Best of our wild blogs: 3-4 May 14

Checking up on beautiful Pulau Hantu
from wild shores of singapore

100m abandoned driftnet at Pulau Hantu (3 May 2014)
from Project Driftnet Singapore

Special Day at Changi
from wild shores of singapore

Turtles, fishies and more at Kusu Island
from wonderful creation

Life History of the Besta Palm Dart
from Butterflies of Singapore

Von Schrenck’s Bittern
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Read more!

400kg crocodile found dead at Kranji Reservoir

Fondly nicknamed Barney by anglers, its death has puzzled experts as the creature had seemed relatively young and healthy, and had no visible injuries.
The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 May 14;

SINGAPORE - A 400kg crocodile, probably one of the largest to have roamed wild here in decades, has been found dead on the Kranji Reservoir grounds.

National water agency PUB, which oversees the area, said that it received feedback from its crocodile handler on April 18 that a dead crocodile was spotted at the Kranji Reservoir area.

"Upon receiving the report, PUB officers immediately went on site and found a dead crocodile. Arrangements were then made for the crocodile handler to remove it from the reservoir and the dead crocodile was disposed of at a nearby farm," said Mr Tan Nguan Sen, Director of Catchment & Waterways at PUB.

There is a history of crocodile sightings at the Kranji Reservoir area, PUB said in a media statement.

Twelve crocodiles have been caught alive since 1989, with the last one caught in 2006. There were no crocodile sightings reported in Kranji in 2012 and 2013.

PUB said it received a report that a crocodile was spotted in Jan 2014 at the Kranji Intake Bund, which is located at a remote area of the reservoir and is out-of-bounds to the public. There are warning signs to alert the public on the potential presence of crocodiles there.

"Since 1989, PUB has authorised a team of crocodile handlers to capture them alive and hand them over to a crocodile farm in Kranji for safekeeping. This measure was taken to prevent the crocodile from endangering workers and visitors to the reservoir," said Mr Tan.

PUB said its officers carry out surveillance at the reservoir on a daily basis. In the event that crocodiles are spotted, fishing activities are suspended as a safety precaution.

To preserve the natural and tranquil setting of Kranji Reservoir, PUB has not introduced water-based activities at Kranji Reservoir. However, designated areas are opened up for recreational fishing. The designated fishing ground is located near the areas where amenities such as transportation and toilets are available.

Should the public spot any crocodiles, they are advised not to provoke them and to keep away. Once at a safe distance, they should immediately contact PUB's 24 hour call centre at 1800 284 6600 or AVA's Animal Response Centre at 1800 476 1600.

Read more!

Urban jungle: Urban Singapore continues to see wild animals

Stephanie Gascon The New Paper AsiaOne 4 May 14;


Snakes were found in two swimming pools recently - at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex on Tuesday and a Pasir Ris condominium on March 27.

The snake at Toa Payoh, found during the pool's half-day weekly maintenance, was a reticulated python.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) was called to remove the snake and release it into the wild.

The reticulated python is non-venomous and kills its prey by constricting it with its body.

Miss Anbarasi Boopal, Acres' group director of wildlife, said this was the third such case they had handled.

She said pythons are good swimmers, and the snakes may have entered the pool to "hide".

Like humans, snakes are not harmed by short-term exposure to chlorine in the water, she said.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) advisory on snakes states that the public should not confront the snake but to keep an eye on it from a safe distance and note where it goes while calling the relevant authorities for help.


Residents of Block 810, Yishun Ring Road, saw an unusual bystander at their lift lobby on Sept 21 last year.

It was a monitor lizard, over 1m long.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) later coaxed the lizard out of the lobby, caught it and released it in Yishun Neighbourhood Park.

Monitor lizards are carnivorous, but they scavenge more than hunt. Their usual habitats are near water bodies or forested areas, but they can turn up in other areas when scavenging for food. Acres' Miss Anbarasi Boopal said monitor lizards are calm and generally "shy" around humans, but may whip their tails or bite if provoked. BEES A family found a beehive in their air-conditioning unit in their Redhill flat last month.

The family hired pest controllers to kill the bees.

Dr John Ascher, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore's Department of Biological Science, said that the species of bees that is mostly responsible for the hives found in urban areas, the Asian Honey Bee, is not particularly aggressive and therefore, not very dangerous.

"This species rarely poses a great danger to non-allergic passers-by even though it is very common in urban Singapore," he said.

As the bees seek cavities with small holes to build their hives in, Dr Ascher advised that it is best to find and seal such holes to avoid ending up living with a beehive.


In May last year, a resident living on an 11th-storey flat in Telok Blangah Drive got a rude shock when she found a monkey climbing on her balcony grilles, baring its teeth and screeching loudly.

Miss Anbarasi said that monkeys are known to use residential areas to travel between forested areas, and would not linger unless they have been offered food.

She said: "It is important to not have any food available for the monkeys, even in the trash."

She also cautioned against smiling at the monkeys if they bare their teeth at you.

"These are signs that the monkey is frightened, and doing so may threaten them more.

"Don't stare back and just move away slowly."


A wild boar injured a Cisco officer and attacked a young boy in an incident at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on June 22, 2012.

When asked about the wild boar's aggressive behaviour, Miss Anbarasi said wild boar are actually prey animals by nature and will choose to flee most of the time if approached.

But they can grow to a considerable size and weight. So should they start charging, the impact could be huge.

Nevertheless, she stressed the importance of not approaching them: "Wild boar are actually very shy. So it is important to keep a fair distance and not approach them.

"Also refrain from making sudden movements so as to not startle them."

Read more!

Found a bee hive? Better leave it to the experts

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 May 14;

SINGAPORE - Bee attacks in Singapore are rare, because the insects will attack only when they perceive a threat to their hive, experts said.

They were reacting to news of a coroner's inquiry on Monday into the death of a pest control officer - he had died last November after being stung by bees.

Apart from instances where a hive is deliberately disturbed, such as when sticks and stones are hurled at it, a perceived threat could also take the form of hive displacement caused by a branch snapping or tree falling, experts added.

"The bees perceive that their hive is being threatened by a predator... any vertebrate moving near the nest could be attacked," said Dr John Ascher from the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore.

A check of newspaper reports suggests that bee attacks in Singapore are indeed rare: The last reported incident was in December 2012, when eight passengers were attacked by a swarm of bees as they sat on chairlifts over Sentosa.

Then last November, pest control officer Mohammad Sallehen Mohd Ali, 30, died in hospital from bee venom after he was stung multiple times by a swarm of giant honey bees - one of the most dangerous species of honey bees due to their larger size.

He and two colleagues had gone to Sherwood Road in Tanglin on Nov 6 to dispose of a hive found near a fallen tree, discovered by Singapore Land Authority officers.

Insect expert Carl Baptista said Mr Sallehen might have been slow in escaping the insects as he weighed 120kg.

Bee stings could cause death in two ways, said Dr Ascher.

An allergic reaction to bee venom, for instance, could trigger anaphylaxis - a condition with symptoms such as rash and the swelling of the throat. In such cases, even one sting could lead to death.

But death could also be caused by mass envenomation - resulting in a dangerous level of toxicity in the victim's body. "The amount of venom in the body becomes too much for the system," said Dr Ascher.

Experts advise the public to avoid handling bee hives without professional help.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai, 50, said: "If the hive is in the natural area, it is best to leave it as bees are important for the ecosystem.

"But if it's in an urban area, professional help should be sought."

Read more!

PUB embarks on solar projects to diversify energy sources

Chng Kheng Leng Channel NewsAsia 2 May 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's national water agency PUB has started two pilot projects to harness solar power, building rooftop solar panels at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks and installing floating solar systems on Tengeh Reservoir.

It said these projects are part of a national effort to explore alternative and sustainable energy sources to develop Singapore into a smart energy economy.

Through both projects, PUB will conduct a test-bedding study on the cost-effectiveness, potential benefits and scale limitations of investing in solar power infrastructure.

PUB said the 1 Megawatt peak (MWp) rooftop solar panel at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks will harness solar energy for the plant's water treatment operations, while Tengeh Reservoir will house floating solar systems which double up as an energy catchment to channel generated solar power into the national grid.

Chosen for its large roof space and treatment capacity, Choa Chu Kang Waterworks will see up to 50 per cent of its peak daytime electricity supply for water treatment equipment, lighting and air-conditioning coming from solar power.

The rooftop solar panels will generate an estimated 1.1 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per annum, equivalent to the average annual energy consumption of about 250 HDB households.

The $2.3-million rooftop solar project is slated to commence operations by the first quarter of 2015 and the energy tapped will enable PUB to reduce the power it draws from the national grid.

In addition, the project will allow PUB to build sufficient technical capabilities in the use of solar modules in its waterworks.

The tender for the solar panel project at Choa Chu Kang WaterWorks has been awarded to RCS Engineering, which bid together with another company SolarGy.

RCS Engineering said the project is expected to generate about 1.2 million kilowatt hours of energy every year, which translates to about S$300,000 in savings annually.

At Tengeh Reservoir, the floating solar systems will cover three hectares, or less than 0.5 per cent, of the reservoir area and generate up to 3.3 GWh of electricity per annum.

This is equivalent to the average annual energy consumption of about 750 HDB households.

Experts said having solar panels float on water will also cool them down, which may increase their yield by about 10 per cent compared to those installed on land.

But there are challenges.

Mr Albert Lim, managing director of SolarGy and co-awarded Choa Chu Kang Waterworks tender, said: "You will need to have a system of floats to place them on the reservoir and on top of which we put the solar panels. We have to think of how to bring the water, the cable through the water and back to land. During the installation, not many general workers would be able to install because some of them may have to go underwater to secure the whole system.

"Maintenance is also another consideration. Unlike land-based installation, there will be algae formation on the floats, maybe on the underside of the panels. So we have to develop ways of how to get access to the panels to clean them. Maybe we have to apply some type of coating to reduce the growth of the algae. All this would add to the maintenance cost."

The $11-million floating solar project is led by the Economic Development Board, in partnership with PUB, and managed by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.

As part of the pilot project, PUB will conduct an environmental study to measure its impact on reservoir evaporation, biodiversity and water quality.

A preliminary assessment conducted prior to the project commencement has identified potential benefits such as reduction in reservoir evaporative rate and reduction in algal growth.

In addition, PUB's study of a similar project in South Korea showed an increase in biodiversity around the floating solar system with negligible impact on the reservoir.

Mr Harry Seah, Chief Technology Officer from PUB, said: "Today, solar power is the most promising sustainable resource for equatorial Singapore located in the heart of the Asian Sunbelt.

"As such, PUB is exploring the use of solar energy to diversify our energy options away from conventional, non-renewable fossil fuels, contribute to a smaller carbon footprint and promote more sustainable use of energy resources.

"Through both projects, we aim to analyse the capabilities of solar energy for high voltage operational efficiency, and utilise the large expanse of our reservoir's area which provides a good opportunity for testbedding."

- CNA/de

Pilot projects using water sites to generate solar power launched
Balakrishnan notes importance of looking out for more sustainable sources of energy
Today Online 3 May 14;

SINGAPORE — Reservoirs will have to become catchments for both water and energy, as the Republic becomes increasingly dependent on the latter for its water supply, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

Dr Balakrishnan’s comments came as national water agency PUB announced that it has kick-started two pilot projects to harness solar power by building rooftop solar panels at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks and installing floating solar systems on Tengeh Reservoir. Together, the projects will generate energy equivalent to the average annual energy consumption of about 1,000 Housing and Development Board households.

Noting that the significance of Singapore’s investment in sustainable resources was underscored during the dry spell earlier this year, the PUB pointed out that NEWater and desalination production are energy-intensive processes and increasing their ratio in the total water supply would mean incurring higher energy costs.

Writing on Facebook, Dr Balakrishnan said: “Desalination and water recycling through reverse osmosis have enhanced our water security considerably over the past decade. However, we are now even more dependent on energy for our water supply.”

He added: “We need to constantly look out for more sustainable sources of energy. Solar energy is a promising avenue — but Singapore will always be short of land.”

The S$2.3 million pilot at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks will produce energy from solar power to meet up to 50 per cent of the facility’s peak daytime electricity supply for water treatment equipment, lighting and air-conditioning.

The tender was awarded yesterday and preparatory work is expected to start in the middle of this month. The solar panels — which will be in place for 20 years — are slated to start operation by the first quarter of next year, said the PUB, adding that it plans to extend the deployment of solar panels to other waterworks over the next two to three years.

Plans to install the region’s first floating photovoltaic pilot project at Tengeh Reservoir was first announced in 2011. The S$11 million project is led by the Economic Development Board, in partnership with the PUB, and managed by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.

The energy generated by the 3-ha floating system will be channelled to the national power grid. Dr Balakrishnan said the authorities will assess the impact on water ecology as they explore alternative cost-effective and sustainable sources of energy. A preliminary assessment has found potential benefits including reduction in reservoir evaporative rate and a fall in algal growth, the PUB said.

Solar power was once considered too expensive for widespread use. In recent years, the costs of generating solar power has tumbled and it has become an increasingly viable energy solution. For example, the PUB has already invested in the Solar Park at Marina Barrage, one of the largest collection of solar panels in Singapore.

The HDB had previously announced plans to fit 200 HDB blocks with solar photovoltaic systems by next year.

At Pulau Ubin, a micro-grid — powered by biodiesel and solar cells located on three sites around the island — is being tested as an alternative source of electricity for a group of around 30 residents.

PUB chief technology officer Harry Seah said solar power is the most promising sustainable resource for equatorial Singapore. Through the two pilot projects, he said, the PUB aims to “analyse the capabilities of solar energy for high voltage operational efficiency, and utilise the large expanse of our reservoir’s area which provides a good opportunity for testbedding”.

Before it was reconstituted as the national water agency in 2001, the PUB was known as the Public Utilities Board which also regulated the electricity and gas industries.

Dr Balakrishnan quipped: “I am slightly bemused that PUB is returning to electricity generation, albeit in a small way.”

Read more!

Malaysia: Clampdown on giant clam poaching

ROY GOH AND AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times 4 May 14;

TASTY SPECIES: Locals and foreigners are after Sabah's giant clams

KOTA KINABALU: Prized for their shell and flesh, giant clams are fast disappearing from the seas in Sabah.

Recently, the authorities seized 20 tonnes of giant clam shells off Kota Kinabalu bound for Vietnam, indicating the existence of a large-scale illegal operation to extract and export the endangered species.

The local people's taste for clams, especially their adductor -- the tubular piece often mistaken as a scallop -- is also a concern.

For seven years, the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) established at Gayana Eco Resort on Pulau Gaya off Kota Kinabalu had been cultivating and preserving the giant clams.

The centre faced a huge challenge as it was up against large- scale operations to acquire the shell of the giant clams, which could be sold off as ornaments or other by-products such as traditional medicine and cosmetics.

The flesh of the clams can be eaten and are sold fresh, chilled, frozen, dried or cooked in many markets across the state, even in the heart of here.

MERC project director Alvin Wong said giant clams were listed as rare and endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of the United Nations.

"The bivalve is also listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which prohibits trade in there between countries."

There were 10 known giant clam species of which seven found in Sabah. Of the seven species, the Tridacna gigas and Tridacna derasa, can no longer be found locally.

"Our concern is that giant clams are declining in numbers.

"They are a valuable link and heritage to the marine eco-system," Wong said.

He explained that giant clams work as marine filters as they took in harmful waste nutrients like ammonia and nitrate and expelled clean water into the environment.

Since MERC began its operations in 2007, the centre had propagated and eventually released some 2,000 giant clams back into the sea.

Echoing similar worries was Universiti Malaysia Sabah Borneo Marine Research Institute director Prof Saleem Mustafa who said the problem was common in Southeast Asia.

"Giant clams are harvested by indigenous people as well as foreign poachers.

"Many communities in Southeast Asia eat them or market their products.

"Those who have been eating giant clams have developed a taste for the flesh. For them, it is a delicacy," he said.

Saleem stressed that there was no scientific basis to claims that giant claims had medicinal value.

"It is probably a belief passed down from generations among those living by the sea."

Saleem said, however, there was still hope for giant clams as the state government had a holistic and long-term policy to conserve marine biodiversity, where giant clams are considered an important component.

"This is being done by gazetting vast areas of the coastal and marine environment as marine parks where regulations can be enforced," he said, adding out that enforcement was a challenge.

"It is not easy to monitor the whole coastline and to restrain indigenous communities who claim that they are harvesting the clams for sustenance."

He said, this was the reason that there was added focus on creating public awareness and getting cooperation from local communities to preserve the species.

In Sabah, laws on extraction of giant clams come under the purview of the Lands and Survey Department under the Land Ordinance.

Anyone found with giant clam shells can charged with extracting it without any permit, an offence that carries a five-year jail sentence or RM100,000 fine or both.

Lands and survey director Datuk Osman Jamal said the law existed to protect not only the species but also other natural resources from the sea.

"The clams, our reefs and many other natural wonders are our prized assets and we need to look after them."

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib (left) and officials with 20 tonnes of giant clams that were confiscated last month from nine Vietnamese fishermen in Sabah. Pix by Malai Rosmah Tuah

Read more!

Indonesia: 44 hotspots detected in Sumatra

Antara 4 May 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 18 operated in Singapore detected on Saturday 44 hotspots in Sumatra, of which 14 were found in Riau province, a regional disaster mitigation official said.

Head of Riau Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) Said Saqlul Amri told the press that most of the hotspots in Raiu or 9 hotspots were located in Indragiri Hilir District.

The satellite also detected three hotspots in Kampar district and two hotpots in Bengkalis district.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Read more!

With Loss of Indonesia’s Forests, a Litany of Problems

Josua Gantan Jakarta Globe 2 May 14;

The rate of deforestation has doubled since the start of the century, according to one group of researchers. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

Jakarta. In November 2013, a group of researchers who partnered with Google and NASA noted that there was an alarming increase in the rate of deforestation in Indonesia. Through satellite mapping technologies, the researchers found that the rate of deforestation in Indonesia had doubled between 2000 and 2012.

Indeed, the deforestation rate in Indonesia has increased from about 10,000 square kilometers per year in 2000-03, to nearly 20,000 square kilometers per year between by 2011-12.

The group of scientists who conducted the study consisted of researchers from 15 universities, led by Matthew Hansen, a professor of geographical science from the University of Maryland. Their observations were published in the journal Science last year.

The issue of deforestation in Indonesia has grown more serious than ever before. The environmental damage that deforestation has caused and continues to cause in Indonesia has given rise to more frequent floods, permanent land subsidence and the demise of endangered animals. Increased deforestation also contributes to rising temperatures in the archipelago.

“The argument is always … we need economic development. But the damage, the costs, are generally ignored. Indonesia stands to lose,” Erik Meijaard, a researcher with the organization People and Nature Consulting International, said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Deforestation in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, has given rise to the higher frequency of flooding in the region, which impacts the people who live there.

“The floods are getting more severe. Every year 500,000 people in Kalimantan are displaced by floods,” Meijaard said.

He added there was also a steep increase in temperatures in places where the forest had been cleared away.

“[When] you degrade the forest, your average temperature rises by 10 degrees,” Meijaard said.

He said that as a result of rising temperatures due to the deforestation, agricultural yields in the region were lower.

Meijaard said the consulting firm he represented had interviewed more than 8,000 people from villages across Kalimantan to try to understand how deforestation was affecting them.

One major problem is the subsidence and severe degradation of land, as floods and the absence of vegetation to hold the topsoil in place leads to erosion.

“I’m baffled. People tell me that Indonesia can lose 10 percent of its land if it keeps developing its peat at today’s rate,” Meijaard said.

The clearing of forests and peatlands through slash-and-burn methods to make way for agricultural land has regularly generated choking haze that has spread as far as Singapore and Malaysia and prompted international outrage and condemnation.

The burning of trees and beat swamps also releases millions of tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, exacerbating the effects of global warming and climate change.

International gathering

The Bogor-based Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) will on Monday and Tuesday host the Forests Asia Summit in Jakarta, one of the biggest gatherings of its kind in recent years, bringing together government officials, business executives, civil society leaders, development experts and the world’s top scientists.

CIFOR says the meeting will allow participants “to share knowledge on how the region can accelerate the shift toward a green economy by better managing its forests and landscapes.”

As an archipelago, Indonesia’s biodiversity is unique. Islands like the Galapagos have distinct species, and Indonesia is the same in this respect, boasting animal and plant species that are found nowhere else on Earth.

Among these is the orangutan, which today faces the threat of extinction as its forest habitats in Sumatra and Kalimantan are razed by palm oil and pulp and paper companies.

Ian Singleton from the Orangutan Project, an organization working to conserve the endangered ape, says deforestation in Indonesia is responsible for the deaths of countless endangered species such as the orangutan, the Sumatran elephants, the tiger and the Sumatran rhino.

He said the process of converting natural forests to oil palm plantations through slash-and-burn clearing had proven deadly for the animals.

“Almost nothing survives the conversion process. Not even the smallest lizards,” Singleton said.

He showed photographs of dead orangutans, their limbs disfigured, and said they were victims of Indonesia’s relentless deforestation drive.

With the country’s natural forests dwindling, iconic species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger also risk disappearing from the face of the Earth, conservationists warn.

Bali and Java were once home to their own tiger sub-species, but hunting and the clearing of forests led to their extinction. The Sumatran tiger, the last sub-species of the big cat remaining in Indonesia, numbers only around 400 in the wild, but continues to be driven out of its natural habitat.

Singleton also showed photos of chained orangutans, kept as pets. Despite the poor conditions in which many are kept, including running the risk of exposure to infectious diseases from humans, Singleton says these are the “lucky ones” because they are still alive.

He says many of the people and companies involved in the clearing of forests and killing of orangutans — seen as pests by oil palm farmers — have little regard for the country’s laws on environmental and wildlife conservation.

He argues that law enforcement in this respect is deficient, pointing out that the few offenders who are caught never go to court to face charges.

“Despite all the coverage, it hasn’t made one bit of difference. Nobody has been prosecuted. Loose law enforcement is business as usual,” Singleton said.

BeritaSatu Media Holdings, with which Jakarta Globe is affiliated, is a media partner of the Forests Asia Summit.

Read more!

Malaysia: 'Clearing of mangroves caused floods'

LOGHUN KUMARAN New Straits Times 3 May 14;

WARNINGS IGNORED: They were natural barrier against coastal erosion and tidal surges, says Sahabat Alam

IPOH: The recent tidal flooding which affected more that 30 households in Kampung Sungai Batu, near here, could have been avoided if repeated warnings against the clearing of mangrove forests along Perak's coastline had not been ignored.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer Meor Razak Meor Abdul Rahman said he had voiced his concern over the issue as early as 2007, where he told Berita Harian that the destruction of mangrove forests would remove a natural barrier against coastal erosion and tidal surges.

"Unfortunately, the land clearing activities continued and it was only a matter of time before high tides flooded the inland areas," said Meor Razak yesterday.

He said the mangrove forests acted as a buffer that "absorb" incoming tidal waves, effectively stopping the tidal floods from coming inland.

"Their roots, which are spread out over a large area, dissipate the energy of the waves while the excess tidal floodwaters flow into the wetlands.

"However, after the mangrove forests are cleared, only a dry expanse of land is left and it is unable to effectively absorb the tidal floodwater."

The New Straits Times reported yesterday that Kampung Sungai Batu, which is located one kilometre from the seaside, had been inundated after 80ha of mangrove forest was removed to make way for a housing project.

Meor Razak said this expanse included two compartments of the Tanjung Burung forest reserve, which had been de-gazetted before the project began in 2011.

Land clearing activities had also been carried out in Compartment 114, north of Pantai Remis.

He said the Auditor-General's report in 2008 had frowned upon the encroachment but no action was taken by the authorities.

Meor Razak said many stretches of the mangrove forests were under threat from development, adding that most of them were cleared to make way for prawn farms.

He said these forests were vulnerable as they were classified as state land or private land instead of permanent forest reserves.

Meor urged the state government to replant the mangrove trees to prevent tidal flooding.

"During the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the villagers were protected from the full force of the waves by the mangrove trees. There are gone now.

"At the moment, they should consider themselves lucky, as the flooding is only caused by the natural ebb and flow of the tides.

"I shudder to imagine what would happen if they had to face storm surges or tsunamis."

Read more!

Burma’s mangroves in danger of extinction

ZAW HTET DVB Media 4 May 14;

Thick mangrove forests once lined Burma’s coastline, but in the past 30 years over half of the country’s mangrove forests have been destroyed.

Mangrove trees are an essential part of river ecosystems. They protect the riverbanks from soil erosion by acting as a buffer between the land and sea.

The long roots provide shelter for breeding fish, shrimp and crabs.

Mangroves are also an important natural barrier against floods and storm surges.

Aung Win earns his living by cutting down trees in Irrawaddy Division’s Ni Thaung mangrove forest to sell as firewood.

He used to be a fisherman but, ironically, due to the destruction of the mangroves, fish levels dropped in the estuary.

“In the past we could live by catching fish or frogs. Now, we don’t have enough food in the village so we have to sell firewood to survive,” he said.

More than 80 percent of residents in Rangoon use firewood and charcoal for cooking. Up until 1993 most of the city’s charcoal came from Bokalay mangrove forest. Due to severe deforestation the government banned felling of the mangroves in the area.

Farmer Hla Htay knows mangrove conservation is important, but said local communities rely on the mangroves for firewood and income.

“The main thing to do to preserve these mangrove forests is to find a different energy source. If we get electricity we would all be very happy,” he said.

“Without any alternative energy, how can the villagers live without firewood?”

Maung Maung Than, programme coordinator for the Centre for People and Forests, said efforts to conserve mangroves will be impossible unless the government supplies an alternative energy source.

“The forests are depleting. Poverty is very much related to environment. To conserve the environment, people should have another form of income. If we can use an alternative energy, deforestation would be reduced,” he said.

The biggest threat to the mangroves is from large-scale coastal development, an increase in silt from upstream deforestation, and clearing huge areas for rice-production.

Forty years ago, there were 1.7 million acres of mangrove in Burma; now only 700,000 acres remain.

And the result of mangroves being destroyed has been disastrous. On 2 May 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma’s Irrawaddy delta region. 140,000 people died and over 2 million were made homeless.

Experts say if the mangrove forests hadn’t been destroyed, the damage caused by Cyclone Nargis, wouldn’t have been as great.

“If there were dense mangrove forests, the number of deaths would not have been so high,” said Maung Maung Than.

As climate change forces sea levels to rise, coastal communities will be at greater risk from flooding and storms. Wide-scale conservation efforts backed by the government, such as setting up protected mangrove areas and re-planting zones, could turn things around.

Read more!