then leave on a lorry," she said.

At 2pm the same day, J.O.L Environmental, a licensed waste collector, sent workers to the same spot to collect oil waste.

A worker told Zaobao that they clear the grease trap once a month and send the waste to a water facility in Tuas for disposal.

Although the two men on Monday morning were not caught, Lianhe Zaobao understands that the boss of the company that hired them was questioned by the police.

The boss had told the newspaper on Monday that his company was licensed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to draw oil waste and had been operating for 10 years.

He added that the waste collected would be sold to a Malaysian company to be refined as diesel.

A check on NEA's website however, revealed that the company is not on the agency's list of general waste collectors. The list was last updated on January 10.

Read more!

NParks calls for impact study of new nature park

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - It is being built to bring more Singaporeans closer to nature.

But how will nature cope as people come closer to it?

This is the question the National Parks Board (NParks) wants answered about the planned Chestnut Nature Park, to be built next to the species-rich Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

When completed next year, the park will have biking and hiking trails, a viewing tower, meeting pavilion and carpark.

It is being built to bring Singaporeans closer to nature, the Government had said in 2012.

In an uncommon step, NParks called a tender recently for a biodiversity impact assessment (BIA). The study will assess how streams, flora and fauna may be affected by the construction and use of the 80ha forested site, slightly larger than the Botanic Gardens.

It lies on the western fringes of the reserve, across the Bukit Timah Expressway from Bukit Panjang. The Straits Times understands that assessments of this kind are not mandatory for all new parks, but may be done if sites have rich biodiversity.

In previous years, NParks' assessments were conducted for the Sungei Buloh Masterplan, the Chek Jawa Boardwalk on Pulau Ubin that opened in 2007 and a wildlife bridge completed last year to link the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment nature reserves.

The Chestnut park site consists mostly of secondary forest.

The study would, for instance, assess how wildlife might be affected by earthworks, tree removal and construction noise. Or, after the park is completed, by humans and park activities.

It would also recommend measures to offset any impact.

Nature reserves make up about 4.4 per cent of land here.

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve is home to hundreds of animal species such as the critically endangered banded leaf monkey and some of Singapore's remaining patches of primary rainforest.

Some of these species might also frequent the proposed park site, noted Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum.

The BIA should take note of how species-rich primary rainforest near the Chestnut Avenue water works might be affected, he said.

But he added that the bigger worry is whether park visitors will behave responsibly, such as by sticking to designated trails and not forging illegal ones into the reserve.

NParks, he suggested, could consider capping visitor numbers and stepping up ranger patrols.

"The worst-case scenario is that this leads to more incursion into the reserve," he said. "You want to open up areas, but you have to make sure the public awareness is there. "If not, that's where we'll run into trouble."

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Possible haze in Singapore in second half of March: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 6 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said Singapore may be affected by transboundary haze in the second half of March, if hotspots in Sumatra persist and prevailing winds in the region shift westwards temporarily.

Prolonged dry weather affecting parts of the region in the last two months has resulted in an escalation of hotspot activities in central and northern Sumatra since early February.

On Wednesday, 47 hotspots were detected in Peninsular Malaysia and six hotspots detected in Sumatra.

But NEA said the low hotspot count for Sumatra was due to cloud cover and partial satellite coverage.

Although increased rainfall can be expected later in the month, total rainfall for March is forecast to be below average in most parts of the region.

NEA said with the expected transition from the northeast monsoon to the inter-monsoon period in the second half of March, winds in the region will turn light and variable in direction.

The inter-monsoon period typically lasts from late March to May.

Air quality in Singapore deteriorated slightly into the 'moderate' range between 8pm on Tuesday and 4am on Wednesday.

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) range over that period was 51 to 52.

NEA said this was due to an accumulation of particulate matter in the atmosphere under converging wind conditions.

The air quality had returned to the 'good' range at 5am on Wednesday.

Prolonged dry weather affecting parts of the region in the last two months resulted in an escalation of hotspot activities in central and northern Sumatra since early February 2014.

Smoke plumes and widespread moderate to dense haze are visible in Riau province.

In the past week, elevated hotspot activities were also detected in parts of Peninsular Malaysia.

NEA said it will continue to monitor the situation and more updates will be provided as necessary.

- CNA/xq

Haze may return later this month as winds shift: NEA
Today Online 7 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — The haze could return to Singapore later this month with the arrival of the period between monsoons, when winds become light and change direction more easily.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday that 47 hot spots were detected in Peninsula Malaysia on March 5. Six were detected in Sumatra.

Noting that the prolonged dry weather in the region had led to an increase in the number of hot spots in central and northern Sumatra since last month, the agency said the low number detected on March 5 was due to cloud cover and partial satellite coverage. Smoke plumes and widespread moderate to dense haze are visible in Riau province, the NEA said.

Although increased rainfall can be expected later this month, total rainfall for March is expected to be below average in most parts of the region.

“With the expected transition from the North-east Monsoon to the inter-monsoon period in the second half of March 2014, winds in the region will turn light and variable in direction,” the agency said.

“This may pose some risk of transboundary haze affecting Singapore should the hot spots in Sumatra persist and the prevailing winds in our region temporarily turn westerly. The inter-monsoon period typically lasts from late March to May.”

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning was in the “Moderate” range of 51 to 52. The NEA said the deterioration was a result of particulate matter accumulating in the atmosphere under converging wind conditions.

The air quality returned to the “Good” level after 5am on Wednesday.

More shops may up prices of Malaysian fruits, veggies
Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - The price of certain fruits and vegetables coming in from Malaysia could go up at more stores here if the dry spell continues.

Supermarkets and most wholesalers here said that their prices are stable for now, even though some shops have already admitted to hiking prices by up to 25 per cent for fruits such as watermelon and papaya.

The dry spell, which started in January, has caused water supplies at dams in states such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Johor to be at critical levels. Water rationing has also come into force in parts of the country, where rain is not expected until at least the middle of this month.

Madam Wang Quee Chiang, who owns two fruit stalls in Toa Payoh, has increased the price of a kilogram of watermelon from $2 to $2.50 due to the shortage in supply from Malaysia. A kilogram of papaya at her shop costs $2 now, an increase of 20 cents.

"Fruits such as these are high in water content and they need water to grow," she said. "With no rain, the supply will definitely be affected."

Mr Tay Khiam Back, chairman of Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association, said that the dry spell will continue to affect supplies to Singapore if it persists.

However, retailers and wholesalers here can always look for other sources, such as Vietnam and Thailand, to make up for any shortfall, he added.

While major supermarkets have not raised prices, some have seen a decrease in the supply of some Malaysian vegetables and fruits.

Papayas, watermelons and leafy vegetables such as kangkung from across the Causeway have gone down by about 10 to 15 per cent at Giant, said a spokesman for Dairy Farm, which runs the chain.

While Sheng Siong declined to reveal figures on how much its supplies of Malaysian produce have fallen, a spokesman said that it will "top up" from other countries like Thailand and Vietnam to keep prices stable. She added that should price increases become "inevitable" if the dry spell continues, they will be "gradual".

Malaysia was the biggest source of fresh and chilled vegetables and fruit last year, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, adding that it is closely monitoring the situation in Malaysia and will work with traders on alternative sources if necessary.

Part-time saleswoman Soon Kam Mee, 56, says she will continue to buy Malaysian fruit regardless of price increases, "especially now that the weather is hot".

Read more!

Malaysia did not formally approach S'pore for review of raw water price

Imelda Saad Channel NewsAsia 6 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Malaysia did not formally approach Singapore for a review of the price of raw water, in fact, it lost that right in 1987, said Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

He reiterated that the 1962 Water Agreement provided for a joint review in 1987 -- after 25 years -- but Malaysia chose not to do so then.

Mr Shanmugam was responding to a question in Parliament on Thursday over media reports that Johor wanted to review the price of raw water it sells to Singapore.

He said Singapore had conveyed its position to the Malaysian government at the highest level, on several occasions.

Mr Shanmugam said neither country can unilaterally change the price of raw water sold to Singapore, as that would be a breach of the Separation Agreement and international law.

Malaysia had consciously chosen not to review the price in 1987 because it "benefits greatly" from the water deal.

Johor buys 16 million gallons of treated water per day from Singapore, at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

Mr Shanmugam said that's just a "fraction of the true cost" of treating water, which includes building and maintaining the water purification plants in Singapore.

He added that Malaysian leaders have acknowledged that they benefit from the current agreement.

Mr Shanmugam said because Malaysia did not exercise its right to review the price in 1987, Singapore then proceeded to make investment decisions to develop the Johor river.

"Singapore then took several actions which also benefited Malaysia. This included building the Linggui Dam at a cost of $300 million which has increased the yield of the Johor river and enabled both Johor and Singapore to draw water from it during this dry season," he said.

- CNA/de

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Malaysia: " We haven't lost our right" to review the price of raw water Johor supplies to Singapore

BEN TAN AND SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 7 Mar 14;

DIFFERENT INTERPRETATION: State govt says the agreements do not mean a price review must take place immediately in 1986 and 1987

JOHOR BARU: THE state government is adamant it has not lost its right to review the price of raw water it supplies to Singapore under the 1961 and 1962 water agreements.

"As far as we are concerned, the agreements are subject to an altogether different interpretation after 1986 and 1987," said state Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohamad.

He said this in response to the republic's claim that Malaysia had lost its right to review the price after choosing not to do so in 1987.

Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugan was quoted as saying that "Singapore's position is that Malaysia has lost its right to review the water prices.

"The Water Agreement provided for the review after 25 years.

"Specifically, there was a right to review the price of water jointly in 1987," he said in reply to a question in Parliament on whether Malaysia could raise the price of raw water sold to Singapore at any time before the agreement expired in 2061.

Shanmugam said: "However, Malaysia consciously chose not to review the price.

"It had good reasons for it," he said, adding Malaysia benefited greatly from the current pricing agreement.

Clause 17 of the 1961 agreement and clause 14 of the 1962 agreement stated: "The provisions of paragraphs (i) and (ii) of the foregoing clause of these presents shall be subject to review after the expiry of 25 years from the date of these presents..."

In 2003, the National Economic Council, in arguing its case in the Malaysia-Singapore water dispute, said: 25 years after 1961 and 1962 effectively means "any time after 1986 and 1987. This does not mean the review must take place immediately on these two dates. Any time after 1986 and 1987, both sides are legally permitted to review the price."

Hasni noted it was not a matter of whether the state government had reviewed the prices or not or missed the opportunity to do so in 1986 and 1987.

"As far as the state government is concerned, we want the matter to be discussed bilaterally."

The Johor-Singapore water deal surfaced last month when Hasni revealed the agreements were set to undergo a review after the Attorney-General's Chambers had given the state government the green light to reassess the rate.

He was quoted as saying Johor was expected to raise the rate sometime this year.

Although the rate has yet to be announced, it is believed the state government will stick to the number proposed during the tenure of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which was 60 sen per 1,000 gallons of raw water.

Johor has been making RM7,500 daily from the sale of 250 million gallons of raw water to Singapore at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons (4,546.09 litres) for the past 53 years.

The state government spent RM2,500 daily on the purchase of five million gallons of treated water from the city-state at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

This means Johor makes a net gain of only RM5,000 daily.

It was reported that officers from the A-G's Chambers had met with the Johor legal advisory team in Kuala Lumpur in early January and gave them the green right.

Hasni said: "The A-G's Chambers will not simply grant the state government the green light to revise the rate if it has no confidence in the matter.

"Since we have been given the green light from the A-G's Chambers, this means we are in a position to negotiate. As far as the legal aspect of the water agreements are concerned, we will refer it to the A-G's Chambers."

Hasni said raising the price of raw water was long overdue and Malaysia had been doing a social service by selling raw water to Singapore at a low rate for too many years, saying the new rate would reflect the actual price of raw water.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, meanwhile, said he respected the republic's stand on the agreements but maintained that Malaysia also has its own views regarding the water issue.

"Despite both countries having differing views on the matter, I hope that the issue can be settled in an amicable manner.

"In terms of fairness, both sides will have to look into the matter in a friendly and harmonious way to settle the issue."

Johor Baru member of parliament Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said the contention now was that the water rate was too low and that Johor was trying to revise the rate based on the legal aspect.

The veteran politician said Johor was not exploiting the issue.

Revising the rate was a question of rationality and sensibility in the spirit of neighbourliness, he said.

Shanmugam maintained that neither Malaysia nor Singapore can unilaterally change the price of raw water sold to Singapore following the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement.

He said the agreement was guaranteed by both governments in the Separation Agreement in 1965, which was registered with United Nations, where both countries have to honour the Water Agreement and the guarantee in the Separation Agreement.

Any breach of the agreement would be a breach of the Separation Agreement and international law, he said, adding that Malaysian leaders had acknowledged that the country had benefited from the current arrangement, which was why it decided not to review the water prices in 1987.

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Malaysia: Aircraft on constant standby for cloud seeding

The Star 7 Mar 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: An aircraft is on constant standby to initiate cloud seeding once suitable clouds emerge around water catchment areas, said Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah.

“We will continue with the cloud seeding and are ever ready to do it.The Charlie C130 aircraft has been loaded with four cubic metres of salt solution and is ready to take off anytime. Each cubic metre of water contains 150kg of salt in it,” he said after launching the Magic Zlate 11, a locally made Ultrabook performance mobile tablet at Courts Megastore in Bandar Sri Damansara yesterday.

Abu Bakar explained that the commencement of cloud seeding depended of the presence of towering cumulus clouds as this type of cloud formation held potential for substantial rain.

“We will carry out cloud seeding if the chance of rain is 80%. Otherwise, it would be a waste as each operation costs RM80,000,” said Abu Bakar, who added that the operation was being conducted together with the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

On the Magic Zlate 11, which is a notebook computer with detachable keyboard, Abu Bakar said it was the first of the 60 local research and development products to be commercialised this year under the Mosti Commercialisation Year 2014.

Abu Bakar said the global product was developed by a local company which received a RM145mil grant via the ministry’s Technofund programme. Courts Malaysia Sdn Bhd country chief executive officer Allard Sjol­lema said they were proud to host the launch and feature the local product in their stores.

Met Dept to carry out more cloud seeding
BALQIS NASIR AND PHUAH KEN LIN New Straits Times 7 Mar 14;

CONSECUTIVE DAYS: Starting Sunday, they will be conducted at water catchment areas

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD) plans to carry out eight consecutive days of cloud seeding beginning Sunday.

Its Atmospheric Science and Cloud Seeding Division director Azhar Ishak said the third phase of cloud seeding would be carried out everyday and would focus on water catchment areas in the peninsula.

"Our aim is to increase water levels at the catchment areas and we will try to induce heavy rain there," he said, adding that the success of the operation would, however, depend on the availability of suitable clouds.

Azhar said the dept would also identify haze-affected areas as its cloud seeding targets, especially those that recorded unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) readings.

MMD commercial and corporate services director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said the API readings in Muar reached unhealthy level at 5pm yesterday.

He said the haze was caused by wind from the northeast that dispersed dust particles in southern states.

"There was a massive increase of API readings in Muar as wind of up to 20 knots has been blowing from the northeast to the south," he said, adding that such strong wind condition would help disperse the haze.

Unhealthy API readings were also recorded in Port Klang, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam yesterday.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the dry spell saw a spike in the number of peat fires yesterday with 528 reported compared with 417 on Tuesday and 345 on Wednesday.

Fire and Rescue Department senior officer Yusri Basri said the increase was because no cloud seeding was carried out yesterday.

"The decreased number on Tuesday and Wednesday showed that the cloud seeding operations were successful in reducing the number of peat fires in Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Malacca," he said, adding that the number of such fires was expected to grow as the hot and dry spell would continue until the end of the month.

Yusri said while some of the peat fires were caused by indiscriminate throwing of cigarette butts, most were sparked by natural causes because of the dry and hot weather.

In George Town, bush fires continued to rage across Penang yesterday as firemen had their hands full trying to contain the situation.

On the island near the Air Itam Dam, firemen toiled to extinguish embers at a number of spots, mostly in hilly areas.

A check by the New Straits Times at the dam showed firemen, equipped with waterbags and jetshooters, canvassing the slope to tackle bush fires that had broken out there.

On the mainland, white smoke was visible at the hills in Cherok To' Kun in Bukit Mertajam, in open spots such as cemeteries in Seberang Jaya, Bukit Tengah and near a factory in Butterworth.

State Fire and Rescue Department operations chief Azrinnoor Ahmad said the department received numerous distress calls on bush fires throughout the day yesterday.

Penang Fire and Rescue Department using a helicopter to transport men to the site of lower enable its 12-member Multi-skill team members to fight the forest fire in Bukit Bendera yesterday. Pic by Muhammad Mikail Ong

Poor air quality in Muar
The Star 6 Mar 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Poor air quality is recorded in Muar, Johor with the Air Pollutant Index (API) recorded at unhealthy level at 113 as 8am on Thursday.

According to the Department of Environment (DOE) website, 23 areas recorded good API readings while 27 at moderate level.

Among areas having good API readings were Labuan (39), Paka, Terengganu (26), Tanjung Malim, Perak (48), Kota Tinggi and Larkin Lama, Johor (28 and 39 respectively).

Moderate API readings were registered in, among others, Batu Muda and Cheras, Kuala Lumpur (59 and 54 respectively), Putrajaya (68), Shah Alam (58), Banting (53), Sibu, Sarawak (53), and Bakar Arang, Sungai Petani, Kedah (69).

API readings of between 0 and 50 are categorised as good, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy) and 300 and above (dangerous).
The public can refer to the DOE's portal to obtain API readings in their respective areas. - Bernama

Brace for dearer greens, say farmers
The Star 7 Mar 14;

PETALING JAYA: Farmers in Cameron Highlands are indicating that there may be an increase in the prices of vegetables grown there on account of the dry season.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said the increase was due to the shortage in supply of (lowland) greens from Johor and Malacca.

“Therefore, prices of vegetables may rise steadily this month due to the shortage and demand from other states,” he said, adding that the situation was compounded by a reduction in vegetable imports from China.

He claimed that vegetable supply from Cameron Highlands could be diverted to meet the demand in Johor and Malacca, where the produce was also exported to Singa­pore.

Meanwhile, Johor Fama director Faridulatrash Md Mokri said that even if there were an increase in the prices of greens in the state, it would only be between 20 and 30 sen.

“For instance, fresh red chillies are still selling at RM11 or RM12 per kg,” he said.

Nonetheless, he confirmed that the price of tomatoes had increased recently from RM4.80 to RM5 per kg at farmers’ markets because of reduced supply, especially from Cameron Highlands.

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Malaysia: Wife of wildlife trader Anson Wong in court for possession of protected species

k. kasturi dewi The Star 7 Mar 14;

BALIK PULAU: The wife of wildlife trader Anson Wong, appeared in a Sessions Court here for mention of a case against her and two others, involving two charges of possession of five elongated tortoises, which are a protected species.

Cheah Bing Shee, 56, was jointly charged with Syarikat Rona Wildlife Enterprise and its director K. Muthukomar with illegally possessing three male elongated tortoises (indotestudo elangota, also known as baning lonjong jantan), under Section 68(1)(a) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which carries a maximum fine of RM100,000, or maximum three years' jail, or both, upon conviction.

Cheah, who is believed to be the manager of Rona Wildlife, Muthukomar and the company were also alleged to have been in possession of two female elongated tortoises, which is prohibited under Section 70(1) of the same Act, which carries a maximum fine of RM300,000 or maximum 10 years' jail, or both.

The offences were alleged to have been committed at Lot 157, Mukim 1, Pantai Acheh, Balik Pulau, at 1.30pm on Nov 24 last year.

Cheah, Muthukomar and the company, had claimed trial when first charged in court on Dec 19 last year.

The case came up for mention on Thursday, but counsel for the three, Ramesh Raj, informed the court that the prosecution had yet to hand over four registration books, which included itemised animals, to the defence.

Sessions Court Judge Caroline Bee Majanil then fixed the case to be mentioned again on April 8.

Wildlife and National Parks Department prosecuting officer Shahruddin Othman appeared for the prosecution.

Cheah, Muthukomar and the company are currently on bail.

Read more!

Malaysia: No highway splitting FRIM - Minister

isabelle lai The Star 7 Mar 14;

PETALING JAYA: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry doesn’t want an elevated highway built across the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.

Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel told The Star that FRIM, the largest and oldest man-made tropical forest in the world, should be conserved and safeguarded as it was a national treasure.

“It has been decided that at this point in time, there is no need for a highway, especially one that involves FRIM land,” he said.

Palanivel’s announcement came after The Star reported last week that FRIM was being threatened by a proposal to “split in half” its grounds for the elevated highway.

Palanivel noted that last year alone, FRIM had carried out 181 projects, worth RM29mil, as well as maintained its reputation for research excellence.

Palanivel added that FRIM had also raked in RM100mil from the 500,000 visitors it received last year, while two books it published last year had won the Premier Award (Research) and Best General Book under the Book Industry Award (Science category).

“Now, FRIM is working to achieve Unesco World Heritage status by 2017,” he added.

FRIM director-general Datuk Dr Abd Latif Mohmod said that with the ministry’s decision, he believed the issue was over.

“We were very touched by the media, NGOs and public support for our cause,” he said.

Once a degraded area with abandoned mining pools and barren vege­table farms, FRIM has been globally lauded as a model of successful reforestation and was recognised as a natural heritage in 2009.

It was also declared a national heritage in 2011.

Founded in 1929, the facilities there include a 106-year-old herba­rium housing over 200,000 specimens and a xylarium with over 10,000 wood samples from over 1,500 species.

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Malaysia: Residents file judicial review for Rapid project in Pengerang

yee xiang yun The Star 6 Mar 14;

JOHOR BARU: Residents from Pengerang filed a judicial review at the Civil Court here on Thursday to challenge the acquisition of the land for the Refinery And Petrochemicals Integrated Development (Rapid) Project there.

Plaintiffs Lim Goo Kia, Khairiah Md Yunus and Loh Back Seng under the representation of lawyer Mohamad Hanipa Maidin, questioned the validity of the land acquisition before judge M. Gunalan in his chambers.

Mohamad Hanipa said in a press conference later outside the courtroom that the review was filed to also question the "state of authority" used to acquire the village lands for the project, claiming that only the Sultan of Johor had the power to acquire the land and that the power could not be delegated to anyone else.

He said that judge Gunalan has set March 30 for the decision and if the court allows the review, the whole Rapid project would be null and void.

Read more!

Malaysia: State govts to host Raptor Watch 2014

New Straits Times 6 Mar 14;

TANJUNG TUAN: The raptors are flying in again through Tanjung Tuan, Malacca.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) with the support of the Malacca and Negri Sembilan state governments will be co-hosting the Raptor Watch to be held on Saturday and Sunday at PNB Ilham Resort, Tanjung Tuan, Malacca.

Raptor Watch 2014, in its 15th instalment, is held with the aim to raise awareness of the need for conservation of the birds and their habitats.

Tanjung Tuan is an important raptor migration stopover and crossover site as tens of thousands of raptors fly away from the northern hemisphere during winter.

"Migration of raptors and other birds is an amazing natural phenomena and we, as Malaysians, play host to tens of thousands of 'raptors' or birds of prey as they journey from the winter season of the northern hemisphere to the warm southern hemisphere and back, using important stopover sites such as Tanjung Tuan for thousands of years," said MNS-Bird Conservation Council member Lim Kim Chye at RW2014's press conference at the PNB Ilham Resort grounds here recently.

He added: "Events like Raptor Watch bring about more awareness and bring people together to understand and protect our natural heritage.

"MNS is heartened that the state governments of Malacca and Negri Sembilan, as well as the invaluable support of Tourism Malaysia are coming together to promote this wonderful eco-tourism event."

He also announced that Malaysia will play host to the Asian Bird Fair in November, promoted by the ABF Network, of which MNS is a founder member.

This year's Raptor Watch promises to be exciting and eventful.

One of the biggest attractions would be the popular Raptor Hunt 2014 which is organised by MNS with the support of Air France, the official airline for RW2014, which will held on Saturday.

Winners of the Raptor Hunt 2014 stand a chance to win tickets to Paris.

Read more: State govts to host Raptor Watch 2014 - Central - New Straits Times

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Indonesia: Five hotspots in Batam

BKMG discovers five hotspots in Batam
Antara 6 Mar 14;

Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) - Hang Nadim Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has discovered five hotspots from forest fire across Riau Island Province, according BMKG spokesman Phillip Mustamu.

"We have discovered five hotspots in Batam but they are still small and safe for flights," he explained, adding that forest fire in Batam was triggered by high temperature, lack of rainfall, and strong winds.

Further, he explained that haze form forest, plantation and peat-land fires across Sumatra Island did not reach Batam Island.

"The haze in Batam is from forest fire here and not from Sumatra Island," he clarified.

Meanwhile, Pekanbaru BMKG spokesman Sugarin stated on Saturday that Terra and Aqua satellite of NOAA has detected 1,046 hotspots across Sumatra Island.

"Of the total number, 963 were found in Riau Province. The number has significantly risen from that of the previous day," Sugarin added.

The NOAA 18 satellite, however, detected only 138 hotspots across Sumatra on Friday, including 70 in Riau province, according to the Riau disaster mitigation office (BPBD).

During February 2014, the NOAA 8 satellite revealed 2,208 hotspots in Sumatra Island, including 1,272 in Riau Province.

In Riau, hotspots were found in Bengkalis (312), Pelalawan (198 titik), Dumai (174), Siak (147), Indragiri Hilir (130), Rokan Hilir (110), Meranti (91), Kampar (49), Indragiri Hulu (29), and Kuantan Singingi (16).

Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Syamsul Maarif stated that 99 percent of forest and plantation fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan were deliberately set.

"There should be sanctions to stop recurrences. Slash-and-burn farming methods exist in Sumatra and Kalimantan, but the most important thing is that they should be controlled," Maarif noted in a statement on Feb. 28.

According to Maarif, the Indonesian police have named 23 suspects in Riau and 16 in Central Kalimantan, who have allegedly set the fires.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Flights delayed due to Riau haze
The Jakarta Post 6 Mar 14;

Thick clouds of haze blanketing Riau forced authorities to suspend flights at the Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport, on Thursday.

Eleven flights operating to and from the airport were delayed due to low visibility caused by the dense haze.

“The visibility is below normal. Thick haze is blanketing the area, disrupting arrivals and departures,” said the airport’s duty manager, Hasnan, as quoted by

Five flights could not take off due to the poor visibility. They were Air Asia’s flight to Bandung, Citilink to Jakarta, Lion Air flights to Jakarta and Batam, and a Mandala flight to Yogyakarta.

Meanwhile, six flights were forced to delay their arrival. They were Air Asia’s flight from Bandung, Citilink from Jakarta, Lion Air flights from Batam and Jakarta, Mandala from Jakarta, and Sky Aviation’s flight from Malaka.

Hasnan said it was possible for an airplane to take off when the visibility was below 800 meters, however, the decision was in the hands of the pilot. But if the visibility was below 1,000 meters, it was not possible for a plane to land. (put/ebf)

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Thailand: Coal seaport, power plant will ruin largest seagrass area, fossilised shells

Proposed projects 'will destroy Krabi'
Pongphon Sarnsamak The Nation 7 Mar 14;

Fossilised shells at a beach dating back 75 million years and over 10,000 rai of the country's second-largest seagrass area in Krabi would be destroyed if the coal seaport and coal-fired power-plant project go ahead, an environmental watch agency warned yesterday.

Adding to the concerns over the project, the local tourism association in Koh Lanta is worried that the project would jeopardise the area's tourism, with the industry generating between Bt1.4 billion and Bt1.5 billion annually for the local economy.

In response to the backlash, a consultancy company hired by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), which would construct the plant, will on Sunday listen to public concerns about the project in Krabi.

"We fear that the public scoping for the Ban Klong Ruo Coal Seaport project will not be different to the one organised earlier for the coal plant," said Chariya Senpong, a campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia's Climate Change and Energy division.

"Both assessments only identify the impacts that they are able to mitigate, and play down the environmental, societal and economic harm the project will cause."

The 700MW power plant would be fuelled by bituminous and sub-bituminous coal, which would likely be imported from Indonesia, Australia and Africa.

Construction of the Bt30-billion facility is scheduled to be completed in 2019. Egat is conducting an environmental and health-impact assessment of the project, which is expected to be completed soon.

"The report will just be procedural compliance for Egat to carry on with the project," Chariya said.

A Greenpeace report states that the marine life surrounding the proposed project and the sea route to transport coal to the port includes the seagrass area, which covers 17,725 rai, dugongs, nursing grounds for aquatic species, a mangrove forest and over 21 species of wild birds.

The mouth of Krabi River is also recognised under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands.

Koh Lanta Tourism Association chairman Therapot Kasirawat said he was worried that hundreds of thousands of tourists, especially from Sweden, would shun the area if the project went ahead. Therapot said about 150,000 Swedish tourists annually visited Koh Lanta, staying on average 19 days, while about 95,000 visited Koh Phi Phi.

"We learnt that they [tourists] will go to other places once they see the first coal ship pass the island," he said.

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Great Barrier Reef damage ‘irreversible’ unless radical action taken

University of Queensland researcher says unless temperature rise is kept below 2C, reef will cease to be coral ecosystem
Oliver Milman 6 Mar 14;

Great Barrier Reef ‘Under the best-case scenario of 2C, corals disappear, but with business as usual, it’s game over,’ said report co-author Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. Photograph: AIMS/AFP/Getty Images

The Great Barrier Reef will suffer “irreversible” damage by 2030 unless radical action is taken to lower carbon emissions, a stark new report has warned.

Unless temperatures are kept below the internationally agreed limit of 2C warming on pre-industrial levels, the reef will cease to be a coral-dominated ecosystem, the report warns.

Coral bleaching, which occurs when water becomes too warm and coral’s energy source is decimated, is now a “serious threat” to the reef, having not been documented in the region prior to 1979.

The increase in carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere, 90% of which is absorbed by the oceans, has already caused a 30% rise in the hydrogen ions that cause ocean acidification. This process hinders the ability of corals to produce the skeletal building blocks of reefs.

Co-author Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, told Guardian Australia that current climate trends signal “game over” for the Great Barrier Reef.

“Corals can exist in temperatures 1C higher than the current summer maximum, but beyond that you get coral bleaching and mass mortality,” he said. “Beyond 2C, you don’t really have coral dominated reefs anymore and there’s evidence that 1.5C is beyond the limits too.”

Hoegh-Guldberg’s work has included testing the response of corals to various temperatures at a lab on Heron Island, situated on the Great Barrier Reef. The research has shown that a “business as usual” temperature increase of 4C will prove catastrophic for the reef.

“Even under the best-case scenario of 2C, corals disappear,” he said. “But with business as usual, it’s game over. You look in the tank and the corals have died, bacteria have taken over, the sand has dissolved.

“It’s a very, very poor place. If you were to replicate that on the Great Barrier Reef, it would hardly be worthy of the word ‘great’. It simply won’t be a coral reef.”

“Corals have adapted in the past to temperature change, but the problem is that we are pushing the oceans through such a rapid temperature change that the corals are getting left behind.”

The report was compiled by WWF has part of its relaunched Earth Hour initiative. This year’s Earth Hour, to be held on 29 March, will be centered upon the impact of climate change upon the Great Barrier Reef. People will be encouraged to switch their lights off for an hour in support of the reef.

University of Queensland scientist Dr Selina Ward, the report’s other contributor, said that climate change is weakening the reef, making coral less likely to reproduce and more susceptible to disease.

“If we continue as we are, we’ll get more degradation and more bleaching events,” she said. “If we want to save the Great Barrier Reef we need to act immediately and make dramatic reductions in carbon pollution. We need to move away from fossil fuels.”

Hoegh-Guldberg added: “The current administration in Australia is not taking the issue seriously and it’ll cost the people of Australia in the future.

“There isn’t really another option here. If we don’t want global calamity, we need to choose a pathway that decarbonises our society.”

Unesco’s world heritage committee will decide in June whether to place the Great Barrier Reef on its “in danger” list. Conservationists have raised concerns that the vast ecosystem is under threat from coastal development, pollution and dredging, as well as climate change.

A report by the Australian Institute of Marine Science last year revealed that the reef had lost 50% of its coral cover over the past 30 years, with chemical runoff, storms and coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish the main culprits for the decline.

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El Nino could strike as early as summer: U.S. forecaster

Chris Prentice PlanetArk 7 Mar 14;

The much-feared El Nino phenomenon, the warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific which can trigger drought in Southeast Asia and Australia and floods in South America, could strike as early as the Northern Hemisphere summer, the U.S. weather forecaster warned on Thursday.

In its strongest prediction in almost 18 months that El Nino could return, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said in its monthly report that neutral El Nino conditions will likely continue through the spring, but there was about a 50 percent chance of the weather pattern developing during the summer or autumn.

The CPC's latest outlook brings the forecaster in line with other global meteorologists that have raised their outlook for El Nino's potential return this year.

The CPC switched its status to El Nino watch for the first time since October 2012.

Drought triggered in Southeast Asia and Australia by El Nino can be particularly devastating because those regions produce some of the world's major food staples, such as sugar cane and grains.

The last time El Nino ripped across the globe was in the summer of 2009, lowering temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, said Phillip Vida, meteorologist at U.S.-based weather forecaster MDA Weather Services.

A more severe occurrence was in 1998 when freak weather killed more than 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and other parts of Asia.

"It's less favorable in Southeast Asia and into India," said Kyle Tapley, agricultural meteorologist at MDA.

"Generally, it's more favorable for crops in the United States, as it favors a cooler weather pattern across the major corn and soybean areas."

The outlook will increase uncertainty in global commodity and energy markets, with coffee, cocoa and natural gas prices roiled by an extended period of extreme weather.

Brazil is suffering its worst drought in decades, the polar vortex has frozen much of the U.S. East Coast, and extreme floods have submerged parts of Britain in recent months.

"A lot of commodities prices are already high. Toss El Nino or La Nina into it, things will get that much crazier down the road," said Jack Scoville, a vice president for Price Futures Group in Chicago.

The forecast will also be closely watched by the U.S. crude oil industry as El Nino reduces the chances of storms in the Gulf of Mexico that could topple platforms and rigs during the Atlantic hurricane season that starts on June 1.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Sophie Hares and Leslie Adler)

Factbox: U.S. weather forecaster's El Nino/La Nina watch
Josephine Mason PlanetArk 7 Mar 14;

The U.S. weather forecaster issued its first El Nino watch in almost 18 months on Thursday, warning the phenomenon that can wreak havoc on weather and roil global crops could strike as early as the Northern Hemisphere summer.

The latest outlook brings the forecaster in line with other global meteorologists that have raised their outlook for El Nino's potential return.

Here are some details about the Climate Prediction Center's (CPC) recent weather alerts:

*The CPC issues an alert when there is a chance of El Nino or La Nina conditions developing in the coming six months.

*This is the CPC's first El Nino watch since October 2012.

*The anomaly heats up tropical oceans in East Asia, sending warm air into the United States and South America, often causing flooding and heavy rains. It can also trigger drought conditions in Southeast Asia and Australia, regions that produce some of the world's major food staples, such as sugar cane and grains.

*The previous El Nino alert lasted five months from June until October, but the anomaly did not materialize. The CPC dropped the alert in November 2012.

*The global weather system has not been roiled by El Nino or its infamous counterpart La Nina for several years.

*In 2011, La Nina conditions, an abnormal cooling of waters in the equatorial Pacific, caused extreme weather conditions in Asia and the Americas.

*The phenomenon was also blamed for the worst drought in a century in Texas, the country's biggest cotton growing state, and severe dry spells in South America that killed crops.

*The CPC dropped its La Nina watch in May 2012.

(Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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