Best of our wild blogs: 18 Mar 14

There’s Always A First Time
from Gamefish And Aquatic Rehabiliation Society

otters teasing a croc @ sg buloh - march 2014
from sgbeachbum

Long-tailed Shrike Casting A Pellet
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Crocodiles galore at Sungei Buloh on a drizzly day
from wild shores of singapore

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Pulau Ubin is the winner in readers' tips for Singapore

Readers share their advice on visiting Singapore. Send us your travel tips for the chance to win a holiday
Singapore: readers' tips
The Telegraph 17 Mar 14;

This week's winning tip

Old ways

Take a cheap day-return boat ride from Changi to Pulau Ubin and experience the real Singapore of days gone by. The little island is home to the last “kampongs” (traditional Singapore villages) with old-style shophouses, and tame “stray” dogs and chickens wandering around.

The people who live here rely on deliveries of provisions by boat, generators for electricity and wells for water. It’s absolutely fascinating to step back into Singaporean history and oceans away from the buzz and bright lights of the city. Hire bicycles or just meander the paths and trails, enjoy sights and sounds of verdant rainforest, red rivers, old quarry workings overgrown with exotic plants, birds, butterflies, crabs and fish and best of all experience the calls of monkeys high above in the trees. And definitely don’t miss out on the best deep-fried squid you will ever taste.

Sue Turley, from Norfolk, wins a holiday voucher with DialAFlight
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More advice from readers

Going nuts

Steer clear of Raffles’ Long Bar if you’re not too steady on your feet. It’s customary for patrons there to discard all their peanut shells on the floor. When I last went, not long after a knee replacement, I found it tricky to negotiate the considerable debris, especially when I’d drunk a Singapore Sling. Make a beeline though for the breathtaking Jurong Bird Park, which is home to a wealth of exotic and fascinating birds, including a strangely sinister and morose-looking African shoebill that so riveted me with its baleful stare that I found it hard to tear myself away.

Gill Tweed, London

Night attraction

The night safari is a must. You get to see nocturnal animals and those that are more active after dusk, which you won’t see in other zoos. Although there is a tram tour which many favour, I preferred to walk the trails – the experience of hearing a lion roar nearby and then spotting it in the dim light separated by barely perceptible barriers (such as moats and electric fences) was just amazing. It can get busy, but is well organised and doesn’t feel crowded. The four hours I was there from dusk to midnight flew by; when I went back to my hotel I just could not stop thinking of all the animals I had seen in a unique setting.

Michael Begley, Berwickshire

Wear wellies

Yes of course Singapore is hot and humid and you’ll only be wearing the flimsiest of clothes, but Wellingtons and a brolly would be a good idea. The gutters, like deep gorges down the sides of every street, are a clue. Most afternoons, it doesn’t just rain, it cascades down in solid sheets. Watch the locals, who seem to know when it will happen. Elegant slender women in business suits hurry along in plastic boots.

Seeking shelter indoors, I’d recommend the little visited National Art Gallery (soon to be moved to a new home) with an interesting permanent collection and a modern extension for temporary exhibitions. The tea room’s good too.

The crazy installations in the painted cement garden eclipse the Venice Biennale any old day. Definitely worth braving the elements to see.

Myra Robinson, Newcastle

Authentic appeal

Singapore abounds with attractions – the tourist will be impressed by its clean streets, the neatly dressed people (many glued to their electronic gadgets), the hotels, gleaming shopping malls, casinos, modern food centres. But once you feel luxuriated out and yearn for something more authentic, the beautiful parks, reservoirs, numerous temples, churches, and mosques will take you into a different, much calmer, world. And if you feel the need to get away even further from this cosmopolitan environment – escape to Pulau Ubin. A public bus or taxi will take you from the city to Changi Village from where you can take a boat across to the small island of Ubin. The crossing takes just minutes. When you step off the boat you may be forgiven for thinking you are entering a parallel universe, hardly touched by modern life, with rickety original wooden Malay kampong houses, and small coffee shops.

Christiane Hutchins, via email

Meal deal

First-time visitors to Singapore ought to try the food in the little cafés in the street behind the famous Harry’s Bar. The locals all eat there at lunchtime and if you join the longest queue you will be guaranteed a great lunch. You might not know exactly what you are eating but it will not only be tasty but very different. We went there two days running and the manager gave us a free drink as we were the only Europeans on either day.

Another must-see is a visit to the Singapore night zoo. A surprising and spectacular sight to see from your train as you turn a corner is a huge elephant, followed by giraffes and the amazing flying squirrels.

Judith Arnold, via email

Well preserved

Take a break from the shops and skyscrapers and see some of the disappearing Peranakan architecture of Singapore. Tanjong Pagar conservation area in the central business district has some of the best-preserved shophouses painted lime green, apple green and russet and now quite upmarket for what was once a ghetto for dock workers and before that a fishing village. At least it is still there – Singapore’s last surviving Malay fishing village, Pulau Seking, which consisted of houses on stilts above the water, has disappeared under a vast landfill site. It’s a shame as that is how Singapore started which is easy to forget when you are surrounded by the buildings of one of the most futuristic cities on the planet.

Dr Chris Allen, Bucks

Market day

The Sungei Road Thieves Flea Market at Jalan Besar, near Bugis Station, is open 1-7pm daily. The oldest flea market in Singapore bang in the middle of the modern city road. Not only for junk and collectors’ items, but a place where designers can display their new creations. Although loud and chaotic, it is very shopper-friendly, offering chairs for the weary and umbrellas to escape from the hot sun.

Sandra Moran, Berks

In colour

On the first day of my annual working month in Singapore, I always walk up to the extraordinary Botanic Gardens. I make straight for the Ginger Garden with more than 500 species of every shape and size; the bananas, bird-of-paradise plants and spiral gingers all even more spectacular than my memories from last year’s trip. Flowers of every colour clamour for attention. I sit for some minutes facing the beautiful lily pond, admiring the water lilies poking out of the water, the massive lily pads, the mini turtles, the fish and the dragonflies, always hoping for a glimpse of a well-camouflaged 2ft-long monitor lizard, sunning itself alongside a tree stump or laced woodpecker or orange-headed thrush dashing from one plant to the next. Although it’s only a short walk from the always hectic Orchard Road, I know I’m back in the paradise that is the Ginger Garden.

Danny Leiwy, Herts

Culinary feast

Singapore is an amazing hot pot of culinary delights. Singaporeans will travel far and wide in their hunt for the best food in any category. An off-the-beaten-track place for amazing and cheap food is Chomp Chomp Hawker centre, far less touristy than the infamous Newton Hawker Centre which is close to the city. Get some of the best satay-sauce vermicelli, hokkien prawn noodles, barbecue chilli sting ray, pan-fried carrot cake, Singapore satays, ice desserts to name just a few well-known ones. There are more than 30 stalls, which have stood the test of time, supported by the locals who live there and around. A recommended stop for foodies everywhere.

Louis Tan, London

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Showers across Singapore continue to bring improvement to air quality

Channel NewsAsia 17 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: Widespread showers across Singapore on Monday continued to help improve the air quality here.

The three-hr PSI was 19 at 9pm, well within the good range.

As at 6pm today, the 24-hr PSI was 16-23 and the 24-hr PM2.5 was 9-14 μg/m3.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Monday said there were zero hotspots detected in Peninsular Malaysia, and four in Sumatra.

The low hotspot count is due to extensive cloud cover.

The NEA said showers over these areas have helped improve the haze situation there.

As at 1 pm Monday, the air quality in most areas of Peninsular Malaysia was in the good range.

The NEA said that the overall air quality in Singapore for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the moderate band.

Thundery showers in the afternoon are forecasted for the next few days here.

Winds in the surrounding region are expected to blow mainly from the northeast but slightly hazy conditions can be expected if there are hotspot activities in southern Johor.

- CNA/fa

Nurseries, farms glad for rain but keep their guard up
Woo Sian Boon Today Online 18 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — Businesses badly hit by the recent dry spell, such as vegetable farmers, reacted with glee to the downpours over the past two days, although some continued to express apprehension over letting their guard down despite the forecast of thundery showers for the next few days.

Widespread showers fell in the late morning and afternoon yesterday — the highest rainfall of 51.6mm was recorded at Yishun at 4pm — following the downpour on Sunday. It ended a 27-day dry spell in Singapore that had given some businesses ballooning water bills and caused some farmers’ production to fall by about 20 to 30 per cent.

These firms are keeping their fingers crossed that the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) forecast for more rain in the coming days will come true. Said Candy Floriculture Director Sharon Goh: “It will take one or two weeks before my plants will fully recover.”

Green Gween Landscape Design and Construction’s owner, Mr John Gwee, added: “We really need more rain ... because the plants have to do a lot of catching up in retaining water as a form of reservoir for themselves — they need to have constant replenishment from the rain in order to have a certain degree of moisture in the soil.”

Others, such as Yili Vegetation and Trading Managing Director Alan Toh, are just glad for the respite — he had planned to purchase non-potable water from the PUB to water his vegetables yesterday, but shelved these plans because of Sunday’s rain.

“I feel like I’ve won 4D. My problems have been solved. Now we can go back to normal operations and start planting new crops,” he said.

Farm 85 Trading’s owner Tan Koon Hua, however, is not taking any chances. He has expanded the capacity of his irrigation pond by raising its height by 5 metres.

“It’s as much as we can raise its water levels without having to apply for permits from the authorities but, with the additional capacity, we should be able to store enough water to last for 10 more days,” he said.

Similarly, town councils, which have been implementing water-saving measures such as reducing the frequency of block-washing, are adopting a wait-and-see approach.

Said a spokesperson for Tampines Town Council: “We are still closely monitoring the situation because it might be a temporary relief. Through the next week or so, if we continue to have regular rainfall, then we will resume normal block washing.”

In response to queries, national water agency PUB said its measures to keep our reservoirs’ water levels healthy are still in place. “We are running our operations at status quo, with about 35 million gallons a day of NEWater injected into the reservoirs,” said a spokesperson. Desalination and NEWater plants are also still running at full capacity, she added.

The agency continued its call for the public to conserve water and “make it a way of life” even though “some rain has returned”.

Meanwhile, the widespread showers also brought respite in terms of air quality. Yesterday, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index was 16-23 at 6pm, with the NEA predicting the index to remain in the “moderate” range today.

Showers over Peninsular Malaysia and central Sumatra have also helped to improve the haze situation in these areas, with air quality in most areas of Peninsular Malaysia in the “good” range yesterday afternoon, it said.

Winds in the surrounding region are expected to blow mainly from the north-east, said the NEA, although slightly hazy conditions can be expected if there are hot spot activities in southern Johor.

Residents cheer as rain ends persistent dry spell
David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - Long-awaited downpours drenched Singapore through much of on Sunday, easing the country out of an unprecedented dry spell that had lasted since mid-January.

Rain fell from as early as 9.40am, the National Environment Agency (NEA) confirmed, with showers continuing on and off throughout the day. Straits Times readers across the island all reported showers.

As of 6.30pm, 52.6mm of rain was recorded at the Changi climate station, the NEA's reference station.

In contrast, just 75.4mm of rain fell there throughout January, while last month, there was just 0.2mm.

Netizens reacted with glee, posting photographs on social media. Even Cabinet ministers and MPs chimed in.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who had been urging the nation to conserve water, wrote on Facebook: "A nice walk in Gardens by the Bay on a cool clear morning, topped up with a welcome sprinkling of rain."

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean posted a photograph of himself drenched and smiling after a jog in Pasir Ris, writing: "Nice to get wet!"

The nation, which had a small taste of light rain last Saturday, can expect more wet weather.

The NEA forecasts thundery afternoon showers until Wednesday, and rain over the next fortnight.

The current dry phase of the north-east monsoon is transitioning into the inter-monsoon period, which generally brings more rain. However, the NEA still expects rainfall this month to be below the March long-term average of 185.9mm.

Singapore had been in the grip of persistent dry weather since mid-January, with greenery turning dry and brown, and national water agency PUB having to pump Newater - high-grade reclaimed water - into reservoirs to keep water levels healthy.

Desalination and Newater plants have been running at near-full capacity to meet 55 per cent of the nation's water needs.

The PUB said it will review its operations accordingly and called on the public to make saving water a way of life, whatever the weather.

Meanwhile, the National Parks Board called the showers "a welcome respite" for plants.

They also helped to improve air quality worsened by haze. The three-hour PSI reading fell as low as nine at 4pm. PM2.5 levels were also vastly improved at below 20 micrograms per cubic m for much of the day, down from above 60 last Thursday.

Interior designer Janet Su, 25, used her umbrella for the first time in a month. "It has been so hot and hazy. Now with the rain, I am looking forward to tomorrow."

Showers also brought much needed respite on Sunday to parts of Malaysia, and Riau province in Sumatra, Indonesia.

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More wild otters sighted in Singapore

Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 17 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: They are native to Singapore, yet not a common sight for most people here.

The sightings of wild otters have been increasing over the years, according to the National Parks Board (NParks).

Many of the sightings have been reported by visitors to the Lorong Halus Wetlands and the Serangoon Reservoir at Punggol.

Experts say the otter population in Singapore has grown from just a pair in the 1990s to possibly close to 100 today.

At first glance, all may seem quiet at the Serangoon Reservoir. But on closer look, some furry creatures can be seen in the waters.

They are smooth-coated otters, who have decided to call the place home.

The species is also listed as vulnerable by the International Union of Conservation for Nature.

Some say the otters have been around in Punggol for the past seven years, but more of such mammals are being noticed as more people venture outdoors.

Serin Subaraj, young naturalist of Strix Wildlife Consultancy, said: "Being a reservoir that's formally a river, it's connected to the sea. So the otters being a riverine estuary species, they prefer rivers. They actually come in to feed on the fish. Because Punggol has nice sloping banks with grass, it looks like a river and they really like that atmosphere."

The NParks and Strix Wildlife Consultancy is currently conducting a study to analyse the population and distribution of otters in Singapore.

The NParks said the otters have been seen in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve since the 1990s, and more recently at Gardens by the Bay.

Jason Loke, a cyclist, said: "I saw them in Lower Seletar Reservoir. I thought it was a monster or something. About five or six of them came out to greet people. It's great to have some wildlife. You can see hornbills at Pulau Ubin, you can see some of these birds actually, it's very good already. It's good to keep the green passageways everywhere."

Lai Chee Kian, an architectural and urban historian, said: "These are all encouraging signs, we have larger numbers of different types of wildlife coming back to Singapore. The central catchment area remains a very important area to look for new species and over the years it has continued to be so. This is why any development in the central catchment area has to be thought through very thoroughly."

And while the otters are known to be playful creatures, the NParks has advised the public not to disturb them, but to appreciate the wildlife from a distance.

- CNA/de

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Malaysia: Marine biologist receives RM480k grant to study Malaysia's endangered dugongs

tan cheng li The Star 17 Mar 14;

Malaysian scientist Dr Louisa Ponnampalan receives a RM480,000 fellowship in marine conservation for her research on endangered dugongs off the coast of Johor.

Marine biologist Dr Louisa Ponnampalam has been awarded the 2014 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to conduct research on Malaysia’s population of dugongs. The award comes with US$150,000 (RM480,000) for a three-year project to address conservation challenges facing our oceans.

Malaysia’s coast is undergoing rapid, large-scale developments, sometimes putting pressure on its marine environment. Focusing on the islands located off the east coast of Johor, Ponnampalam’s research will identify areas that are critical for one of the country’s last remaining population of dugongs in order to make recommendations for their habitat protection.

“Seagrass beds in Malaysia, which are a crucial part of the dugong’s habitat and diet, and support a diversity of marine life including our seafood resources, are currently not afforded any legal provisions,” says Ponnampalam.

“This project would allow us to further understand dugong distribution and behaviour and their reliance on this particular area, so that government authorities can soon make informed decisions about enabling the protection of important habitat areas.”

The dugong is currently listed as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, but certain populations of dugongs are likely to be critically endangered, including those found along the coasts of Malaysia.

These herbivorous marine mammals and their seagrass habitats are threatened by human activities such as coastal development, commercial fishing, and a lack of provision for habitat protection.

Over the course of the next three years, Ponnampalam will gather scientific data on dugongs and their habitat using visual, acoustic and underwater surveys. Through an international exchange, this research will also assist other scientists working to protect dugongs around the world.

“The dugong is an increasingly rare and fascinating creature, but little of the habitat it relies on is protected within its range,” says Joshua S Reichert, executive vice-president and head of environment initiatives for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Dr Ponnampalam’s study will shed light on how and where dugongs live in Peninsular Malaysia, and will encourage an exchange of data among countries to better protect these extraordinary creatures.”

Ponnampalam is a research fellow at the Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences of the University of Malaya. She also co-founded the MareCet Research Organisation in 2012, a local non-government organisation dedicated solely to the research and conservation of marine mammals.

The Pew Fellows Programme in Marine Conservation has awarded 135 fellowships to individuals from 31 countries. Each year, it selects five marine fellows and fund their projects which protect ocean environments.

The four other recipients in 2014 are:

Dr Demian Chapman, a scientist with Stony Brook University, for a research project to determine how recently enacted international regulations affect the trade in the fins of protected shark species.

Dr Stefan Gelcich, an assistant professor at the Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile, for a project to examine the social and ecological incentives that enable the incorporation of no-take zones within territorial fishing areas along the Chilean coast;

Paul Greenberg, an award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Four Fish: The Future Of The Last Wild Food, to prepare a book focusing on the human demand for Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood, and its impact on the sustainability of the world’s oceans;

Dr Hoyt Peckham, a pioneer of social and marine stewardship based in La Paz, México, to expand on his work on incentivising sustainable fishing along the coast of Northwest Mexico to other communities in the region and around the world.

For more information, go to

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Malaysia: Rain staves off water crisis


PARCHED NO MORE: Dams and rivers nationwide record slightly higher water levels, say officials

KUALA LUMPUR: DAMS in Selangor are showing slightly higher water levels as of 8am yesterday. The Drainage and Irrigation Department's Water Resources and Hydrology division director Datuk Hanapi Mohamad Noor said the increase was because of the continuous rain.

"Although it is not a large increase, we are positive the water crisis will be resolved by the end of this month, as we are expecting more rain.

"Most of the 23 rivers and 21 dams nationwide have recorded a small improvement in their water levels," Hanapi told the New Straits Times yesterday.

He said as long as more than 200mm of rainfall was recorded, damns could supply enough water and ease the water shortage.

As of yesterday, the water levels at the Klang Gates dam was at 89.58m, Sungai Selangor (191.40m), Langat dam (213.56m), Sungai Tinggi dam (54.38m), Tasik Subang (37.82m), Batu (99.74m), Sg Labu dam (39.20m) and Semenyih dam (106.72m). The dry spell caused water levels at 20 dams and 21 rivers nationwide to dip between 0.3 and 1m since Feb 14.

The Malaysian Metrological Department (MMD) Commercial and Corporate Services director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said rain over the last three days occurred naturally and was not due to cloud seeding.

"We did carry out cloud seeding last Saturday, focusing mainly in Selangor, but the next morning it began raining all over the country," said Hisham, adding that the department would continue cloud seeding in Selangor.

He said the department had also forecast a spell of heavy rain from March 21 onwards that was expected to continue into next month, with between 200mm and 300mm of rain expected.

Despite the encouraging rainfall, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) would continue water rationing until it receives a directive from the state government.

The dry spell has affected more than 60,000 people in 71 areas in Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang.

In Johor Baru, the state may see normal water levels in all eight dams following heavy rains over the past two days.

It could also see an end to water rationing in certain areas in Kluang, Mersing, Sedili and Bukit Batu once the dams' water levels reach a comfortable level.

State water company, SAJ Holdings (SAJ), was confident the next few days would see increased water levels at the dams.

Its corporate communications head, Jamaluddin Jamil, said it took time for the water intakes and feeders to supply water to the dams.

"As of today (yesterday) there are positive signs the levels will see an increase." he said, adding that SAJ Holdings hoped the two critical-level dams, Congok in Mersing and Machap in Simpang Renggam, would register an increase in their water levels soon.

"The state's water situation is still manageable, but water rationing will continue in the affected areas until further notice."

In Seremban, the water level in Sungai Muar in Negri Sembilan was flowing at near normal level again, thanks to heavy showers, which started on Saturday and ended the state's three month drought.

Syarikat Air Negeri Sembilan (SAINS) general manager Zulkifli Ibrahim said the downpour brought enough rain to raise the water level of Sungai Muar, which had reportedly dried up.

Six water treatment plants (WTP) are connected to the river.

"We believe that with constant downpours in days to come, we can ensure production of water from Sungai Muar is chanelled to consumers in the state," he said yesterday.

The six water treatment plants connected to Sungai Muar are Kuala Pilah WTP, Kuala Jelai WTP and Jambul Lapan WTP in Bahau, Jempol WTP, Pasir Besar WTP in Port Dickson and Gemas WTP in Tampin.

Zulkifli said with the rise in the water level of Sungai Muar, water rationing was not necessary in Tampin.

"We are hoping that there will be persistent rain so that the water level in other the rivers in the state will rise." Additional reporting by Mastura Yusoff and Maizatul Ranai

Water levels still low in dams
kathleen ann kili The Star 18 Mar 14;

JOHOR BARU: Despite rain over the past two days, the water level at eight dams in Johor is still insufficient for the state to call off a scheduled water rationing exercise in Kluang and other districts.

State water concessionaire SAJ Holdings (SAJ) corporate communications chief Jamaluddin Jamil said there was a “slight increase” in the water level at the dams but it was still insignificant.

In fact, he said, the water corporation extended the exercise to some parts of Mersing, Sedili in Kota Tinggi and Bukit Batu in Kulaijaya yesterday.

“If the rain continues in the next few days and the water level rises to normal, then it is possible that the rationing exercise will be called off soon.

“Water supply in Kluang is still scheduled on a two-days on two-days off basis, while other affected areas will receive water on alternate days,” he added.

Jamaluddin said the Sembrong Timur treatment plant in Kluang depended on the Sembrong Kiri river for raw water and not from the dams.

“We will continue monitoring the water level at the eight dams – in Lebam, Congok, Juaseh, Bekok, Labong, Gunung Pulai, Pontian Kechil and Upper Layang,” he said.

For complaints and enquiries, consumers can contact the SAJ Info Centre hotline at 1-800-88-7474 or SMS 019-772-7474.

A breath of fresh air for Klang Valley folk
The Star 18 Mar 14;

KLANG: After weeks of living in smoky surroundings, residents in the Klang Valley are relieved that the level of air pollutants has gone down drastically, thanks to rain over the last two days.

Yesterday, the Air Pollutant Index (API) recorded in most parts of the country were at good and moderate levels.

As at 10am, only 10 areas recorded moderate levels, with its highest reading of 73 recorded in Balok Baru, Kuantan.

The unhealthy API levels in Port Klang saw a reduction yesterday.

However, a check at several pharmacies here showed that face masks were still in high demand.

An employee at a pharmacy here said that her customers wanted to stock up on masks in case the hazy conditions returned.

Selangor executive councillor in charge of the environment Elizabeth Wong had earlier said that the haze situation in the past few weeks was due to transboundary and local sources of pollution.

It was also reported that the Selangor government had issued 12 investigation papers with the intention of prosecuting those involved in open burning on private lots.

Under the Environmental Quality Act 1974, any person who is caught for open burning will be liable to a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.

Drastic drop in bush and peat fires, thanks to rain
by austin camoens The Star 18 Mar 14;

PETALING JAYA: Bush and peat fires nationwide have dropped drastically, by about 90%, following rain in the last two days.

Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said the department received reports of about only 10% of these fires yesterday compared to the daily average of about 445 this month.

“In the last 17 days, we recorded 7,569 fires nationwide but the number has fallen in the last two days.

“On Sunday, we responded to 286 of fires, while yesterday we only had to deal with 44,” he told The Star.

Wan Mohd Nor said that with more rain expected, bush and peat fires would drop.

“Between 8am on Sunday and 8am yesterday, Sarawak recorded the highest number of bush, peat and open fires with 16, followed by Sabah with 10.

“We responded to nine fires in Johor and five in Selangor, while Kedah, Penang, Perak and Tereng-ganu recorded one fire each,” he said.

Wan Mohd Nor said his men were still combating ongoing fires in Terengganu, Perak, Pahang and Selangor.

On the use of biodegradable chemicals to douse the flames, he said the department needed more mixers to process the chemicals before they could be used on a larger scale.

“We have already used the chemicals to help put out fires in Pekan, Pahang, and Busut Baru in Selangor and it looks promising,” he said.

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Indonesia: President concerned, calls on legal action against forest arsonists

Rizal Harahap and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 17 Mar 14;

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) expressed on Sunday his concern over the perpetual forest and peatland fires in Riau, calling for legal action against those responsible.

“I am ashamed. As President, I’m deeply concerned, a lot of residents are losing sleep at night because of the actions of those irresponsible people,” SBY said in a meeting with dozens of residents in Minas area, Siak regency, Riau.

The President revealed that he had received a report that the forest and peatland fires in the province were the result of deliberate actions.

He said land concession holders instructed residents to set fire to land to open new plantation areas. “It causes losses to the state and the people are the ones who suffer.”

In his visit SBY was accompanied by State Secretary Sudi Silalahi, Coordinating People’s Welfare Minister Agung Laksono, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi, National Police chief Gen. Sutarman and Indonesian Military chief Gen. Moeldoko as well as provincial leaders.

Meanwhile, police have named 60 suspects in 40 cases of forest fires in eight regencies and cities across Riau province during their investigations over the last four weeks.

“One of the suspects is from a company in Meranti Islands regency,” Riau Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo was quoted as saying by Antara in Pekanbaru on Sunday

Aryo said 18 of the 60 suspects were arrested in relation to cases in Rokan Hilir.

He disclosed that police detained 16 suspects in Bengkalis, five suspects in Siak, five in Pelalawan, four in Dumai, three in Pekanbaru, two in Meranti Islands and three in Indragiri Hilir.

The forest and peatland fires in Riau have caused thick haze, which has blanketed the province and other adjacent provinces, such as West Sumatra, as well as neighboring countries Malaysia and Singapore.

Earlier, Agung said several Singapore-based companies were among the companies that were allegedly responsible for the fires. Singapore has officially responded to the minister’s statement, asking Agung to provide evidence.

The Riau administration has declared an emergency situation and asked the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) for assistance, including carrying out cloud seeding.

However, heavy rains have since swept across Riau and West Sumatra on Saturday, eliminating the haze and the need to conduct cloud seeding.

The deluge hit the majority of the regencies in the two provinces, including Rokan Hilir, Dumai, Rokan Hulu, Pekanbaru, Kampar, Kuantan Singingi, Indragiri Hulu and Pelalawan.

As the visibility increased on Sunday, the Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru resumed flight operations after being closed for several days.

“This morning, a Lion Air flight bound for Jakarta took off at 6:45 a.m,” Airport duty manager, Ibnu Hasan, said.

Similarly in Padang, the haze decreased significantly on Sunday due to the heavy rain on Saturday.

“The heavy rain in Riau and Payakumbuh and the light showers in Bukittinggi and Padangpanjang yesterday have certainly improved the situation,” coordinator for analysis and prediction at Minangkabau Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Rendy Irawadi said.

He said the visibility in Padang reached 900 meters in the morning and increased to 1,700 meters in the afternoon.

Forestry Minister Echoes Calls for Strict Action on Haze Issue
Jakarta Globe 18 Mar 14;

Jakarta. Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said on Monday that he agreed with National Police chief Gen. Sutarman and Indonesian Military chief Gen. Moeldoko who over the weekend suggested that those involved in forest fires should be gunned down.

“The instructions by the National Police chief and the chief of the military that those found burning forests should be shot on the spot are very strict. If they [suspects] resist arrest, just shoot them,” Zulkifli told reporters on Monday.

He added that aside from the actual perpetrators, those behind the illegal acts should also receive similar punishment.

“It is unfair that people are suffering, finding it difficult to breathe, and that hundreds of billions of rupiah of the state budget have been drained while business owners enjoy and watch us as we try to put out the fires.”

Zulkifli said the burning of the forests had been carried out by people looking to open up new lands for oil palm plantations, adding that he had received information that Riau has seen an additional 1 million hectares of illegal plantations in recent times.

“When the haze is over, the government will be investigating this further,” he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who arrived in Riau over the weekend, called for an evaluation on Monday on the punishment and penalties handed to perpetrators.

“The president is addressing the need for firm, indiscriminate action. The light punishment of perpetrators of the forest burning should be re-evaluated,” a statement on the president’s official Twitter account @SBYudhoyono read. “This crime cannot be taken lightly because it has a great impact and it causes people to suffer.”

During an assembly in Riau on Monday morning, Yudhoyono emphasized that his short-term plan was to put out the fires, while his mid- to long-term plans were to stop the issues of forest fires and haze completely.

As the first phase of these efforts, the president said he had instructed a three-week operation involving police and the military to put out the fires.

“We have to create a deterrent for those who have been causing this humanitarian disaster, which has interfered with the lives of people as well as transportation systems, closed down schools and caused other sorts of disruptions,” he said.

The president said the second phase would be prevention, set to be carried out from April through September, which is hoped to stop a similar disaster in the future.

“There are five months. Why September? Because this will be the end of my term as a leader of this nation. I want us to do as much as we can and not burden the new president,” Yudhoyono said.

In this phase, the government will seek to look into illegal plantations and stop practices of illegal logging.

“We have to have a system and a fixed procedure for a field operation that includes prevention as well as early actions to the fires,” he said. “We have to provide protection to the people. There are many innocent people who have suffered, we have to protect them, and help stop the fires. Clean the plantations without having to burn.”

Poor spatial planning

Natsir Mansyur, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, said on Monday that the annual haze issue was as a result of poor spatial planning in the country, which stems from poor coordination between related ministries, mainly involving the economy ministry.

“I am questioning the performance of Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa. Hatta, apparently, is only concentrating on mining issues while he seems to ignore matters related to spatial planning,” Natsir said.

He added that Riau has continued to suffer from heavy haze over the years due to the many new companies that have cleared more land.

“Land is being cleared because there is no spatial planning” he said. “Companies that are found guilty of violating spatial planning should have their licenses revoked.”

Viator Butar-Butar, deputy chairman for economy and international partnership with the Riau branch of the Indonesian chamber of commerce, said the forest fires and haze in the region has resulted in economic losses of more than Rp 10 trillion ($885 million).

“Such losses have resulted from a decline in businesses productivity and the disruption of goods and services due to delays in land, air and sea transportation because of the haze,” Viator said.

He added that fish prices in the region have increased from Rp 20,000 to Rp 30,000 per kilogram as the haze hampered the work of local fishermen.

A report by says forest fires in Riau have consistently occurred over the past 17 years without any serious preventative action by law enforcement.

According to the Riau branch of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), law enforcement agencies in the region have so far focused on arresting members of local communities, without going after entities behind the fires, such as corporations.

“Every year, only the individuals on ground level are prosecuted. On March 14, the Riau district police arrested 44 people accused of starting of forest fires, and only one of them was from a company active on Meranti Island,” he said.

Meanwhile in 2013, of eight companies alleged to have been behind the forest fires, only one, Adei Plantations, had been brought to the court.

Riau Governor Annas Maamun claims he has repeatedly called on the police and the local judiciary to ensure corporations involved in the fires were also taken to task, saying that he had even asked for the perpetrators to receive sanctions similar to those guilty of corruption.

“Because the act of burning forests causes equal harm to the state, the result of which can be felt by the people, especially the 6 million living in Riau. As the Riau provincial government, we are serious about handling this haze disaster,” he said, as quoted by

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Monday that the haze in Riau has started to recede following rain in the area.

BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement in Pekanbaru on Monday that rain with medium intensity had started to fall in Riau on Sunday, which helped reduced the haze.

He also said that the air-pollution index in the area has shown better air quality in almost all locations except for the Libo area, where pollution levels remained at 401 psi (pollutant standard index).

In Pekanbaru, pollution levels were reported to be at 119 psi.

Several commercial flights by Garuda Indonesia and low-cost carrier Lion Air have also resumed.

“Garuda is anticipating that its flight services may be resumed. It has therefore implemented a policy that could see flights canceled 24 hours before scheduled. If the weather is good today, the next day we will operate,” Irawan Suryadi, the station manager for Garuda in Pekanbaru said, as quoted by

Jambi police question expert witness in protected forest fire
Antara 17 Mar 14;

Jambi (ANTARA News) - The Jambi provincial police has questioned an expert witness to complete the dossiers of three people suspected of setting fire to 12 hectares of protected forest in Muarojambi district.

"A team of investigators from the Jambi provincial police has questioned an expert witness from the Jambi provincial forest office," spokesman of the provincial police Adj. Snr. Comr. Almansyah stated here on Monday.

The police will soon pass on the dossiers to the local public prosecutors office, he explained.

"We questioned the expert witness to complete the dossiers, which will soon be passed on to the public prosecutor," he elaborated.

The police had not named any new suspect in the case.

"No new suspect has been named. The number of suspects is still three," he remarked.

The police and the forestry office arrested three people on charges of setting fire to 12 hectares of protected forest in the district on March 11 at around 2 a.m. local time.

The three suspects have been identified as Novri (39), Harjo Tarmin (63), and Sutrisno (32).

During the raid the police also confiscated heavy-duty equipment including an excavator and a chainsow that is used to cut down trees.

If found guilty, the suspects can be sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment and fined up to Rp10 billion.

(Reporting by Nanang Mairiadi/Uu.INE/KR-BSR/A014)

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Riau police names 65 suspects on deliberate land fire case
Antara 17 Mar 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The Riau police has named 65 suspects on deliberate land fire case that has caused severe air pollution there since few weeks, spokesman to Riau police Senior Adjunct commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo stated on Monday.

"One of the suspects is a company PT NSP operating in Kepulauan Meranti district," Guntur stated.

According to him the police and other related officials in Special Task Force Handling Haze issue are still conducting their duties namely extinguishing the forest fires in the Riau province, providing health services for people who are affected by the thick haze from forest fire and investigating the forest fire case itself.

Up till now, about 1.6 million liters of water has been dropped over Riau province area to extinguish forest fires there, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB)s Data Unit Chief Agus Wibowo stated here on Monday.

"The 1.6 million liters of water has been dropped 348 times using special planes like Sikorsky, Kamov and Bolcow over the past two weeks. Among the target areas are Bengkalis district, Dumai city, Kuantan Singgigi district, Indagiri Hilir district, and the border area between Riau and South Sumatra provinces," Agus explained.

Hundreds of hot spots and forest fires were reported in Riau province during the past month. The condition led to thick haze that cover most of Riau province area and caused respiratory infection among at least 55 thousand local people. The haze also reduced visibility and disturbed the air transportation there.

According to police investigations, the forest fires in Riau province were due to deliberate action by people who want to set up new plantations.

The Riau Haze Emergency Task Force has deployed 558 personnel to hunt down forest encroachers and arsonists that caused forest, plantation and peat-soil fires in Riau.

"The deployment of hundreds of personnel is mainly to strengthen legal enforcement," Chief of the Riau Police Brigadier General Condro Kirono, in his capacity as the commander of the task forces legal enforcement unit, stated.

The personnel include police officers, military officers, forest rangers and members of the intelligent agency, he pointed out.(*)

Editor: Heru

1.6 million liters water dropped over Riau to extinguish fire
Antara 17 Mar 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Special task force in Riau has dropped 1.6 million liters of water over the area to extinguish forest fires there, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB)s Data Unit Chief Agus Wibowo stated here on Monday.

"The 1.6 million liters of water has been dropped 348 times using special planes like Sikorsky, Kamov and Bolcow over the past two weeks. Among the target areas are Bengkalis district, Dumai city, Kuantan Singgigi district, Indagiri Hilir district, and the border area between Riau and South Sumatra provinces," Agus explained.

Hundreds of hot spots and forest fires were reported in Riau province during the past month. The condition led to thick haze that cover most of Riau province area and caused respiratory infection among at least 55 thousand local people. The haze also reduced visibility and disturbed the air transportation there.

According to police investigations, the forest fires in Riau province were due to deliberate action by people who want to set up new plantations.

The Riau Haze Emergency Task Force has deployed 558 personnel to hunt down forest encroachers and arsonists that caused forest, plantation and peat-soil fires in Riau.

"The deployment of hundreds of personnel is mainly to strengthen legal enforcement," Chief of the Riau Police Brigadier General Condro Kirono, in his capacity as the commander of the task forces legal enforcement unit, stated.

The personnel include police officers, military officers, forest rangers and members of the intelligent agency, he pointed out.

The Riau police have detained 36 people who allegedly set fires illegally to clear land for farming and plantation.

Of the 36 detainees, 16 were encroachers of the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu biosphere reserve.

The Riau military office has also detained a military officer identified by as Chief Sergeant Sudigdo alias Digdo, who was suspected of having financed the encroachment. (*)

Editor: Heru

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Indonesia: From Aceh to Kalimantan, Regions Fight Forest Blazes Amid Dry Spell and Unprecedented Loss of Land to Plantation

Nurdin Hasan, Tunggadewa Mattangkilang & Vento Saudale Jakarta Globe 18 Mar 14;

Thick smoke rises from burning peat land in Meranti, Riau province, earlier this month. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday called for the light punishment given to perpetrators of the forest burning to be re-evaluated. (EPA Photo/Azwar)

Jakarta. As disaster mitigation and law enforcement officials continue to battle the ongoing forest fires in Sumatra’s Riau province, other areas across the country are also struggling to contain blazes amid the dry weather.

In Aceh, fires have been reported in the Tripa peat forest, a key habitat for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, Sumatran orangutan and other wildlife.

Haze from the fires, linked to slash-and-burn forest clearing, has begun to envelop surrounding residential areas, an environmental activist said.

Fadila Ibra, a spokesman for the Rawa Tripa Rescue Coalition Team, said 69 fire hot spots had been identified within plantation areas in Tripa area between March 1 and 14.

The coalition comprises several organizations advocating for the conservation of the peat forest, spanning 61,800 hectares in the world-renowned and ecologically important Leuser Ecosystem area.

“Forty-one fires were found in a concession area belonging to Golora Sawita Makmur, while Kalista Alam hosts the second highest number of fires with 14 of them,” Fadila told the Jakarta Globe on Monday, referring to oil palm plantation companies.

“Additionally, Surya Panen Subur and Cemerlang Abadi each had two fires. As of today, there have been no efforts by the companies to put out the fires. If they let this go on, then the damage to the ecosystem in the Tripa peat forest will only worsen.

“From our investigation, the fires happened from intentional burning to clear new plantation area,” Fadila added.

He said fires had also been found within a 1,605-hectare area where plantation activities had been banned after the Aceh administration had revoked a permit issued to Kalista Alam.

In North Kalimantan, meanwhile, fires have been reported in at least two districts, Bulungan and Tarakan. In Bulungan alone, 15 forest fires have been recorded since the start of March, with the hot weather and strong winds contributing to spreading the flames from fires set by farmers to clear land.

Officials in East Kalimantan have also reported two cases of forest fires in East Kalimantan.

“The fires are spreading and the number of officials [working to put out the fires] are limited,” M. Amin, a local fire department official, told the Globe on Sunday.

“We have deployed five fire trucks because there are residential areas nearby. We are concerned that the fires could spread to the homes because the wind is quite strong.”

Bambang Hero Saharjo, a professor of forest protection at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) and chairmain of the Southeast Asia Wildfire Network, said in a discussion on Monday that forest areas had declined by 40 percent between 2008 and 2013, an issue which he said could be attributed to government officials who had a habit of selling out licenses to companies.

He also said slash-and-burn forest clearing was seen as a cheap and effective way for farmers and plantation companies to clear land.

“As a comparison, to clear one hectare of land without burning would cost take approximately Rp 50 million [$4,450] and would take between two and four weeks. Meanwhile, by setting fire to the forest, the estimated cost would be between Rp 1 million and Rp 2 million,” Bambang said.

He called on the government to tightening regulations for issuing land clearing licenses and to mete out harsher sanctions for individuals or companies found setting forest fires deliberately.

Bambang also underlined the importance of sanctioning regional offices who have failed to monitor crimes related to forest fires.

“Government officials who are negligent in keeping a close watch on cases of forest fires should be sanctioned, because these monitoring efforts are very important,” Bambang said.

Haze Forces April To Suspend Pulau Padang Operations
Jakarta Globe 17 Mar 14;

Asia Pacific Resources International Limited, a leading producer of fibre, pulp and paper, was forced to suspend its forestry operations — ranging from planting to harvesting — on Pulau Padang, an island off Sumatra, as it transfers its field staff to help extinguish the escalating fires on the island.

Asia’s second-largest pulp and paper manufacturer said “the extraordinary measures were necessary because dry conditions and high winds are spreading fires illegally set to clear land on Pulau Padang.”

“The fires are starting outside our forest concessions but with the heavy, circular winds, they’re jumping everywhere,” said Kusnan Rahmin, president director of April’s Indonesia operations. “If we can’t stop these fires, we will lose company assets.”

The company said it was transferring 130 members of its field staff to the fire areas to save its plantations.

April said there has been no rain in Pulau Padang for the past two months.

Riau province every year suffers for haze problems, as burning unused forest areas is still the cheapest way to clear land for new plantations.

April, which grows acacia trees in Sumatra for its pulp and paper mill in Riau, said it strictly forbids field burning.

However, it said that since January it has lost 400 hectares to illegal fires. Sometimes the fires came from outside its concession areas.

April said the Pulau Padang blazes threaten two blocks of newly planted acacia.

The company said it had taken a series of emergency measures and assisted the government in combating the fire threat. Some of its efforts include adding 200 firefighters to its full-time force; deploying 200 pumps and 30 pieces of heavy equipment to fire zones; and lending its three helicopters and 30 pumps to the government’s fire-fighting efforts. JG

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Indonesia: Continuing Haze Shuts Down Oil Wells Across Riau

Rangga Prakoso Jakarta Globe 17 Mar 14;

The haze that has been blanketing Riau province as the result of forest and plantation fires, has caused hundreds of oil wells to be shut and potential losses are estimated at around 12,000 barrels of oil per day, a spokesman at a regulatory body said on Sunday.

Handoyo Budi Santoso, the chief of the public relations division at the country’s upstream oil and gas regulator (SKK Migas) said Riau province harbors some important oil assets that support the national crude oil production.

Handoyo said the biggest production loss came from the shutdown of Rokan block, operated by Chevron Pacific Indonesia, the country’s biggest producer of crude oil.

The deteriorating quality of the air had forced CPI — a unit of American multinational energy giant Chevron Corporation — to shut down 573 oil wells and stop 19 pumps injecting water into the wells.

The water injection technique is part of the newest to boost production in aging oil wells.

Just from the Rokan block, Handoyo said potential losses were already at 8,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).

He added that as of Thursday, according to company data, the pollution had reached level “red,” which means the Pollution Standard Index (PSI) had gone beyond the tolerance level of 500.

As a result, workers’ activities must be reduced to avoid contamination from the haze. There are also delays in maintenance schedules at the company’s facilities, according to Handoyo.

“From the health and safety point of view, this thick haze is clearly not safe for workers,” he said.

A joint operation between state energy company Pertamina and local government owned companies in Siak, Riau, is also disrupted. From this area, potential losses are estimated at around 4,000 boepd, Handoyo said.

“We hope all can work together to combat this situation, so that the disruption to production does not last long,” he added.

Handoyo said CPI has been helping the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to combat the haze coming from around 2,000 hotspots in the area.

Despite forestry and environmental laws prohibiting land-clearance by fire, and despite companies operating in those areas pledging zero-burning policies, the fires return every year, because it is such a cheap and fast method to pave the way for new paper-pulp and palm oil plantations.

As well as suffering from respiratory illness, residents have also been forced to leave their homes while the haze has also disrupted flights, forced schools to close and shut down some commercial activities.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced three emergency measures to handle the Riau fires: extinguishing them as soon as possible; providing health treatment for affected residents; and bolstering law enforcement in affected areas.

This is despite the fact that the governor of Riau had already declared a state of emergency in the province last month.

Indonesia crude output drops as haze hits Chevron's Sumatra wells
Reuters 17 Mar 14;

(Reuters) - Indonesia's crude oil output has dropped to 790,000 barrels per day (bpd) after haze from forest fires on the island of Sumatra forced the country's biggest producer, Chevron, to close hundreds of its wells, the country's oil and gas regulator said.

"It's still below 800,000 bpd, around 790,000 bpd," SKKMigas spokesman Handoyo Budi Santoso told Reuters on Monday, referring to the latest national crude output figure from Sunday.

Santoso also said hundreds of Chevron employees and their families had been relocated due to the forest fire haze that had reached dangerous levels last week.

Indonesia has targeted to produce 870,000 bpd of crude this year.

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Indonesia: New Coal Limits Welcomed in East Kalimantan

Jakarta Globe 18 Mar 14;

Jakarta. The State-Owned Enterprises Ministry has issued a regulation that requires all mining companies to dig deeper to explore the possibility of new mineral resources.

“The depth must be 800 meters and they must drill three shafts to find a new supply of coal and we will arrange the production quota of coal in each region,” the director of the new mineral education program, Paul Lubis, said at the ministry said Monday.

All region that have mining activity will be given quotas on how much coal they can mine and the concession holders cannot exceed the quota, Paul said.

He said the policy would be included in the Indonesia coal mining road map.

“If they want to increase their coal production they must be able to find new sources of coal first,” he said.

Paul said Indonesia had estimated coal reserves of 130 billion metric tons, or enough to last for the next 100 years at current production levels.

“We did estimate we will be OK for the next 100 years but we still need to limit the exploitation, otherwise in the future we will be a country that imports coal instead of exporting it,” he said.

East Kalimantan Governor Awang Faroek Ishak said that the province welcomed the exploitation limitation. He said the province had proposed the idea to the central government even before the new regulation was issued.

Currently coal production in East Kalimantan amounts to 250 million tons annually.

“We proposed that the production should be limited to 150 million metric tons annually for sustainability reasons last year,” Awang said.

He said that as part of a wider sustainability drive, East Kalimantan had imposed a moratorium on issuing permits for some activities, including mining, agricultural plantations and pulp and paper estates.

Reuters reported Indonesia ships $2 billion worth of coal a month to power plants across Asia.

Watchdog Accuses Companies Of Mining in Conservation Area
Tunggadewa Mattangkilang Jakarta Globe 18 Mar 14;

Balikpapan. A mining watchdog group in East Kalimantan says that a number of companies are using conservation areas in the region for mining activities.

According to the East Kalimantan Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) data showed that up to 42 licenses were issued for mining activities within the Hutan Raya Conservation Park in Bukit Soeharto, Kutai Kartanegara, of which 31 were issued in a 1991 decree by the Forestry Ministry and 11 in a 2009 ministerial decree.

“It isn’t only operational licenses, but there are also five coal hauling lanes within the conservation park. The state losses — if calculated using the non-tax state revenue method — would stand at Rp 18.1 trillion [$1.6 billion] from 2008 until today,” said Merah Johansyah of Jatam. “It is accumulated over five years, and the losses could be higher because this is only a partial calculation. There are other losses that have not been included in the calculations.”

Merah said that the 1991 ministerial decree shows that among the companies working in the conservation area are Moreseni Indonesia Pratama, with a mining area of 1,991 hectares, 50.4 hectares of which are located within the conservation park

Additionally, the 2009 ministerial decree mentions Tuah Bumi Etam with a 65,000-hectare mining area, 64,000 of which are located within the Hutan Raya Conservation Park, while companies identified as Lembuswana Perkasa and Energi Bumi Kartanegara reportedly owned hauling lanes from 2007 and 2010 respectively.

Jatam says it has filed the case to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) late in 2013, with regional officials and Forestry Ministry officials being named in its report.

“We have reported this case to the KPK, so we hope the KPK will immediately launch an investigation into this case so it can put behind bars the officials or businesses who have caused damage to the environment,” Merah said.

He also called on Kutai Kartanegara district chief Rita Widyasari to look into the matter and revoke operational licenses that were issued in violation of the law.

“The licenses have to be revoked if [the authorities] are serious in cleaning up the mining sector in Kutai Kartanegara, especially where bad mining companies are concerned,” he said.

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Philippines Government signs deal to form permanent overseer for Coral Triangle Initiative

Jonathan L. Mayuga Business Mirror 17 Mar 14;

THE Philippines recently signed a regional agreement supporting the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the Coral Triangle Initiatives for Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF).

The agreement was signed by Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje on behalf of the Philippines government in Manado, Indonesia. The agreement is expected to come into force by May this year.

According to documents provided by Paje, the secretariat will be in charge of the technical and administrative management of one of the most biologically diverse and ecologically rich regions in the world, bounded by the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.

Paje added that “the permanent regional secretariat would play a central role in putting in place effective adaptation measures in the region, especially for coastal communities, to improve their resilience to climate change.”

“The impacts of climate change are very real threats to us in the region and this agreement rolls out the full operation of the regional secretariat in May in time for the fifth CTI-CFF Ministerial Meeting in Manado, Indonesia, on May 16 during the World Conference on Coral Reefs.”

According to Paje, the agreement was reached during the 9th Senior Officials Meeting of the CTI-CFF Interim Regional Secretariat, which was hosted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Manila in November last year.

Under the auspices of the Indonesian government, the construction of a five-story building on a 6,000-square-meter compound is now nearing completion. The compound, provided by the Provincial Government of North Sulawesi, will also house the CTI headquarters.

“This agreement clearly reflects the unique role of CTI-CFF in protecting and sustaining the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity as a fully operational secretariat that will coordinate the implementation of the CTI Regional Plan of Action,” Paje said.

The agreement was personally presented to him by Sjarief Widjaja, secretary-general of Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and chairman of the CTI-CFF Interim Regional Secretariat, at the DENR main office in Quezon City on Monday.

CTI-CFF is a multilateral partnership designed to safeguard the region’s extraordinary marine and coastal biological resources for future generations by promoting sustainable fisheries and livelihood, and climate-change resilience and adaptation measures.

The Coral Triangle is home to 600 corals or 76 percent of the world’s known coral species and has the highest in terms of reef fish diversity with 2,500 or 37 percent of the planet’s reef fish species concentrated in the area. It is also the spawning and nursery ground for four principle market tuna species that populate the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), which supplies close to 50 percent of the global tuna catch.

The species populating the WCPO include the yellowfin, albacore, bigeye and skipjack.

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