Best of our wild blogs: 20 Mar 14

Sea Slugs and Stormy Seas
from Pulau Hantu

How much do we know about our Eurasian Tree-sparrow?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Horsfield's Baron
from Butterflies of Singapore

Frogs on my mind
from Life's Indulgences

Photos: Forests, peatlands, plantations, and deforestation in Riau from news by Rhett Butler

Read more!

Singapore's overall air quality to stay in moderate range

Channel NewsAsia 19 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said Singapore's overall air quality was in the moderate range on Wednesday. It is expected to stay in that range for the next 24 hours.

As of 8pm, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was between 28 and 37, while the 24-hour PM2.5 measurement was in the moderate range of 15 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre.

NEA said showers in parts of Peninsular Malaysia and central Sumatra on Wednesday afternoon helped to further improve the haze situation there.

Nine hotspots were detected in Peninsular Malaysia while 26 were found in Sumatra.

NEA added that the low hotspot count is due to cloud cover.

As of 4pm, the air quality in most areas of Peninsular Malaysia was in the good range.

NEA said over the next few days, prevailing winds in the surrounding region are forecast to blow mainly from the northeast, and Singapore can expect thundery showers in the afternoon.

- CNA/fa

Read more!

Malaysia: Recent rains fail to refill dams

patrick lee The Star 20 Mar 14;

PETALING JAYA: Rainfall in the Klang Valley in the past few days has done little to replenish Selangor’s drying dams, with its largest only weeks away from dipping below critical capacity levels.

Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS) director Md Khairi Selamat said water levels at most of the state’s dams did not rise despite the rain.

“There has been no water capacity increase in six of the dams in Selangor,” he said, adding that only the Klang Gates Dam saw a very small rise in water level, since cloud seeding started on March 15.

Last Thursday, LUAS on its website stated that the Sungai Selangor Dam was at 40.53% capacity. Latest capacity readings for the state’s largest dam, as of 8am Tuesday, was 38.97%.

The other dams also saw lower water levels than last week: 90.49% (Batu); 51.23% (Klang Gates), 57.55% (Langat), 74.91% (Semenyih), Sungai Tinggi (67.58%) and 90.48% (Tasik Subang).

The Star previously reported that the Sungai Selangor dam’s critical capacity point was at 30%, and that this might be reached in about 24 days from now.

Md Khairi said the release of water from the Sungai Selangor dam, which serves 60% of the state’s water needs, would gradually be limited to 500 million litres a day.

Sungai Tinggi, he added, would also be limited to a water release of between 100 to 200 million litres a day.

He said state-owned company Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd (KSSB) helped LUAS by releasing water from ponds in Bestari Jaya into nearby rivers, estimating that about 223 million litres could be released per day.

In 2013, the demand for treated water in both Selangor and the Klang Valley was at 4,641 million litres a day.

National Weather Forecast Centre director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said weather conditions suitable for cloud seeding were expected to last until this Sunday.

“It might not be so good next week. We’re monitoring the conditions every day,” he said.

Muhammad added that there might be a “temporary break” in seeding-conducive weather then, though he did not say how long this would last.

Cloud seeding resumed in Malaysia on March 15 after the Royal Malaysian Air Force recalled a C-130 Hercules from MH370 search duty for this purpose.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili previously warned that unless rainy weather came to Malaysia, a water emergency might be declared.

Read more!

Indonesia: Haze handling in Riau should not become regular agenda -- President

Antara 19 Mar 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the work to prevent land fires in the Riau province was conducted systematically and involved all parties, so the handling of land fires should not become a regular agenda.

"April through October (would be dry season), the root problem that causes the land fires must be tackled, and it is the only way to overcome the haze problem in Riau," the president said when opening a limited cabinet meeting at the Presidential Office on Wednesday evening.

The president when meeting with fire fighters in the Riau province on Saturday, March 15, asked for an increase in fire fighting operations and urged fire fighters to extinguish the blazes within three weeks.

"The intensity of the operations must be increased and I hope they can be finished in three weeks," he said.

The cabinet meeting, which took place at the Presidential Office starting 03.00 p.m., also discussed Malaysias request for help to search for its missing airplane.

Also present at the meeting were Vice President Boediono, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for Peoples Welfare Agung Laksono, Finance Minister Chatib Basri, Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi, National Police Chief Gen. Sutarman and National Defense Forces Chief General Moeldoko. (*)

Editor: Heru

Read more!

Indonesia: Jakarta land reclamation for giant sea wall project

The Jakarta Post 20 Mar 14;

The city administration is seriously considering the inclusion of a land-reclamation project in its master plan for a giant sea wall at Jakarta Bay.

The giant sea wall will curb floods in the North Jakarta area, which are exacerbated by the rising sea level and high tides.

Jakarta deputy governor for spatial planning Sarwo Handayani said recently that while the master plan was still being drafted by the administration, it had decided to expand the land along the coast of North Jakarta to accommodate the sea wall.

“Nothing is definite yet, but one thing is certain — we will try to reclaim some land in order to accommodate the project,” Sarwo told The Jakarta Post.

The administration is currently in the process of finding an investor for the Rp 280 trillion (US$24.7 billion) project.

The Artha Graha Group expressed investor interest during a meeting with North Jakarta Mayor Heru Budi Hartono earlier this month.

Sarwo confirmed that no other investors had come forward.

Heru said no deal had been made with Artha Graha during last week’s meeting.

“At the meeting, just concepts for the project were discussed,” said Heru as quoted by

Heru also revealed that if Artha Graha won the project tender, it planned to build a Disneyland-inspired theme park on the site of former Hotel Radin in Ancol, North Jakarta, in a joint operation with the administration.

The giant sea wall project was the brainchild of former Jakarta governor Fauzi Bowo.

Besides the sea wall, the administration also plans to build 17 artificial islets off Jakarta’s northern coast, in order to strengthen the coastline. Some parts of North Jakarta are vulnerable to flooding as they are below sea level. (dyl)

Read more!

Chinese insurer offers Beijing residents cover against smog

David Stanway PlanetArk 19 Mar 14;

A state-owned Chinese insurer will offer residents of Beijing insurance cover against health risks caused by air pollution, promising to pay out 1,500 yuan ($240) to policy holders hospitalized by smog.

The policy, available for 10-50 year olds, will also pay out 300 yuan ($48.56) when the city's official smog index exceeds 300 for five consecutive days, a level considered "hazardous", according to a notice posted on the People's Insurance Company of China (PICC) website (

Beijing's official air quality index (AQI), which measures airborne pollutants including particulate matter and sulphur dioxide, routinely exceeds 300, and sometimes hits levels higher than 500.

The capital is on the frontline of a "war on pollution" that

Premier Li Keqiang declared earlier this month in a major policy speech. Beijing is choked by traffic and surrounded by the big and heavily polluted industrial province of Hebei.

Last month, the city's environmental protection bureau issued an air pollution "yellow alert" for the first time, triggering a series of emergency measures to reduce dust from roads and construction sites.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Chinese smog insurance: travel agency offers air pollution policies
China's largest online travel agency,, has launched a 'haze-travel insurance package', allowing tourists to claim compensation for trips ruined by pollution
Will Coldwell 19 Mar 14;

China's largest online travel agency is now offering tourists "smog insurance", permitting travellers to claim financial compensation should their city break be blighted by bad air. has created the "haze-travel insurance package" in collaboration with the Chinese insurance firm Ping An and has been selling the new product since Tuesday.

The insurance is focused on six cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an, all of which are popular with tourists – and also suffer from poor air quality. Pollution in China was recently described by scientists as like a "nuclear winter" and smog frequently grounds flights and keeps tourists at home. On one day during a recent bout of bad weather, Beijing's Forbidden City saw visitor numbers drop to 11,200: a quarter of its usual daily draw.

Under the new insurance package, tourists who spend at least two days in the designated city while pollution levels are high will be able to file claims. The level of pollution that triggers an insurance claim varies between the cities but for visitors to Shanghai, claims can be made if the air pollution index exceeds 100. In the past month the city experienced 17 days over this level.

Evidently aimed at domestic rather than international tourists, the premium comes to 10RMB (£1) and travellers can claim 50RMB (£5) per day.

The data for the pollution will be measured using the China Air Quality Index app, which broadcasts the levels of all the country's major cities and is among the top 10 most popular weather apps in China. The popularity of the app is in itself an indication of the lengths Chinese people will go to avoid pollution.

In Hong Kong, bad air quality and poor visibility has led visitors to pose for photos in front of a photo backdrop of the city's skyline. However, when it comes to smog insurance not all tourists in the country are convinced. Tian Yiyi, a sales representative with a Shanghai-based furniture company, told China Daily that despite travelling widely she would not be buying the premium. "The premium does not go directly to tackle the heavily polluted air," she said. "I would like the money to be put to better use."

Qian Yigang, 28, a technician at a Shanghai-based IT company told the paper: "People travel around for fun. If their mood is upset by poor atmospheric conditions, it cannot be fixed by money."

Read more!