Best of our wild blogs: 19 Mar 14

What's that plant? Find out in "Plants in Tropical Cities"
from wild shores of singapore

Public Seminar on Freshwater Crab Conservation, Forest Lodge-SZG, 29th March 2014
from Otterman speaks

Fri 21 – Sun 23 Mar’14 : Guided walks in English and Mandarin
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

croc-a-viper @ sg buloh - march 2014
from sgbeachbum

Butterflies Galore! : Forget-Me-Not
from Butterflies of Singapore

Andie Ang, a finalist in the 2014 Rolex Awards for Enterprise!
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Malaysia: Massive reclamation project for luxury homes in southern Johor near Singapore

Country Garden, KPRJ plan massive reclamation development for luxury homes
ng bei shan The Star 19 Mar 14;

PETALING JAYA: China’s Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) have drawn out plans for a massive reclamation project to build luxury homes near Pendas in southern Johor near Singapore, according to sources.

Sources said that the project could entail a land area of “a few thousand acres,” which would make it one of Iskandar Malaysia’s single largest projects.

It isn’t clear how much Country Garden is pumping into the project, but going by its size, it would dwarf the Hong Kong-listed firm’s first project in Danga Bay, which only covered an area of 50 acres or 20ha, for which it had paid RM900mil.

The new project is being dubbed Forest City.

Industry sources said that such a reclamation project would probably be the largest reclamation project in the country, and that the parties embarking on it would have to have deep pockets.

Country Garden had cash and bank deposits amounting to 21.51 billion yuan (RM11.37bil) as at June 30, 2013.

KPRJ, on the other hand, is the state government’s investment arm. It owns 30% in Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd (IWH), which, in turn, has 1,619ha of land in Iskandar Malaysia.

Country Garden is already well-known in the Iskandar region for its maiden project in Malaysia, Country Garden@Danga Bay, which surprised the Malaysian property market when it launched 9,000 condominium units at one go last year.

The RM10bil project is built on the land in Danga Bay it had acquired for RM900mil in December 2012.

It is understood that the new project by the Country Garden-KPRJ joint venture, which is situated near the second link crossing to Singapore, will also become a new tourism hub.

Previous reports have indicated that the Johor government might also consider creating Malaysia’s biggest duty-free zone in this reclaimed land area, leveraging on its proximity to Singapore.

The location of the new Country Garden-KPRJ development is also close to Singapore tycoon Peter Lim’s multi-billion-ringgit Motorsports City project, which will include a Formula One-compliant racing test track as well as showrooms, garages and entertainment outlets spread over 109ha.

The new Country Garden-KPRJ project illustrates the growing interest among mainland China developers in Iskandar. The Chinese already have a strong presence in the southern region.

Besides Country Garden, another developer, Guangzhou R&F Properties Co Ltd, made a record-breaking deal when it paid RM4.5bil or RM891 per sq ft to the Sultan of Johor for 47ha of land in the vicinity of the old Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex.

Sources said there were at least another three China developers in talks to acquire land in Iskandar.

Meanwhile, the sale of reclaimed land seems to be also becoming a trend in Johor. Prior to this, IWH had sold a 28.33ha man-made island at Danga Bay to Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd and CapitaLand Ltd for RM800mil, while the land Guangzhou R&F bought is partially reclaimed land.

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Keppel Club eyes fairways of other golf clubs

Joy Fang Today Online 19 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — Keppel Club is eyeing the fairways of other golf clubs here and overseas, after a suggestion by the authorities to convert the 110-year-old institution to a social club failed to garner support among its members, TODAY has learnt.

It is understood to be exploring the possibility of buying land from other clubs or entering into a collaboration, such as through reciprocal fees or corporate memberships, to allow its members to use their golf courses.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, its management committee said talks have begun or will be held with other clubs and the Singapore Labour Foundation, which controls Orchid Country Club. “We have spoken to one 36-hole club and intend to approach two other 36-hole clubs, which may have excess capacity, to consider a collaboration ... The models of collaboration could be by way of a sub-lease or master corporate membership for our members’ use.”

The management committee said things were at an exploratory stage and “nothing has been put on the table yet”.

Last month, the Government announced its decisions on the leases of various golf clubs. Keppel Club, which has more than 4,500 members, is one of two golf clubs — the other is Marina Bay Golf Course — that will not have their leases extended. The 44 hectares of land that it is sitting on is slated for residential development after the lease expires on Dec 31, 2021. The club has been offered an alternative site — the location of which has not been confirmed — to operate as a social club.

On Monday, the club held a two-hour dialogue with its members on the matter. The discussions got heated at times as the management laid out various plans it was considering. Members present did not reach a consensus on which option to pursue. Options overseas include golf courses in The Legends Golf and Country Resort and Tanjong Puteri Golf Resort, both in Johor, and the Ria Bintan Golf Resort.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson from The Legends Fort Canning Park, which owns The Legends Golf and Country Resort, said the club has been approached informally. Adding that no official talks have taken place, Club Manager Amy Cheong said: “Some members from Keppel Club approached us in their personal capacity showing interest in a possible collaboration, but there is nothing concrete or official yet.”

It is understood that a possible option is for Keppel Club to buy an 18-hole course from The Legends’ site in Johor and use its Fort Canning Park site as a social club.

Among the other clubs TODAY contacted, Laguna National Golf and Country Club declined to comment, while Raffles Country Club and Tanah Merah Country Club said they have not spoken to Keppel Club on potential collaborations. A Raffles Country Club spokesman added that there is “no decision nor intention to collaborate with Keppel Club for the time being”.

Keppel Club members whom TODAY spoke to said they were not keen on a social club, as they bought the membership for the golfing facilities. Retiree James Quek, 65, pointed out that there are already several social clubs. “If you really want (membership for a social club), why not join another club? Keppel Club is a golfing club,” he said.

He added that he supported a suggestion from members during the dialogue for the club to lower its monthly subscription fees and run down its reserves until the lease is up.

The club management committee said its position is “in line with the members’ aspiration to continue having a golf course”. “Keppel Club is historically and predominantly a golf club and our golf course is substantially utilised by our members,” it said.

Nevertheless, it added that should it fail to acquire a golf course for its members despite all efforts, “we may have no alternative but to consider a social club for the time being”.

While some members have suggested letting the club run down its reserves, the management said this will be the “worst-case scenario” that will not be “lightly considered at this moment”.

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He has cut down 15 trees since dry spell started

The dry season has affected landscape companies because they have to choose between conserving water and saving the plants.
Jasmine Lim The New Paper AsiaOne 19 Mar 14;

The lingering dry spell is burning a hole in the pockets of horticulturists, who help to keep the Garden City green.

Mr M. Palanichamy, the owner of Good View Gardening & Landscape Construction, said that since the dry season started, he has cut down 15 trees, which were valued at a total of around $20,000.

He even had to chop down a dead tree that had been there for three years because he was worried that it would fall and cause serious damage.

Mr Palanichamy, 50, said this is the worst dry spell he has seen in Singapore since coming here 28 years ago from India.

His company takes care of the landscaping and plants of more than 150 condominiums, schools and private estates around the island.

Like most horticulturists, his contract with his clients states that he has to replace all plants that die.

The dry spell will cost him, but he was not willing to disclose how much he will have to spend replacing the dead plants.

But to get a sense of the money involved: One client spent about $30,000 on the landscaping for his bungalow in Berkshire Road, just off Alexandra Road, but it has been devastated by the dry spell that killed most of the shrubs, pearl grass and even some palm trees.

Mr Palanichamy said: "The client called asking to replace the plants, but there's no point because they will die in this weather."

Confined by concrete

He said some of the trees in Singapore are hit particularly badly because each tree is confined to such a small space surrounded by concrete.

Mr Palanichamy said he would not cut down a tree until he was sure that it was dead.

"Some trees look dead, but if you see a few green leaves, they can still be saved with just one rainfall."

He also said that cow grass, the type of grass we usually see by roads, is resilient. Even when the grass is totally brown, it will be able to grow again with some watering.

Mr Makesh Kumar, the manager of Lovely Landscape & Construction, said that more than 100 of his plants have died, including 10 trees.

Mr Kumar, 33, said: "We are getting so many complaints from clients now saying that their plants are dying. It's also affecting our income because no new projects are coming in with this weather."

Said Mr Palanichamy: "The cost of replacing the dying plants is much more than the cost of water. So we are still watering them to keep them alive."

He said he would wait until after it rains to replace all the dead plants because if he were to plant them now, they would still require more watering through the dry spell.

Mr John Tan, a horticulturist and the owner of Esmond Landscape and Horticulture, said they have to prioritise which plants get replaced.

He said: "If we can delay (planting them), then we will. It depends on how important the plants are, if they are at the front of the building then they should be replaced. If they are in the back where no one can see them, they can wait."

Following the Government's call to conserve water, Mr Palanichamy said his workers are now using sprinklers so that they can water more plants at a time.

He said: "Most of the plants don't need a lot of water, they just need moisture to survive, unless they are potted plants, which need more water."

He said that these days, without the rain, the plants have to be watered daily, which means that more of his workers are working overtime.

Mr Kumar agreed that without rain, more manpower is needed to water the plants because the frequency of watering them has doubled in a day.

He said there is nothing much he can do now and that they are just managing the damage the best they can.

Mr Tan advised clients to water plants "responsibly", which means watering them in the morning and not in the afternoon, when most of the water would evaporate quickly because of the scorching heat.

"I worry every time I see dead plants. Now, I'm just waiting for it to rain again," Mr Palanichamy said.

Given yesterday's rains and the weather forecast of rain for the next three days, things may be looking up for them.

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Mosquito traps to be placed in residential areas to fight dengue

Woo Sian Boon Today Online 19 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — As part of their efforts to control the spread of dengue here, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will be progressively placing gravi-traps in different residential areas to reduce the mosquito population.

Developed by the NEA’s Environmental Health Institute, gravi-traps are black cylindrical containers with sticky surfaces which will trap female Aedes mosquitoes looking for water surfaces to lay their eggs.

A trial was previously conducted from October until last month, where about 1,300 gravi-traps were placed in the Housing Board estates in Clementi and Bukit Panjang.

Said a NEA spokesperson: “Through tracking which Gravitraps are capturing mosquitoes, and analysing this data together with other field intelligence, we can obtain a better sense of which areas have a higher mosquito population and where there may be undiscovered sources of mosquito breeding, so that we can optimise our vector control efforts.”

Apart from the trial, NEA is also deploying Gravitraps in large dengue clusters to complement other mosquito control measures. Last year, about 1,500 Gravitraps were deployed in about 80 clusters.

For example, it was used to monitor the Orchard Road cluster, which became the largest dengue hotspot in December.

During his ministry’s committee of supply debate, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan cautioned that the dengue outbreak which Singapore has been experiencing since last year is not over yet, although the numbers have come down significantly.

The number of dengue cases had hit a historic high of 22,170 cases last year, with 3,420 cases detected so far this year as of yesterday at 3.30pm.

NEA to place mosquito traps in more areas to curb dengue
Lee Zhengyi Channel NewsAsia 19 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: In a bid to control the spread of dengue, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will be progressively deploying Gravitraps to more areas in Singapore.

Gravitraps are black cylindrical containers which trap female Aedes mosquitoes that are looking for water surfaces to lay their eggs.

Trapping them reduces the mosquito population.

Last year, it deployed 1,500 Gravitraps in 80 clusters, excluding Clementi and Bukit Panjang.

In a trial that took place from October 2013 to February 2014, NEA deployed around 1,300 Gravitraps at public housing estates in Clementi and Bukit Panjang.

Close to 800 Aedes mosquitoes were captured.

NEA said that these traps provide their officers with useful surveillance information that helps them when planning inspections and it also provides them with a better sense of the areas that have a higher mosquito breeding population.

The Gravitraps were developed by the NEA's Environmental Health Institute.

There have been more than 3,000 cases of dengue reported so far this year.

NEA said: "The Gravitraps are checked regularly to ensure that they are functioning properly. As the Gravitraps are an important tool in our fight against dengue, we seek the co-operation of members of the public not to remove or tamper with the Gravitraps.

"If members of the public come across Gravitraps that have been toppled, please contact 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255632) to report."

- CNA/xq

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Singapore looks to California for lessons on water management

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 18 Mar 14;

ORANGE COUNTY, California: Singapore's NEWater model of producing drinking water from used water is the result of much learning from California's Orange County Water District, which first started on it in the late 1990s.

Almost two decades on, Singapore's national water agency PUB said it is still relevant to look at the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize winners for ways on utilising resources in an efficient and sustainable manner.

The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize recognises individuals or organisations that use ground-breaking technology or innovative policies in solving water problems.

In arid California, it is a four-step process to give Orange County residents drinking water from used household water.

This includes filtering water through tens of thousands of fibre bundles to remove bacteria and other organisms, and exposing it to ultraviolet light for further purification.

This process is the final step in disinfecting and further purifying water.

The treatment process is similar to what PUB does at its NEWater plant to recycle water from households and light industries into drinking water.

But where NEWater is released into reservoirs, the Orange County Water District injects half of its recycled water into wells underground.

The pressure is enough to stop seawater from contaminating its current supply of groundwater.

The other water sources include water from the Santa Ana River.

It takes at least six months until the stored groundwater can be extracted again.

Michael Markus, general manager of Orange County Water District, said: "We're ground water managers. Our problem is -- this area is dependent on two outside sources of water.

"So over the years, it's become evident that we need to build local water supply reliability and that's why we built the Groundwater Replenishment System... so that we could have that reliable source of water that we can depend on, that we could replenish our aquifers which become part of our potable drinking water supply.

"It helps us become somewhat independent from those outside sources of water."

Harry Seah, chief technology officer of PUB, said: "In a way, the driver here is that instead of incurring so much energy to pump water across the Rocky (Mountains), Colorado, and then taking water from the north of California, where it's long distance, looking at this project helps us to understand that we also need to utilise our own resources efficiently and in a sustainable way of managing the system -- so that in the end, you can have good, affordable water."

While it is still at an early stage, PUB said it is also looking at the California agency's water management system as it embarks on its own groundwater journey.

- CNA/de

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Malaysia: Cloud seeding to go on if need arises despite rain forecast

nurbaiti hamdan The Star 19 Mar 14;

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD) will continue with cloud seeding operations if the need arises despite the forecast rain with the coming inter-monsoon season.

MMD atmospheric science and cloud seeding division director Azhar Ishak said the department would assess the need for cloud seeding during the inter-monsoon, as the dry spell over the last two months has caused the water level in dams to drop.

“If the forecast rain is not enough to fill the dams, we will continue with cloud seeding.

“We expect states in the West Coast area to receive normal rainfall of between 200 and 300mm during inter-monsoon. States in the East Coast would also receive rainfall but not as much as the West Coast,” he told The Star yesterday.

The inter-monsoon season, which is expected to begin end of this month, will last until the middle of May.

Azhar also said the recent rainfall in Klang Valley were a mix of natural rain and cloud seeding.

The department had carried out cloud seeding yesterday over water catchment areas in Selangor and Malacca.

“The natural rain is due to the eastern wind that came from the Western Pacific Ocean. This is the last phase (of rain) in the East Coast monsoon season before we make the transition into the inter-monsoon season,” he said.

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Indonesia: WWF Inks Deal With Maluku Islet to Protect Waters

Rizky Amelia Jakarta Globe 19 Mar 14;

A recent, undated handout photo received on September 2, 2013 from environmental group Conversation International shows a recently discovered species of “walking” shark in the waters off Halmahera, one of the Maluku Islands. (AFP Photo/Conservation International/Mark Erdmann)

Jakarta. The World Wide Fund for Nature announced the signing of a marine conservation agreement with the indigenous community of Seram Island in Maluku to protect the fisheries potential in the area.

Abdullah Habibi, capture fisheries coordinator at WWF Indonesia, said the Kataloka community was chosen because of the tremendous fisheries potential in the waters where it lived. The area consists of four small islets — Nukus, Koon, Gorom and Grogos — and is rich with a wide variety of fish, though the conservation would be focused around Koon.

“Koon has been long known as a spawning spot for some grouper species,” Abdullah said.

The agreement between WWF and the local community is aimed at conserving the marine potential in the area.

Abdullah said the area was chosen as a conservation area because the Kataloka’s local wisdom was strong, and with a strong community sprint the conservation would be easily implemented.

Community leader M. Syaiful Akbar Humarei said that by declaring Koon as a conservation area it was expected that environmental destruction would decline.

“The destruction that happens to our sea is mostly caused by our own people. Some continue to use fish bombs and if we don’t stop then the island and the ecosystem will be destroyed,” he said.

By declaring Koon as a conservation area, local fishermen will no longer be allowed to take any fish or coral from the area. Locals who violate the rule could be ordered to pay up to Rp 5 million ($440) in fines. If the violators are from outside community they could be fined a maximum of Rp 15 million.

Some locals have been appointed as patrol officers to prevent people from violating the fishing prohibition in Koon that applies to more than two hectares.

Despite the prohibition, some locals said they would not comply with the new regulation and would carry on fishing in the area.

Odi Anzar, who lives on Grogos, said he had often caught fish in the conservation area and had never been punished.

“I still catch fish. I was arrested once and was given a warning, but I keep coming back to catch fish,” he said.

WWF has warned Indonesia to pay special attention to the maritime and fisheries sectors, which are facing the threat of natural resources overexploitation.

The increasing damage to the maritime sector has prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to set up a target to have 20 million hectares of sea dedicated as conservation areas by 2020.

Currently Indonesia has 15.39 million hectares of marine conservation area.

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Indonesia: Clear days welcomed as thousands recover

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Ina Parlina, The Jakarta Post 19 Mar 14;

Hotel operators in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, are upbeat as the haze that engulfed the tourist city for more than a month is now receding, while thousands of Riau residents are also now recovering from respiratory illnesses.

The head of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association’s Bukittinggi chapter, Syafroni Falian, said hotel operators were excited as the air had been clear since Sunday.

“We are also glad the media has reported that the haze is receding, so our guests will return to Bukittinggi for vacations and to hold meetings,” Syafroni said on Tuesday.

According to Syafroni, the haze that blanketed Bukittinggi for more than a month caused a drop in hotel occupancy rates of between 25 and 30 percent. The worst impact was felt when the haze was at its densest, which caused rates to drop by up to 60 percent over a period of five days.

“The impact has been really felt as January to March is still low season [when there is] an occupancy rate of between 35 and 40 percent,” he said.

Apart from hotels, a number of tourist sites in Bukittinggi have also struggled as a result of the haze. The number of visitors to the Bukittinggi Wildlife and Cultural Park and Bukittinggi Japanese Cave, for instance, dropped by 60 percent.

As of Tuesday at noon, the air quality in several areas in Riau had also improved, according to National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

“The air quality in Riau is better than before. The ISPU [air pollution standards index] in Pekanbaru is 71, or mid-level, in Duri Camp [the level is] 26, or good and in Petapahan [it is] 37, or good,” Sutopo said.

Sutopo also said the Riau Health Agency reported that only two patients were still being treated for haze-related illness.

Previously, the agency recorded that as many as 61,647 Riau residents had suffered from haze-related illnesses, including acute respiratory infections, pneumonia and skin and eye irritation between Feb. 1 and March 18.

Meanwhile, National Police chief Gen. Sutarman reiterated that the police would take a tough stance on dealing with those involved in the land-burning activities that caused the thick haze in Riau.

“The shoot [on sight] measure is at the discretion of the police; there was no order [to do so],” Sutarman said on the sidelines of an event at the Vice Presidential Office on Tuesday. “However, if the offenders harm the police or other people, the police should use their weapons; those are the guidelines.”

Media outlets have reported that Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan also called for culprits to be shot on sight if they resisted arrest.

Separately, the Forestry Anti-Mafia Coalition demanded that the government improve the timber legality verification system (SVLK), in light of its failure to eradicate illegal logging.

“Many corporations seem to have complied with the system, but actually they are continuing to bribe officials in order to get verification,” said Emerson Yuntho, law division coordinator for the Indonesia Corruption Watch. (gda)

Rains Quell Riau Hotspots
Jakarta Globe 18 Mar 14;

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono; Minister of Home Affairs Gamawan Fauzi, left; Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi, right; and BNPB head Syamsul Maarif, second from left, surrounded by haze in Pekanbaru, Riau province, on March 16. (AFP Photo/ Rizki)

Jakarta. The Riau branch of the Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) announced on Tuesday that Sumatra was finally free of hotspots after months of thick haze disrupted flights, caused school cancellations and made nearly 60,000 people ill in the province.

“In Sumatra, there are no hotspot detectable by satellite,” Riau BPBD head Said Saqlul Amri said, as quoted by state-run Antara news agency. The province had not been hotspot free for three months, according to information obtained in frequent scans by NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites.

On Sunday, four fires remained burning, inducing one in Riau’s Indragiri Hilir district.

Riau’s BPBD chief said the fires had been doused in the past few days by heavy rains in the region, which the Pekanbaru branch of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said would likely continue for several days.

“The cloud growth is getting better and, with the application of weather-modification technology, we expect more rain,” Pekanbaru BMKG head Sugarin said.

The Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) was charged with cloud seeding in the region, dispersing 29.9 tons of silver iodide in Riau’s skies over the past few weeks.

“Weather-modification technology has successfully induced rainfall on some regions of Riau,” national BNPB chief Agus Wibowo said, as quoted by Antara.

Riau Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Cmr. Guntur Aryo Tejo on Tuesday said 66 haze-related arrests had been made — one corporate employee and the rest individual farmers.

“The number could still grow because there are some other cases which are still being investigated,” he said on Tuesday, as quoted by Indonesian news portal He said that five suspects were being sought actively.

Riau provincial health official Zainal Arifin said on Monday that the provincial capital, Pekanbaru, along with the Rokan Hilir, Bengkalis and Dumai districts, had borne the brunt of the public health impact.

“Hopefully, rain in some regions over the past few days could decrease the haze pollution and the number of people suffering from diseases caused by haze won’t increased anymore,” he said, according to local news portal

At the peak of this year’s haze season, over 1,000 fires were recorded by satellites burning in Sumatra’s forests and peatlands.

Riau forest fires claim three lives
Antara 18 Mar 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The forest, plantation and peat-soil fires razing in Riau Province over the past two months, have claimed three lives.

The first victim, an asthma patient from Pelalawan district, was chocked to death due to the smog haze coming from the fires, according to information from the Riau Haze Disaster Mitigation Task Force on Tuesday.

The second victim, identified as Muhammad Adli, 63, died after falling into burning peat-soil, Meranti Islands Police Chief Adjunct Senior Commissioner Zahwani Pandra Arsyad pointed out.

His body with serious burn wounds in the back was found in Sungai Gayung Kiri village, Rangsang sub-district, on March 8.

The third victim a Muslim employee of PT Surya Dumia Agrindo, died while trying to help put out fires in Bengkalis district on March 15. He was killed when a tree fell on him.

Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Syamsul Maarif had earlier stated that the social affairs ministry will provide financial compensation to the families of the victims.

Thousands of people affected by haze were provided with free medical services, he remarked.

The number of people whose health has been affected by haze coming from forest fires in Riau province, increased to 55.4 thousand on March 13 from 43.8 thousand on March 10.

"There was an increase of 5,831 people from the number on the previous day (Wednesday, Mar. 12)," Head of the Riau Health Office Zainal Arifin observed last week.

The largest number or 48,390 people suffered from respiratory infection; 11,798 of the affected people were residents of Pekanbaru, 8,033 residents of Rokan Hilir, and 6,136 of Bengkalis district, he revealed.

Some 2,481 people in Riau suffered from skin irritation. The number of people suffering from asthma in Riau was 1,872. At least 1,768 people suffered from eye irritation. Some 911 people suffered from pneumonia.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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China vows to clean up 60 percent of cities by 2020

Kathy Chen, Stian Reklev and David Stanway PlanetArk 19 Mar 14;

China vows to clean up 60 percent of cities by 2020 Photo: Carlos Barria
The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is seen during a hazy day at Pudong financial district in Shanghai March 18, 2014.
Photo: Carlos Barria

China pledged on Sunday that it will make sure that 60 percent of its cities meet national pollution standards by 2020, with pressure growing to make cities liveable as hundreds of millions of migrants are expected to relocate from the countryside.

China's environmental problems such as pollution and water scarcity are expected to intensify as rapid migration pushes urban infrastructures to the limit. Almost all Chinese cities monitored for pollution last year failed to meet the standards.

The environment has emerged as a key priority amid growing public disquiet about smog, dwindling and polluted water supplies and the contamination of farmland. Poor air quality is estimated to end hundreds of thousands of lives prematurely each year and has led to a series of riots and public protests.

The pledge to clean up the nation's major metropolitan centers was made in a State Council plan for how to deal with China's rapid urbanization drive.

"We will improve and promote green, sustainable and low carbon development in the urbanization process, enforcing the strictest measures on ecological and environmental systems," the plan said.

According to the State Council, 60 percent of the cities will meet national air quality standards in 2020, which it said was up from 40 percent in 2012.

However, at China's annual parliamentary session earlier this month, officials said only three of 74 major cities met the pollution standards in 2013.

The State Council plan outlined a lengthy list of policies it will implement to meet the target, including boosting renewable energy use, curbing emission-intensive industries and taking the most-polluting vehicles off the roads.

China will also set up a tiered pricing system for electricity, natural gas and water, to control rapid growth in consumption of scarce natural resources.

The government plans to roll out trading systems for carbon and air pollutant emissions, energy-saving certificates and water to provide economic incentives to reduce waste.

China has already picked seven key regions to launch pilot carbon trading schemes with the intention of setting up a national market to cut emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Guangdong province has already launched an emissions trading scheme, along with the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin.


China is also seeking to ensure it has enough labor in its vast farming sector to guarantee food security, with rural worker shortages one of the country's biggest challenges.

The State Council plan restated China's commitment to protect agricultural land from further urban and industrial encroachment, a policy known as its "red line." It promised more state investment in major food-producing regions, improved insurance coverage in rural areas and reforms to the pricing systems of major agricultural commodities.

It also promised to raise farming mechanization rates to around 70 percent from current levels of 60 percent.

(Reporting by Kathy Chen, Stian Reklev and David Stanway; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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Global warming will cut crop harvests by 2% each decade, researchers say

Decline in predicted crop yields is larger than first thought and could endanger food security, unless CO² emissions are cut
Oliver Milman 19 Mar 14;

Wheat field Australia Wheat harvests in tropical areas will be among those crops most affected with yields declining by 40% under modelling by researchers. Photograph: Simon Freeman/AAP/Grain Corp

Climate change will cause bigger falls in crop yields than previously thought, exacerbating food insecurity, a new study has found.

The research, conducted by Australian, British and American scientists, found that the situation will worsen in the second half of the century, with tropical areas worse hit than temperate regions.

An analysis of more than 1,700 simulations found that across all regions and all crops, including wheat, maize and rice, yields will drop by 2% each decade, based on a 2C rise by 2050.

However, for some crops, the situation will be much worse, with wheat and maize in tropical areas experiencing a 40% decline if temperatures reach 5C warmer than pre-industrial levels.

Governments have agreed a target of limiting temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels, although scientists warn the planet could experience a 4C or even 5C rise if carbon dioxide emissions are not drastically cut.

The report’s co-author Dr Mark Howden, of the CSIRO, said the situation was worse than previously thought.

“We looked at a whole range of temperature and rainfall scenarios and found results that were distinctly far more negative than the previous IPCC report,” he said.

“The impacts are consistently negative beyond 2C of warming. There will be greater and greater impacts upon crop yields in future decades. Maize is the most sensitive, but also crops grown in tropical environments such as wheat and rice.”

Howden said countries already expected to suffer food insecurity due to climate change will be the worst hit by yield declines, with rising temperatures causing more damage than changes to rainfall patterns.

In Australia, a lack of rainfall will be the biggest issue for many farming areas, with a hotter, drier climate causing more variable, lower yields.

Howden said adaption to these trends, such as changing planting times and irrigation, could produce a 10-15% increase in global yields compared to no action, providing food to 500 million to 1 billion people around the world.

However, with increased consumption and population growth will require a 14% increase in yields per decade, a target Howden said would be “far more difficult” with climate change.

“We have to work on the adaption path, so manage the climate we will expect rather than the one we currently have,” he said.

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