Best of our wild blogs: 8 Mar 14

Life History of the Starry Bob
from Butterflies of Singapore

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PUB reviewing contingency plans in case water usage increases further

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's national water agency PUB said on Friday it is reviewing its contingency plans in case Singapore's water consumption increases further.

PUB’s chief executive Chew Men Leong said this to reporters on the sidelines of the opening of PUB's demonstration plant that treats and recycles used industrial water.

He said the focus now is to ensure that all stakeholders, including individuals, households and businesses, do their part to save water.

Mr Chew also acknowledged the role of NEWater and desalination plants in meeting Singapore's water needs.

He said: "The NEWater and desalination (plants) have given us a bigger safety margin, and we are also investing in new technologies and new capabilities to actually see how we can expand these two sources of water."

- CNA/gn

Water usage up, but no need for rationing for now: Balakrishnan
Imelda Saad Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's water consumption has gone up by about 5 per cent, during this dry spell.

The average total water demand in Singpaore is 400 million gallons a day -- current figures show a demand of 420 million gallons a day.

If demand increases, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said he will have to "re-evaluate the adequacy of current plans." For now, he said there is no need for water rationing in Singapore, if a lid is kept on demand and consumption.

He made this point in Parliament on Friday to a question on the country's water resilience.

Dr Balakrishnan said there will be "no operational need for rationing" in the foreseeable future.

He said: "From our latest water demand figures, we are currently consuming about 420 million gallons a day. Now if the demand figure continues to increase then certainly, I will have to re-evaluate the adequacy of our current plans."

Singapore has been experiencing a dry spell since January.

There has been concern about the possibility of a water rationing exercise.

So far, desalination and NEWater sources have helped.

Dr Balakrishnan said they are a reminder today that Singapore can be resilient against a dry spell.

The PUB has stepped up desalination to full capacity of 100 million gallons a day.

NEWater production has also been raised to more than 100 million gallons a day, for industrial use and to top up the country's reservoirs by 35 million gallons a day.

Dr Balakrishnan said that is why Singapore is able to "keep the reservoir stock at a healthy level despite the lack of rain".

He said: "It's sobering to bear in mind that all this additional capacity has only come about in the last decade. In fact, the most recent desalination plant which added 70 million gallons a day only came online six months ago."

He added imported water remains an essential part of the country's water supply.

Dr Balakrishnan also pointed to Singapore's S$300-million investment in the Johor River Linggui Dam project.

This has enabled the river to increase its yield and allow both Singapore and Malaysia to draw water from it even during dry weather.

He said: "All these additional investments have been a premium that we have paid for greater security and diversity of our water supply.”

To further raise public awareness, Dr Balakrishnan says he is seriously considering a water rationing exercise - as a rehearsal - so Singaporeans know what to do during an actual event.

- CNA/xq/ac

Water rationing not needed yet, but drills may be held
Balakrishnan ‘seriously’ considering suggestion as form of public education
Siau Ming En Today Online 8 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — Water consumption in the Republic has gone up by 5 per cent during the current dry spell and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament he is seriously considering a suggestion to conduct water-rationing exercises as a means of public education, even though they are not an operational necessity.

Currently, Singapore is consuming 420 million gallons of water a day (mgd), an increase from the average of 400mgd. The rise in usage came from both the domestic and non-domestic sectors, said national water agency PUB in response to media queries.

While investments in NEWater and desalination have diversified the nation’s water-supply sources and strengthened water security, Dr Balakrishnan said this margin of safety also carries a risk of complacency if water usage rises during a dry spell.

“In fact, it has gone up,” he added. “From our latest water-demand figures, we are currently consuming about 420mgd of water a day. Now, if the demand figure continues to increase then, certainly, I will have to re-evaluate the adequacy of our current plans.”

Dr Balakrishnan made these remarks as he responded to a supplementary question posed by Jurong GRC Member of Parliament David Ong, who asked at what point would the minister deem it necessary for Singapore to start conducting water-rationing exercises, which were last seen in the 1960s.

Dr Balakrishnan said he had received feedback from the public that he should consider conducting some exercises as a form of public education, even if there is no operational need for one.

“This is a suggestion I am taking seriously to remind people of the value of water,” he added.

“I also think it may not be a bad idea for us to rehearse the procedures and processes that are needed, if we ever get to the point where water rationing is needed. So, I am looking at it right now more as a public communications tool. Fortunately, we are not at a point where this is an operational necessity.”

Earlier, the minister told Parliament that the PUB had stepped up desalination and increased NEWater production, with the latter being used to top up reservoirs, keeping reservoir stocks at a “healthy level” despite the lack of rain. These two sources of water supplement other sources from the local catchment areas and imported water from Johor, he said.

Dr Balakrishnan reiterated the need for all parties, such as town councils, the management teams for condominiums and private areas as well as commercial and industrial buildings, to play their part in water conservation. In addition, the ministry will be announcing other measures to encourage longer-term water conservation efforts in the non-domestic sector during its Committee of Supply debate next week.

“I still think most of us are not aware that (with) each minute of leaving the shower on, nine litres of water (are consumed),” he said. “Similarly, making sure that we wash clothes only when the machine is full, in order to optimise economies of scale, or wash dishes in a container rather than leave taps running — all these little measures add up and can save a significant amount of water for us.”

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Singapore Urged to Recycle Ships Safely and Not on South Asian Beaches

Ben Messenger Managing Editor Waste Management World 7 Mar 14;

NGO, Shipbreaking Platform, has called on Singapore-based ship owners to stop selling their end-of-life s to beach-breaking yards in developing countries, but rather demand clean and safe ship recycling, at the recent TradeWinds Ship Recycling Forum in Singapore.

According to Shipbreaking Platform - a global coalition of 19 environmental, human rights and labour rights organisations working to prevent dangerous and polluting shipbreaking worldwide - many of the end-of-life ships that end up being broken on beaches are filled with hazardous waste.

“It is now time for South East Asian ship owners to join the front-runners of the maritime industry mainly based in Europe and say no to a practice that is harming the environment and people,” Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of Shipbreaking Platform told the Forum.

“There are various opportunities to choose clean and safe ship recycling, and it’s time for responsible South East Asian ship owners to seize these,” she continued.

According to the NGO, shipbreaking as practiced today on the beaches in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan is a cause for pollution of the coastal ecosystems next to the yards. This also includes erosion and an increased risk of floods when the coastal green belt of mangrove trees is cut down in Bangladesh.

Further to the environmental damage, Shipbreaking Platform said that workers are exposed to dangerous waste in the yards and downstream scrap yards, and the industry also effects surrounding communities, including fishermen who have lost their livelihoods.

In a list published in February this year, the Platform claimed that out of 39 Singapore owned ships sent for dismantling last year, almost all were sent to the South Asian beach-breaking yards: 17 ships were sent to India, 9 to Bangladesh and 5 to Pakistan.

By selling ships to such yards, the NGO said that Singapore shipping companies are effectively encouraging substandard shipbreaking that continue to harm the local environment and communities.

“Singapore as an industrialised state and a major shipping hub must make sure it does not externalise costs for hazardous waste management to developing countries when scrapping its ships”, commented Jim Puckett, executive director of the U.S. based Basel Action Network (BAN).

“What is more, ship owners need to develop ship recycling policies that take into account the real costs for responsible recycling,” he added.

Ritwick Dutta, environmental lawyer from India, also spoke in the conference:

“Shipbreaking yards in South Asia do not operate according to international environmental standards. Ship owners should make sure their end-of-life ships are recycled in accordance with those standards,” she said.

“Ship owners should not just rely on certificates presented to them, but must verify under which conditions their old ships are really demolished,” continued Dutta.

Leading the way

According to Shipbreaking Platform the European Union has effectively disqualified beaching for EU-flagged ships by issuing a new EU Ship Recycling Regulation in December 2013.

The regulation requires recycling facilities to operate from ‘built structures’ and asks for full containment of all pollutants, leakage control and impermeable floors.

The Platform noted that European ship owners that have chosen an anti-beaching position including Dutch ship owner Boskalis, as well as Norwegian companies Grieg Shipping, Wilhelmsen and Höegh Autoliners.

The NGO added that in North America, Canadian Steamship Lines (CSL) has also that it will no longer beach any of its ships, and international oil and gas companies are chosing cleaner and safer recycling for their tankers.

The 2013 lists are available here:

'Safety risk' in breaking up of Singapore-origin ships
Radha Basu The Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Mar 14;

An international coalition of non-governmental organisations raised the flag here on Wednesday about Singapore-origin ships being dismantled at the end of their lives on South Asian beaches, using methods that they say endanger the health and safety of workers and harm the environment.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform, comprising 20 environmental and human rights groups from 10 countries, won a hard-fought battle when the European Commission (EC) enforced a new law on Dec 30 last year requiring ships bearing the flags of its member nations to be dismantled only in shipyards approved by the European Union.

These are recycling facilities that practise safe and environmentally sound methods of dismantling ships. Vessels that bear European flags will not be able to use "substandard sites as is currently the practice", the EC said, while passing the regulation.

With the new rule minimising the threat of toxins being dumped in South Asia by European-flagged companies, the coalition now wants to train its sights on Asia, its executive director Patrizia Heidegger told The Straits Times on Wednesday on the sidelines of a conference on ship recycling.

"We want ship owners here to dispose of the hazardous waste on their ships in a responsible way, rather than make use of cheap but dangerous practices which would never be allowed in Singapore or in the rest of the developed world," she said.

Once they reach the end of their lives, commercial Singapore-origin ships are usually sold to "cash buyers" who then send them to be broken on the tidal beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, largely by unskilled workers.

"The ships contain toxins such as asbestos and lead and little care is given to worker safety or protection of the environment," said Ms Heidegger.

The coalition says it has received reports on around 25 deaths in ship-breaking yards in Bangladesh alone over the past year.

In the latest incident reported last month, a worker was killed by a falling steel plate while dismantling a ship owned by a Singapore company.

Toxins are a major worry. Statistics on Asian-flagged ships are hard to come by, but the European Commission estimates that at least 40,000 tonnes of toxins (including 3,000 tonnes of asbestos) on board end-of-life vessels are exported each year to South Asia from the EU alone.

Barring EU, the top countries from where ships are sent to hazardous ship-breaking beaches are India, China and Singapore, charged Ms Heidegger.

Glory Ship Management, Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) and Raffles Shipping were the top three Singapore companies sending ships to South Asian yards.

"They could use cleaner and safer facilities elsewhere but they don't," said Ms Heidegger.

A spokesman for Neptune Orient Lines said that for end-of-life vessels, NOL has a policy of working with buyers who hold ISO certifications for safe handling and disposal of hazardous materials.

"These buyers have a track record of working with major carriers, and have demonstrated best practices in ship demolition," she said.

Glory Ship Management and Raffles Shipping did not respond by press time.

Meanwhile, Wirana Shipping Corporation, a leading Singapore-based cash buyer of ships, said shipyards it sends its ships to in the sub-continent had cleaned up their act considerably in recent years.

Workers, for instance, now have protective safety gear, better living conditions and medical facilities, and toxins are handled according to national guidelines, said the company's chief executive Rakesh Khetan.

"The shipyards are mindful that they need to upgrade to meet EU standards," he said. "There have already been many improvements and more will follow."

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Haze watch system ‘delayed by others’

Goh Chin Lian The Straits Times AsiaOne 8 Mar 14;

ASEAN countries have been unable to implement the regional grouping's haze monitoring system because other parties have yet to agree to do so.

ASEAN's credibility is thus at stake, said Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, as he accounted for the less-than-rapid progress on arresting the annual air pollution plaguing the region.

He was taking MPs' questions on Singapore's ties with Indonesia and Malaysia, when he also commented on Malaysian media reports that Johor wished to review the price of raw water sold to Singapore.

On the haze, the minister said that the ASEAN Sub-Regional Haze Monitoring System, which the 10 ASEAN countries had agreed to last October, was "ready". But its implementation was stalled by the lack of agreement of "other parties", which he did not name.

The system uses high-resolution satellite images with land use and concession maps to pinpoint culprits which burn land illegally. It was to be implemented in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Thailand.

But Mr Shanmugam welcomed a media report on Tuesday saying that the majority of an Indonesian Parliamentary Commission supported in principle the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

Indonesia is the only ASEAN country that has yet to ratify the decade-old regional haze treaty.

"Thus, once Indonesia agrees, the treaty can come into force," he said.

Singapore is also waiting for final approval from Jakarta before cooperation on the haze between Singapore and Indonesia's Jambi province can be resumed, he said.

Singapore had given it technical help such as setting up air and weather monitoring stations. The cooperation was "reasonably successful" until the memorandum of understanding lapsed in 2009.

Singapore has suggested to Indonesia to renew the cooperation, and officials have met several times. Jambi is also keen for the cooperation to continue.

On water prices, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore's position was "clear, consistent and unambiguous". It has been articulated several times in the House, including on Jan 25, 2003, by then Foreign Affairs

Minister S. Jayakumar, and formally to the Malaysian government on several occasions, he said.

Singapore's position is there is an existing 1962 Water Agreement, which is in turn guaranteed by the Separation Agreement.

"Both agreements are international treaties which are vital to us, our sovereignty and our security. The terms of that agreement cannot be changed unilaterally," he said.

Also, under the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement, Malaysia has lost the right to review the price of water, the minister said.

He added: "What we have set out is the legal position under international law. How good is it? It is good as long as both countries observe international law."

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NEA increasing efforts to clear leaf litter to prevent mosquito breeding

Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it has stepped up efforts to clear leaf litter during the current dry season to guard against mosquito breeding.

The current dry spell has led to heavy leaf shedding and an accumulation of leaves in some public areas.

Compared to December 2013 - where approximately 1,400 tonnes of litter from street sweepings was collected - the amount has increased by about 15 per cent and 25 per cent in January and February 2014 respectively.

NEA said this increase is attributed to the additional amount of leaf litter removed from the streets.

The additional 350 tonnes of leaf litter collected in February is equivalent to 70,000 filled rubbish bags.

Workers are now removing an average of 30 bags of leaf litter from street sweepings as compared to 10 bags previously.

The increase in leaf litter has resulted in longer time needed to clean the same stretch of road, pavement or drain.

Repeated leaf fall after the scheduled cleaning rounds have also contributed to the perception of incomplete or inadequate cleaning.

NEA said it is closely monitoring the situation and has stepped up the pace of cleaning during this period in dengue cluster areas and areas with high mosquito feedback, particularly private estates with open drains.

To ensure any build-up of leaf litter is cleared quickly, NEA has also arranged for additional cleaning at 71 locations apart from the regular cleaning schedule and is working with PUB, the national water agency, to step up monitoring efforts along drains at 108 locations.

Town councils and land agencies are also increasing their drain cleaning frequencies to prevent build-up of leaf litter.

NEA has also observed an increase in the number of Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes during this period.

More breeding sites have been detected islandwide, from 30 at the beginning of January to 250 in mid-February.

As the Culex mosquito tends to breed in outdoor areas, notably in stagnant water with high organic content, the increased efforts to clear leaf litter will also help in reducing potential breeding habitats.

- CNA/xq

NEA steps up efforts to clear leaf litter to control mosquito population
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 8 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — To keep the number of mosquitoes in check during the current dry spell, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has stepped up its cleaning efforts to clear leaf litter — a potential breeding ground for the insects.

The NEA yesterday said it had observed an increase in the number of Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes during the dry season, with the number of breeding sites detected rising from 30 in January to 250 in the middle of last month.

This species of mosquito is one of 80 types found in Singapore. Of the number, eight species — including the light to dark brown-coloured Culex quinquefasciatus — are potential disease-bearing vectors.

However, the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are the two disease-bearing species that are of concern in Singapore, as they are the primary vectors for dengue and chikungunya respectively. The rest, including the Culex quinquefasciatus, can potentially transmit diseases that are not actively transmitted in Singapore.

Said the NEA: “As the Culex mosquito tends to breed in outdoor areas, notably in stagnant water with a high organic content, the stepped-up efforts to clear leaf litter will help reduce potential breeding habitats.”

The agency, which is “closely monitoring the situation”, has stepped up the pace of cleaning in dengue clusters and residential areas where there has been a high amount of feedback on mosquitoes, such as in private estates with open drains.

The number of dengue cases has been on a decline in recent weeks, but there are 32 active clusters currently. The NEA said it is working with the PUB to step up monitoring efforts along drains in 108 locations.

Hot weather and a lack of water — conditions of the dry spell that Singapore is currently experiencing — have led to the heavy shedding and accumulation of leaves in some public areas, said the NEA.

Workers are now removing an average of 30 bags of leaf litter a day after sweeping the streets, up from 10 bags previously. Last month, 350 more tonnes of dry leaves were swept from the streets, filling up 70,000 bags.

“The increase in leaf litter has resulted in a longer time needed to clean the same stretch of road, pavement or drain. Repeated leaf fall after the scheduled cleaning rounds has also contributed to the perception of incomplete or inadequate cleaning,” said the NEA.

Additional cleaning has been arranged in 71 locations, such as Pasir Ris Drive 3 — in addition to regular cleaning schedules — to prevent the build-up of leaf litter.

“Town councils and land agencies are also increasing their drain-cleaning frequencies to prevent the build-up of leaf litter,” said the NEA.

Woo Sian Boon

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Singapore can take steps to curb domestic sources of air pollution, say experts

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 8 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — The Republic could take measures to curb domestic sources of air pollution, in addition to laws proposed to take action against parties causing transboundary haze, said legal and environmental experts at a roundtable yesterday.

These include greater adoption of low-sulphur fuel, better monitoring of vehicle exhaust fumes, including that of foreign vehicles here, as well as more focus on levels of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5). Greater consumer awareness could also be promoted through eco-labelling.

The group of 11 experts yesterday discussed key features of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill — such as the proposed penalties and whether the Government had sufficient capacity to monitor the activities of companies abroad. Their discussion came as air quality crept up to moderate levels last evening due to hotspots north of Singapore and north-easterly winds.

A summary of the discussion, led by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), will be submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, which is conducting a public consultation on the Bill.

Sufficient technical capabilities exist to monitor the activities by companies abroad, said Assistant Professor Jason Blake Cohen of the National University of Singapore.

The air pollutants and climate change expert noted multiple sources of information available from different satellites, data from the World Meteorological Organization as well as measurements taken here.

There is very high confidence, based on calculations, that the haze from June 19 to 23 last year was from Sumatra, and that from June 26 to 28 last year was from Borneo, said Asst Prof Cohen.

But there can be uncertainty when it comes to land titles and exactly who does the burning, other experts noted.

The proposed laws seek to address deterioration of air quality here for more than 24 hours caused by fires abroad, and Asst Prof Cohen noted that a “continuous string of moderate events could actually be quite hazardous”, especially to more vulnerable groups.

While some have said proposed fines are too low, SIIA Chairman Simon Tay felt hefty penalties could result in businesses relocating interests away from Singapore, reducing the influence the Republic is able to wield. Fines, if collected, could be channelled to the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Pollution control fund, some experts felt.

Under the proposed laws, entities can be fined up to S$300,000 for haze-causing activities and up to S$450,000 for not taking directions to reduce or control the pollution. It also allows for civil liability and some experts suggested that suits could be allowed by organisations, including the Consumers Association of Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board and even public hospitals.

Civil groups air their views on proposed transboundary haze law
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Mar 14;

Civil society experts and leaders of non-government organisations met on Friday afternoon to share their perspectives and recommendations on the proposed Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill.

The new Bill, which is up for public consultation till March 19, would hold companies and other entities liable for fires on their land outside Singapore which caused transboundary haze in Singapore, and provides for both criminal and civil liability.

The new law is being proposed after Singapore's worst-ever bout of haze last June, and just as dry weather has led to hazier conditions.

On Friday evening, the 3-hour Pollutant Standards Index reached 71, in the 'moderate' range.

At the session, organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs think-tank at its Dhoby Ghaut premises, the 11 participants from think-tanks, universities, and NGOs like BirdLife International discussed the practical challenges of the new law. For one thing, serving notice to those based overseas may be challenging, they said.

And if businesses moved overseas in response, Singapore would have even less sway over them.

They also discussed whether the proposed fines were high enough, and were divided on whether there ought to be incentives and protections for whistleblowers.

For instance, one expert suggested that the fine should be a function of how much land area is burned, so companies are not encouraged to simply burn large swathes at one go.

SIIA chairman Simon Tay said feedback from the two-hour session would be compiled and submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

"Singapore's reputation is about enforcing the laws that it talks about, and this proposed bill shows that Singapore is willing to do its part to help solve the haze. But the question now is how this bill is going to be enforced justly," he said.

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Malaysia: ‘We have contingency water plan, should Singapore hike up the price'

The Star 8 Mar 14;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor government is prepared to obtain treated water from other sources should Singapore hike up the price under a possible bilateral review of the state’s sale of raw water to its southern neighbour.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohamad foresees that if both countries agree to the price increase for raw water Johor sells to Singapore, the island republic would in turn want to raise the price of treated water it supplies to Johor.

He said that on the assumption that both countries agree to review the price of raw water from the current three sen per 1,000 gallons to the proposed 45 sen, Singapore would also increase the price of the five million gallons of treated water it sells back to Johor daily.

“If Singapore increases its treated water from the current 50 cents (RM1.29) per 1,000 gallons to, say, S$5 (RM12.88) per 1,000 gallons, it is not viable for us.

“At that rate, it will be cheaper to produce our own treated water,” he said when contacted here yesterday.

Hasni added that Johor sells 250 million gallons of raw water per day to the island republic under the water agreement and purchases 2% of treated water from Singapore to supply to parts of Johor Baru and Kota Tinggi.

“I think we can be independent of Singapore for treated water and the state government is fully ready with a contingency plan to switch to other sources for treated water other than getting it from across the Causeway,” he said.

Hasni said the state could depend on plants in Kota Tinggi like Tai Hong and Sungai Johor for treated water in place of the supply from Singapore.

He added that the Federal Govern­ment had been made aware of Johor’s readiness to be self-­sufficient.

“But this is still premature to assume and it still depends on the willingness of both governments to agree to a suitable rate,” Hasni said.

“But Johor deserves to increase the price of raw water after selling it at the current three sen for the past 53 years.”

Johor: We have not waived our right on water rates
New Straits Times 8 Mar 14;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor government will leave it to their Federal counterparts to negotiate with Singapore regarding the new price for the supply of raw water to Singapore.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohamad said yesterday the Attorney-General's Chambers had given the state government the green light to reassess the current rate of three sen per 1,000 gallons (4, 546 litres).

The state government has been abiding by the water agreement made in 1962 until now. It was agreed that the price review can take place after 25 years.

"We did not review the price in 1987 and because of this, (Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister) K. Shanmugan was of the opinion that Malaysia has waived its right to do so.

"I would like to stress that this is not the case," he told.

As reported on Thursday, Hasni said the price review could still take place at any time after 1987.

Asked if this would affect the cordial ties between both countries, Hasni said he believed that it would not as there would be a mutual agreement concerning the price review.

On whether Johor will have to continue to supply raw water to the republic should the state's own water reserves reach a critical stage, Hasni said Johor would make sure that it supplied 250m gallons of raw water to Singapore as stipulated in the water agreement.

"Johor is not facing any water problems at present, and should there be any shortfall, we will be able to handle it," he said.

Public Accounts Committee chairman and Johor MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said he hoped any differing views by the two countries could be settled amicably through bilateral discussions.

It was also reported the A-G's Chambers met a Johor legal advisory team in Kuala Lumpur in early January and gave them the green light to review the rate.

On Wednesday, Shanmugam was responding to a parliamentary question by Ellen Lee (Sembawang GRC), who had asked whether the bilateral water agreement allowed for Malaysia to raise the price of raw water sold to Singapore at any time before its expiry in 2061.

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

Bernama reported yesterday that Singaporean Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said imported water from Malaysia remained an essential part of the republic's water supply.

"While we aim to attain water self-sufficiency before the expiry of the 1962 Water Agreement in 2061, in the meantime, we expect all parties to uphold the current agreement for as long as it is in force."

Johor disputes Singapore's statement on water rights
The Star 7 Mar 14;

JOHOR BARU: The Johor government has disputed Singapore's statement which claimed that the state had lost the right to revise the price of raw water supplied to the republic under a 1962 agreement.

State public works, rural and regional development committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohamad said the agreement gave the right to Johor and Malaysia to check the price of raw water supplied to Singapore.

"The attorney-general has given his view that we have the right to review the price of raw water sold to Singapore. We do not agree with Singapore's view (that) we have lost the right (to revise the price of raw water)," he told Bernama.

Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugan was quoted as saying that Singapore's position was that Malaysia had lost its right to review the water price after choosing not to do so in 1987.

The 1962 Water Agreement provides for a review of the price of raw water supplied to Singapore after 25 years or 1987.

And under the same agreement, Malaysia through Johor supplied 250 million gallons of raw water per day to Singapore at three sen per 1,000 gallons.

At the same time, the republic was supplying five million gallons of treated water to Johor daily at 50 cents per 1,000 gallons.

Hasni said it was not a matter of whether the state government reviewed the prices or not, or missed an 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 said the state government agreed the revised raw water involved bilateral issues between Malaysia and Singapore, and should be forwarded to Putrajaya to handle.

He said the state government informed the federal government last month, through a note to highlight the issue of raw water price review in bilateral talks involving Malaysia and Singapore.

"Bilateral talks are held regularly in two or three months, and we hope the issue of revision of the raw water price can be highlighted in the bilateral talks," said Hasni. - Bernama

Johor disputes Shanmugam’s comments over pricing of raw water
Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: The Johor government has disputed Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam's statement that Malaysia had lost the right to revise the price of raw water.

Malaysian media reported that state public works, rural and regional development committee chairman Hasni Mohamad had said the 1962 Water Agreement gave the right to Johor and Malaysia to check the price of raw water supplied to Singapore.

He was responding to Mr Shanmuganm's statement in Parliament earlier this week that Malaysia had lost the right to review the price of water after it chose not to do so in 1987.

Mr Hasni said it was not a matter of whether the state government had reviewed the prices or not, or that it missed an earlier opportunity to do so in 1986 and 1987.

He said that the state government believed the matter needs to be discussed bilaterally, and that since it involved bilateral issues between Malaysia and Singapore, it should be handled by Putrajaya.

- CNA/gn

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Haze returns to Singapore

Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Haze returned to Singapore on Friday, with the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) crossing into the moderate range.

The three-hour PSI reading climbed throughout the day, from a three-hour reading of 31 at 9am.

It registered 54 at 6pm, 64 at 7pm and 71 at 8pm before dipping to 69 at 9pm.

As at 9pm, the 24-hour reading was between 44 and 51.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said the hazy conditions experienced since late Friday afternoon could be due to hot spots to the north of Singapore.

It said a total of four hot spots were detected in peninsular Malaysia while 35 hot spots were spotted in Sumatra.

NEA said the hazy conditions are expected to persist overnight.

On Thursday, NEA said that an expected change in the monsoons in the later part of this month may pose some risk of transboundary haze.

The agency said in a statement that with the expected transition from the Northeast Monsoon to the inter-monsoon period, winds in the region will turn light and variable in direction, and will pose "some risk" of transboundary haze should hot spots in Sumatra persist and the prevailing winds in our region temporarily turn westerly.

The Riau province of Sumatra has been shrouded in dense haze over recent days as farmers set fires to clear land during the dry spell.

NEA added that prolonged dry weather affecting parts of the region has resulted in an escalation of hot spot activities, although the hot spot count has been low due to cloud cover and partial satellite coverage.

The public can get updates at the NEA website (, the haze microsite (, NEA Facebook ( and NEA Twitter (@NEAsg).

MediaCorp will show the 3-hour PSI readings at the top right-hand corner of the TV screen.

- CNA/ir

Singapore's air quality worsens
Channel NewsAsia 7 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's air quality worsened on Friday, with the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) crossing into the moderate range.

The three-hour PSI reading was 54 at 6pm and 64 at 7pm.

As at 7pm, the 24-hour reading was still in the "good" range - at between 41 and 49.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said the hazy conditions experienced since late Friday afternoon could be due to hot spots to the north of Singapore.

It said a total of four hot spots were detected in peninsular Malaysia while 35 hot spots were spotted in Sumatra.

NEA said the hazy conditions are expected to persist overnight.

On Thursday, NEA said that an expected change in the monsoons in the later part of this month may pose some risk of transboundary haze.

The agency said in a statement that with the expected transition from the Northeast Monsoon to the inter-monsoon period, winds in the region will turn light and variable in direction, and will pose "some risk" of transboundary haze should hot spots in Sumatra persist and the prevailing winds in our region temporarily turn westerly.

The Riau province of Sumatra has been shrouded in dense haze over recent days as farmers set fires to clear land during the dry spell.

NEA added that prolonged dry weather affecting parts of the region has resulted in an escalation of hot spot activities, although the hot spot count has been low due to cloud cover and partial satellite coverage.

The public can get updates at the NEA website (, the haze microsite (, NEA Facebook ( and NEA Twitter (@NEAsg).

- CNA/ir

Singapore’s air quality improves
Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's air quality improved overnight, with the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading back in the "good" range on Saturday.

At 9am, the reading was 44. The 24-hour reading at 9am was between 42 and 51.

On Friday, haze returned to Singapore, with the PSI crossing into the moderate range.

The three-hour PSI reading climbed throughout the day, registering at 54 at 6pm, 64 at 7pm and 71 at 8pm before dipping to 69 at 9pm.

As at 9pm, the 24-hour reading was between 44 and 51.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Friday said the hazy conditions experienced since late Friday afternoon could be due to hot spots to the north of Singapore.

It said a total of four hot spots were detected in peninsular Malaysia while 35 hot spots were spotted in Sumatra.

- CNA/nd

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Malaysia: Haze situation expected to improve after rainfall

ROSHIDI ABU SAMAH New Straits Times 8 Mar 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: THE haze situation in the country did not reach critical levels and, in fact, is fast improving.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said yesterday the situation was expected to improve after several areas in the country started experiencing rainfall over the past few days.

"The country's Air Pollutant Index readings are not very high and has not become a major problem.

"Schools will only be closed if the index breaches the 200 level. If it reaches more than 300, then the public are advised to stay indoors," he said after opening the Empower East Coast Economic Region (ECER) Programme at SMK Sultan Ahmad Shah in Tanah Rata yesterday.

The Cameron Highlands member of parliament said unlike the previous haze incidences, which were caused by peat fires in Sumatra, the current haze was caused by domestic forest fires, triggered by the drought.

When opening the programme, Palanivel praised the ECER Development Council (ECERDC) for introducing unique training programmes th focused on content as well as confidence building among the poor.

ECERDC Pahang office general manager Mohd Mazlan Sharudin said Empower ECER was a twin-pronged human capital development initiative launched in 2010 to reduce economic disparities between rural and urban communities.

He said the programme comprised the Skills and Entrepreneurship programme for adults and an academic training programme for Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah, Penilaian Menengah Rendah and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination-year students.

"Since its launch in 2010, the programme has benefited 22,216 participants, comprising 8,725 adults and 13,491 students in 17 locations in rural areas of the ECER."

Sabah's hot spell to last till month end
New Straits Times 8 Mar 14;

KOTA KINABALU: The dry spell is expected to hit Sabah for the whole of this month and more bush fires are expected to occur.

Sabah Meteorological Department director Abdul Malek Tussin said the dry spell was due to absence of clouds and rain.

"As of today (yesterday), Tawau town recorded a temperature of 34oC, which is higher than the average temperature on most days, which is usually between 22oC and 33oC.

"Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Kudat are among the major towns that have yet to experience rain since March 1."

A state Fire and Rescue department spokesman said the department had received 69 reports of bush fires this month..

"As these fires mostly happened along the roadsides, firemen were able to take prompt action as the public notified us on seeing the fire."

The highest incidence of bush fires was recorded here, particularly near Bukit Sepanggar and the Polytechnic College. Isolated cases occurred in Ranau where farmers were clearing their land for planting.

"The public must be careful as even a cigarette or a tiny source of heat could ignite a spark and result in fire," said the spokesman.

Water rationing to continue
New Straits Times 8 Mar 14;

MORE AFFECTED: Third phase of exercise to begin on Monday

THE third phase of the water rationing exercise here and in Selangor will begin from Monday to March 31, with a total of 3.6 million consumers being affected this time around.

The National Water Services Commission (SPAN) chief executive officer Datuk Teo Yen Hua said the third phase involved 722,032 households, which is an increase of 290,865 households as compared to the second phase which involved 431,167.

Teo, who was speaking at the SPAN headquarters in Cyberjaya yesterday, said the rationing would now be expanded within the six zones that had already faced the exercise as more neighbourhoods would be affected.

The six zones are Gombak, Kuala Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Hulu Selangor, Petaling, and the Klang/Shah Alam/ Kuala Langat/ USJ zone.

A total of 57,866 households in 133 areas will be affected in Gombak.

These areas include Taman Keramat, Wangsa Maju, Kemensah, Jinjang, Setapak, Bukit Antarabangsa and Bandar Sri Damansara areas, among others.

Sixteen areas in Kuala Selangor will experience rationing, while 113 areas in Kuala Lumpur, including Bangsar, Segambut, Sri Hartamas and the stretch from Jalan Ipoh to the Kepong roundabout in Jalan Kuching will also experience water rationing.

Another 38 areas in Hulu Selangor, including Bukit Beruntung, Bukit Sentosa, Bandar Baru Rawang, Hulu Bernam, Kuang and Serendah will also be affected.

A total of 141 areas in the Petaling zone will be affected, involving 232,875 households in Petaling Jaya, Kinrara, Puchong, Salak Selatan, Subang Jaya, among others.

Teo said said 83,132 households, including those in UiTM Puncak Alam in Shah Alam would be be affected by the rationing in zone six (Klang/ Shah Alam/ Kuala Langat/USJ).

Teo said rationing was being conducted in other states as the water levels in certain rivers had dropped.

"At present, Selangor, Johor and Negri Sembilan are the only states rationing water. The exercise is being done in two districts in Negri Sembilan, namely Jempol and Tampin, beginning Thursday following a drop in water levels in Sungai Muar affecting the Gemas Baru water treatment plant.

"Rationing for Kluang, Johor, which started on Feb 18 will continue, while Kelantan and Perak are taking precautions due to an alarming drop in river levels."

Teo said the third phase of water rationing was discussed in an earlier meeting with Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), SPAN, Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry and its operators.

"We believe this will help improve the water situation in the country," Teo said.

Present were Selangor Economic Planning Unit's Macro and Privatisation Section deputy director Nor Azmie Diron, who represented the state government and SPAN executive director for Water Regulatory Department, Marzuki Mohammad.

Syabas chief executive officer Sanusi Sulaiman, who was present at the same press conference, said water consumption should be limited to 180 litres per day for each household during the rationing.

He urged those not affected by the water rationing to be thrifty in their consumption of water and added that water supply would cut off every two days, alternating with affected zones to assure equal share of water for all areas.

The first water rationing exercise began on Feb 28 involving Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang, affecting 60,000 households.

The second phase began on March 2 which affected 358,342 consumers or 2.2 million people from 431,617 households in the same districts.

The public can contact the Syabas toll-free hotline at 1-800-88-5252 or send a text message by typing PUSPEL and sending it to 39222 or visit, its facebook page or twitter account for further information.

No end yet to hot and dry spell
The Star 8 Mar 14;

PETALING JAYA: The current hot and dry weather is not expected to abate any time soon with the next seven days in all states expected to be without rain, according to the Malay­sian Meteorological Depart­ment (MMD).

On its website, the department announced its forecast of fair weather­ nationwide for seven days starting yesterday, with temperatures ranging from 24°C to 35°C.

Selangor and Kuala Lumpur residents experienced some respite from the weather with rain on March 3, thanks to a successful cloud-­seeding exercise.

The department recorded total rainfall of 14.4mm at its Subang meteorological station and 23.8mm at its Petaling Jaya station between March 1 and March 6.

Although the figures seem small compared to the state’s normal average daily rainfall of 40mm, the department stated it was considered “quite a lot compared to other parts of the country in the peninsula”.

It also stated that the Klang Gates dam recorded the highest rainfall amount (13mm) on March 4, a day after cloud seeding. This was followed by Batu dam at 7mm and Sungai Tinggi dam at 6mm.

However, the Sungai Selangor dam, which supplies water to 60% of households in the state, recorded a mere 0.6mm. As of yesterday, water levels at the dam remained at about 43.24%, slightly above the critical zone of 40%.

Cloud seeding appeared to have helped clear hazy conditions as most places in the country recorded good and moderate API (air pollutant index) readings yesterday.

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Indonesia: Thick haze also caused by forest fires in Malaysia, says BNPB

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 7 Mar 14;

The thick haze that has been blanketing Riau does not only originate from the province itself but is apparently also from neighboring countries that are also facing forest fire problems, particularly Malaysia, according to an official.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Syamsul Maarif said that the NOAA-18, Terra and Aqua satellites, belonging to the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), detected thousands of hotspots across Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar on Thursday.

“Forest fires [...] in Sumatra, such as those in Riau, Jambi, Aceh and North Sumatra are nothing compared to fires that have been occurring in mainland Southeast Asia,” Syamsul said from the haze disaster mitigation post at Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru, Riau.

He confirmed that as of Thursday, smog covering neighboring countries was not from Indonesia.

“We have made sure that Malaysia and Singapore are not affected by the Riau haze. Based on our monitoring, the haze is heading to West and North Sumatra,” he continued.

“Don’t blame Indonesia if other countries are blanketed by haze, because [those] countries are also facing [their own] haze problems,” he added.

In fact, Syamsul said that some of the haze that had been covering parts of Indonesia was from Malaysia. “This time around, the wind is blowing from the east to the southwest. Haze from Malaysia has now reached Indonesia,” Syamsul said.

“So therefore, I suggest that other countries do not make a fuss about the haze in Indonesia. They should think about fighting forest fires in their own countries. Indonesia has obviously done more than other countries in dealing with the haze problem.”

Even though Syamsul blamed others countries for also contributing to haze problems, he called on local administrations in nine haze-prone provinces — five in Sumatra and four in Kalimantan — to stay alert about the potential for a worst-case scenario, as this year’s dry season will be more arid than it was last year due to the El Nino impact.

“If we cannot fight fires comprehensively in July, it is more likely that haze will move from Indonesia to mainland Southeast Asia as winds will change from a southwesterly to a northeasterly direction,” he said.

The BNPB has been working with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) since Wednesday to sow tons of salt in clouds above Kampar, Siak and Pelalawan regencies in Riau to
modify weather.

“[As of Thursday afternoon] rain had yet to fall on the aforementioned areas, but it was cloudy there. That’s good news,” said Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase commander Col. Andyawan, who also leads the firefighting task force.

“We have also deployed eight helicopters to carry out water bombing to put out fires in Bengkalis and the Meranti Islands,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) head Sugarin said that the chance of rain in Riau would remain low for the next three days as clouds had only been detected in the west and the south of the province in areas including Kampar, Pelalawan, Rokan Hulu, Siak and Kuantan Singingi.

Stricter land certification needed in Riau
Rizal Harahap and Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 8 Mar 14;

Subdistrict heads across Riau have been told to issue less registered-land certificates (SKT) to companies in an effort to increase alertness and prevent land and forest fires from reoccurring.

Riau Governor Annas Maamun said that the environmental damage and haze were due to the ease in which companies could obtain SKT from subdistrict heads.

“Unfortunately, the SKT is often issued for land in protected areas,” Annas said on Friday.

He was speaking in front of 1,025 subdistrict heads with regard to the handling of the haze disaster in the province.

He recalled that while serving as regent of Rokan Hilir he had sent six subdistrict heads to prison for selling protected forests to plantation companies. “Subdistrict heads are supposed to protect their respective forests from illegal logging and fires that cause haze,” he went on.

During the meeting on Friday, the Riau Haze Disaster Mitigation Task Force also introduced water management techniques to prepare for the peak of the dry season in the province, which could happen as early as June or as late as August.

Task force commander Brig. Gen. Prihadi Agus Irianto said that retention basins would be built in all fire-prone areas to provide a water source for extinguishing fires.

“Firefighters sometimes find it hard to find water sources to put out fires. Most of the time, when they arrive to help put out a blaze there is nothing they can do because they don’t have access to any water,” Prihadi said, adding that the basins would double as a water reservoir for plots of land over 50 hectares.

He also said that across Riau, there were at least 40 companies that should be required to have retention basins in their respective operational areas. “Once the governor’s instruction has passed into law, each company will have
to build one,” Prihadi said.

In addition, Prihadi said all the companies would be required to build 2-hectare retention basins in spots bordering open access areas. “The water will be diverted from canals using pipelines,” he said.

It would also be compulsory for plots of land over two hectares to have a well, he continued.

The development of five large capacity retention basins, according to Prihadi, was currently being accelerated in three regencies in anticipation of severe drought, predicted to occur in May.

Prihadi said the water management techniques were initiated by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and Riau would be the first province to implement them.

“If this works successfully in Riau, it will be implemented in eight other provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan that frequently experience forest and land fires,” Prihadi said.

In a related development, forest and land fires in West Tanjung Jabung regency, Jambi, have continued to expand and currently cover a combined area of over 51 hectares as of Friday, according to the regency’s Forestry Agency head H. Erwin.

Erwin blamed the fires on both deliberate land clearing activities and unintentional causes.

To prevent the fires from expanding further, he said, his agency had prepared 25 personnel from the fire brigade with the support of local police and military personnel.

“Of the affected areas, Betara and Pengabuan districts are the most vulnerable because both are rich in peatland, which are extremely fire prone,” Erwin said, adding that his agency and the local police had yet to name any suspects in the forest and land fire cases due to lack of evidence.

“We call on people not to clear land through burning, because it’s illegal,” he added.

Racing against time to save Riau`s biosphere reserve from fires
Antara 7 Mar 14;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - Sumatras Riau Province is badly hit by forest and plantations fires, and the largest number of the hotspots detected were inside the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu (GSK-BB) biosphere reserve.

Of the 11,138 hectares of forest area that were razed by fires across the Riau province, about 3,000 hectares were located inside the GSK-BB biosphere reserve, Brigadier General Prihadi Agus Irianto, the head of the Riau Haze Disaster Response Task Force, said in Pekanbaru in Riau on Tuesday (March 4).

The GSK-BB, which is located in the Bengkalis and Siak districts in the Riau province, gained the UNESCOs recognition as a biosphere reserve in 2009; the recommendation was made by the Sinar Mas Forestry (SMF) pulp and paper company.

Biosphere reserve is one of the ways to preserve the worlds ecosystem, including the bio and cultural diversity contained therein, and as a means of mitigating the negative effect of global warming.

The biosphere reserve was the first reserve initiated by the industrial sector. The proposal had been prepared by the Sinar Mas Forestry (SMF) and submitted to the UNESCO in Paris through Indonesias ministry of forestry in September 2008 and October 2008.

As part of the Sumatras peat swamp eco-region, GSK-BB possesses a unique habitat and plays a significant role to help sustain the populations of rare, endangered and endemic species.

About 189 plant species, consisting of 113 families and 59 genera are reported to thrive in this area. Twenty nine of the plant species in the habitat are categorized as a protected species under Appendix 1 and 3 of CITES.

Based on a study made by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), there are at least 159 ape species, 10 mammal species and 13 fish species, as well as 8 reptile species in the area.

The 705,271-hectare GSK-BB biosphere reserve consists of three zones, namely the Core zone (178,722 hectare), Buffer zone (222,426 hectare) and the Transitional Zone (304,123 hectare).

The Core zone is dominated by peat swamp forests. The plant species existing in the area include Gonystylus bancanus (ramin), Palaquium leiocarpus (nyatoh), Durio carinatus (durian burung), Shorea teysmanniana (meranti bunga) and Tetramerista glabra (punak).

Several rare animal species are reported to exist in the Core zone and listed as a protected and endangered species under the Appendix 1 CITES and include two species of birds (hornbill Buceros bicornis and Mycteria cynerea), Sumatra elephant (Elephas maximus) and Sumatra tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae).

The Buffer zone, or non-conservation area, is an area that can be converted into production and industry forest to produce wood for the Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a subsidiary of the Sinar Mas Group. The Transitional zone is mostly managed by the local community.

Based on aerial monitoring, there were signs that the fires in the biosphere reserve were set deliberately, as there were abandoned camps and several chainsaws spotted in the fire locations, the brigadier general said.

The Riau forest offices head, Zulkifli Yusuf, recently said the biosphere reserve is now badly damaged due to human encroachment and fires.

When visiting the biosphere reserve on Wednesday (March 5), Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan stated that 2,000 newcomers had encroached and set fires in the GSK-BB biosphere reserve.

"Currently, about 2,000 people hailing from the North Sumatra province have encroached in the biosphere reserve in the Riau province. They have cleared the forest area for oil palm plantation," Minister Zulkifli said at the Roesmin Nurjadin air force base in Pekanbaru.

The encroachment occurred in the biosphere reserves Core zone. "We strongly suspect that they were deliberately sent to Riau to encroach in the biosphere reserve," he said.

The minister stated that it was not easy to enter the main zone without a mass mobilization and financial backup.

He suspected that they were directed to the forest to clear land by cutting trees, whose wood was later sold, and setting fires to get rid of the bushes for oil palm plantation.

"It would be impossible for them to enter the main zone in such a big group of up to 2,000 people," Minister Zulkifli said.

Commander of the Riau Haze Emergency Response Task Force, Brigadier General Prihadi Agus Irianto, said the new encroachers, most likely, had been staying in the biosphere zone for a long time given that there were plenty of trees that had been logged illegally and small huts built inside the forest.

The Indonesian army has deployed some 180 personnel to help extinguish the fires and arrest the encroachers, he added.

The Indonesian Environmental Forum (WALHI) criticized Sinar Mas Forestry for being weak in managing and protecting the biosphere reserve. The NGO blamed the company for the damage of the reserve.

"If the peat land is damaged, other surrounding peat land areas will also be damaged. It happens every year. The fires and illegal logging inside the biosphere reserve happens every year, even before it was recognized by the UNESCO," executive director of WALHI of the Riau Chapter. Riko Kurniawan, said.

He warned that the UNESCO might revoke the biosphere reserve recognition because GSK-BB has lost its function as a biosphere reserve.

In February 2014 alone, encroachers burned 600 hectares of the biosphere reserve area and converted them into oil palm plantations, he said.

The Sinar Mas Groups pulp and paper subsidiary denied that it was negligent in protecting the GSK-BB biosphere reserve currently being razed by fires.

"We were not negligent. It is the encroachers who should be blamed. I just want to ask, who should be responsible for protecting such a vast forest area? Should every meter of the forest area be guarded by a man," spokesman of Sinar Mas Nurul Huda said here on Thursday.

He admitted that the Buffer zone of the biosphere reserve is the concession of Sinar Mas. However, the reserves Core zone is the responsibility of the Riau provincial administration.

The company claimed that it cares for the protection of the GSK-BB and has coordinated with the Bengkalis police to protect the forest and detain encroachers.


Of the 3,000 hectares of biosphere reserve area that is currently being razed by fires, around 8,00 hectares are located inside the biosphere reserves Core zone and the remaining 2,200 hectares are in the Buffer and Transitional zones, the forestry ministrys director general of forest protection and natural resources, Sonny Partono, said in Pekanbaru on March 5.

The biosphere reserve is a priority for fire extinguishing efforts using aircraft, including rented Sikorsky planes capable of dropping 4,000 liters of water.

"These have become the task forces priority in the efforts to put out the Riau fires, because the biosphere reserve has been recognized internationally," he said.

The task force, which has a total of 325 members, including 170 army officers, is trying to extinguish at least 12 hotspots detected in the biosphere reserve by dropping water bombs from four helicopters, including those belonging to Sinar Mas.

Thick smog haze, however, hampered attempts to drop water bombs, but the helicopters managed to reach the fire sites after several attempts.

Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Syamsul Maarif expressed his shock after viewing GSK-BB, which was severely damaged due to encroachment by illegal loggers.

"Dont police know about this encroachment?" Maarif asked here on Thursday (March 6) after an aerial viewing of the ongoing fires at the biosphere reserve by helicopter.

Maarif, who was accompanied by Deputy Governor of Riau, Arsyadjuliandi Rahman, noticed that the fires had burned an industrial forest, which is a concession of PT Arara Abadi, a subsidiary of Sinar Mas Forestry Company.

"This is too much and must be dealt with immediately," he said.

"In the future, the biosphere reserve should be strictly guarded by involving the army and police personnel, who must immediately arrest anybody who tries to encroach and set fires in the area," he said. (*)

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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PUB, Japanese firm open new water recycling and treatment plant in Jurong

Woo Sian Boon Today Online 8 Mar 14;

National water agency PUB and Japanese firm Meiden Singapore yesterday jointly opened a S$10.3 million demonstration plant capable of treating and recycling industrial used water, in a bid to recover every drop of water used here.

The plant, which is located at Pioneer Road and has a capacity of 4,550 cubic metres per day, can produce non-potable water that can be used by industries on Jurong Island for the purposes of cooling machinery, for example.

This is in contrast to PUB’s current practice of treating about 86,000 cubic metres of industrial used water per day to internationally accepted standards before discharging it into the sea.

The plant, the first of its kind in Singapore, combines two technologies — upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) and ceramic membrane bioreactor (MBR) — to decompose organic matter in industrial waste water using bacteria before it is further distilled through membranes to become non-potable recycled water.

The agency’s Chief Technology Officer Harry Seah said: “Previously, we used the conventional approach where we treat the industrial waste water … to more or less remove the contaminants in the water and after that it is discharged into the sea. But this is a bit of a waste, so with USAB and MBR, we hope to recover every drop of water.”

The demonstration plant also saves energy and time, compared to the conventional treatment processes of industrialised used water, said Meiden.

The non-domestic sector accounts for about 55 per cent of Singapore’s total water consumption of about 400 million gallons a day and this is expected to increase to 70 per cent in the next 50 years.

The project will serve as a pilot for the future Tuas Water Reclamation Plant, which will be built under Phase Two of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System to serve the western part of the island.


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Urgent need to study impacts of biomass burning and haze on marine ecosystems in Southeast Asia

Science Daily 7 Mar 14;

Researchers are highlighting the urgent need to understand impacts of biomass burning and haze on Southeast Asian marine ecosystems in a paper published in the journal Global Change Biology on 6 March 2014. The scientists also proposed a coordinated response plan for a more effective management of these vital ecosystems.

The unprecedented high levels of transboundary haze in Southeast Asia last year prompted Dr Zeehan Jaafar, a lecturer at the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Science, and Dr Tse-Lynn Loh, a postdoctoral research associate at the Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research, John G. Shedd Aquarium (Chicago, USA), to critically evaluate the potential impacts of biomass burning and haze to marine ecosystems.

In the paper, Dr Jaafar and Dr Loh call upon scientific institutions, non-governmental agencies, government bodies and policy-makers in the region to recognize the importance of the haze as an additional stressor to marine environments. In addition, they proposed a coordinated regional response plan for monitoring and studying the impacts of burning and haze to marine ecosystems. The researchers suggest that gathering this critical baseline information will enable a more effective management of vital marine ecosystems in Southeast Asia, and provide a case study to better understand similar occurrences in other locations around the world.

Crop residue and forests are burnt in many tropical countries to clear land for agriculture. In Indonesia, annual biomass burning activities cause a widespread smoke-haze phenomenon that affects human health, quality of life and incomes locally and in neighboring countries. While the impacts of these large-scale burning on terrestrial and atmospheric habitats are immediate and obvious, little is known about how adjacent coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves are affected.

Marine ecosystems of Southeast Asia are global hotspots for biodiversity and supports high levels of endemism. Natural resources derived from these areas sustain local economies and meet global demands. Yet, many marine ecosystems in this region are over-exploited and highly threatened. The reduction in sunlight from the haze, and the mass deposition of particulates from forest fires into coastal habitats are likely to have a negative impact on these marine ecosystems. Interactions between these primary impacts are likely to further damage these already imperiled ecosystems.

Dr Jaafar, the lead author of the paper, said, "Marine areas are vast and at the same time, a shared resource. International collaborations for the long-term monitoring of regional marine ecosystems increase efficiencies, decrease costs and maximize areas under surveillance. Ensuring the rapid sharing and dissemination of information is key in managing these threatened areas."

"Land, air and sea are highly interconnected. Being aware of both direct and indirect impacts to marine habitats help us safeguard these natural resources," said Dr Loh, co-author of the paper.

Zeehan Jaafar, Tse-Lynn Loh. Linking land, air and sea: potential impacts of biomass burning and the resultant haze on marine ecosystems of Southeast Asia. Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12539

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