Best of our wild blogs: 11 Jun 14

Do Something For The First Time
from Hantu Blog

Green Media Roundtable Discussion: Singapore & the Environment
from Green Drinks Singapore

Updates from the team – Project LUWAK in Singapore and beyond
from Project LUWAK SG

Butterflies Galore! : Anderson's Grass Yellow
from Butterflies of Singapore

Proliferation of Crimson-rumped Waxbill
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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"Balik Pulau" - Exploring Singapore's island heritage

Alice Chia Channel NewsAsia 11 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: While many know Singapore as a sunny island, not many are aware that it is an archipelago once made up of more than 70 islands. In recognition of this rich culture, this year's Singapore Heritage Festival (July 18 to 27) is themed "Our Islands, Our Home".

Ahead of the event, the National Museum of Singapore has launched an exhibition titled "Balik Pulau: Stories from Singapore's Islands". Visitors will be able to gain a better understanding of how islanders lived, worked and played, through video interviews, historical images and artefacts.

While some islands like St John's Island, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa have become popular getaways for busy urbanites, many are lesser known. For example, Pulau Seking was the site of the last kampung in the Southern islands, and it was linked to Pulau Semakau to form Semakau Landfill.

82-year-old Teo Yan Teck once ran a provision shop in Pulau Seking with his elder brother Yen Eng. They had lived on the island for close to 40 years, from 1955 to 1994, and were sad when they had to be re-settled to make way for the landfill. "At that time, we had to burn our fishing boat as there was no space to put it,” said Mr Teo. “I miss fishing on the island. The scenery and environment were good."

Indeed, as many of the islands have been transformed beyond recognition, stories like Mr Teo's become valuable links to the past. "We are always looking for new ways to work with communities and to find lesser known nuggets of interesting stories about Singapore. It's about treasuring what we have today, and appreciating what we had before as well,” said Ms Angelita Teo, director of the National Museum of Singapore. “Singapore has to move on, we have to develop in a global world. But it's also very important to hold on to our roots and to remember where we came from."

The exhibition, which runs till August 10, also highlights boat racing as an integral part of island life. These races took place regularly in the Southern islands until the 1970s, and attracted skilled sailors from the islands and even nearby Indonesia.

- CNA/xy

New exhibition harks back to S’pore’s island idyll
LOUISA TANG Today Online 11 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE — Those were carefree days of island living: Swimming in clear waters, walks by the sea with the woman who later became his wife, and free outdoor movie screenings, three times a week. But Mr Sugiman Jahuri’s idyllic life became a thing of the past when he moved to mainland Singapore at the age of 25 after living on one of the nation’s offshore islands for 12 years.

Mr Sugiman, now 75, was one of the residents on Pulau Bukom, an offshore island south-west of Singapore that is now home to the largest Shell oil refinery in the world. His story is one of those being captured in an exhibition by the National Heritage Board at the National Museum of Singapore, called Balik Pulau: Stories from Singapore’s Islands, which seeks to document the stories of those who lived, worked and played on the more than 70 islands that made up the Singapore archipelago.

Most Singaporeans have never had the chance to learn about the history surrounding these islands. Ms Angelita Teo, director of the National Museum of Singapore, said this is the first time the museum is exploring the heritage of Singapore’s many islands in such detail.

“Although the islands are small in size, their stories are anything but that. In fact, they are big in heart and soul, and speak volumes of island life back in those days,” said Ms Teo.

The exhibition is designed to be immersive so visitors can get to experience what island life was like. It also aims to inspire the present generation to visit the islands. Said curator Marcus Ng, 39, whose interest in the islands began after he visited a few of the offshore islands: “It’s a very interesting juxtaposition ... it’s an operational landfill (Pulau Semakau), but yet it’s a thriving habitat for mangroves and coral reefs.”

Before the oil refinery expanded in 1961, Pulau Bukom used to house a small community of about a thousand people.

Mr Sugiman was of primary-school age when he moved to the island from mainland Singapore. He began working for the oil refinery in 1956, but he was asked to leave the island a decade later, along with the last remaining villagers who lived there. “You really cannot find a place like that here anymore. Life was very simple then,” he reminisced. “Now, it’s so fast-paced.”

Mr Teo Yan Teck, who ran a provision shop on Pulau Sakeng for about 40 years until 1994, used to take a boat to nearby islands such as Pulau Semakau. Said the 82-year-old: “On the island, there was no stress. I was very upset when I had to leave for the mainland.”

So was Mr Sugiman’s wife, Mdm Annah Sarip, 66. “When I left Pulau Bukom, I missed my friends and the free movies the most.”

“Balik Pulau: Stories from Singapore’s Islands” is held in conjunction with Singapore HeritageFest 2014. The exhibition is running till Aug 10 from 10am to 6pm daily. Admission is free.

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Singapore offers haze assistance to Indonesia, Malaysia

Channel NewsAsia 10 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: In anticipation of the upcoming dry season, Singapore will offer assistance to Indonesia and Malaysia to help its neighbours suppress fires, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said on Tuesday (June 10).

MEWR stated the assistance package offered to Indonesia is the same as offered in previous years, namely:

=One C-130 aircraft for cloud seeding operations;
=Up to two C-130 aircraft to ferry fire-fighting assistance teams from Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF);
=A team from SCDF to provide assessment and planning assistance to their Indonesian counterparts in fire-fighting efforts; and
=High-resolution satellite pictures and hotspot coordinates

The ministry said haze from land and forest fires during the traditional dry season from June to October has been a "perennial problem" in the southern Southeast Asia region in the past decade. This is mainly due to illegal land clearing and "slash and burn" agricultural practices in Indonesia, particularly Sumatra and Kalimantan, it said.

Singapore experienced its worst episode of haze last year when the three-hour PSI hit a record high of 401 on June 21, 2013.

"In the run up to the upcoming dry season, the Singapore Government has offered the Indonesian Government assistance to help combat possible land and forest fires. We hope this will help to prevent another episode of severe haze in the region," MEWR said.

It added that Singapore was also affected by transboundary smoke haze from Malaysia earlier in March, when the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) entered the "Moderate" range and reached a high of 75 on March 12. Assistance was offered to the Malaysian Government to help combat land and forest fires should such a need arise, the ministry said.

- CNA/kk

Singapore offers haze assistance packages to Malaysia and Indonesia
New Straits Times 11 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has offered assistance to Indonesia and Malaysia to combat possible land and forest fires in the run-up to the traditional dry season.

In a statement today, the environment and water resources ministry said this was to prevent another episode of severe transboundary haze from affecting the region.

The assistance is in the form of fire-fighting and planning assistance from Singapore Civil Defence Force, and for cloud-seeding operations.

Transboundary smoke haze from land and forest fires during the traditional dry season from June to October has been a perennial problem in the southern Asean region in the past decades.

Illegal land clearing and ‘slash and burn’ agricultural practices in Indonesia, particularly Sumatra and Kalimantan, have been identified as the main cause of the fire that results in transboundary haze pollution in the region.

Singapore saw its worst haze episode in 2013 when the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit an unprecedented high of 246 on June 20, far exceeding the levels in 1997 (138) and 2006 (128).

Given that there is a possibility of the El Nino weather phenomenon affecting our region this year, the ministry said smoke haze pollution in the region could reach worse levels this year if fires were not promptly stemmed at source.

In past years, Singapore has consistently offered assistance packages to Indonesia to help suppress fires.

Early this year, Singapore was also affected by haze from Peninsular Malaysia.

In March, this year, the 24-hour PSI entered the moderate range and reached a high of 75 on March 12.

The Singapore Government has also offered assistance to the Malaysian Government to help combat land and forest fires, should such a need arise.


Singapore offers to help Indonesia fight forest fires
The Star 12 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE has offered to help Indonesia fight its land and forest fires to prevent severe haze in the upcoming dry season.

It is willing to provide, among other things, high-resolution satellite images and hot spot co-ordinates, Singapore Civil Defence Force teams, and even an aircraft for cloud-seeding, the Environment and Water Resources Ministry said in a statement.

Willem Rampangilei, Indonesia’s deputy for the environment at the coordinating ministry for people’s welfare, said the country appreciated the offer, but would deploy its national capabilities first. “We do not reject the offer,” he said.

Singapore has also offered Malaysia help to combat such fires, though no details were given.

The Republic has offered haze assistance to Indonesia before. Since 1997, Jakarta has been using Singapore satellite pictures and hot spot co-ordinates and in 2005 it borrowed an aircraft and firefighters.

The annual regional haze is caused mainly by Indonesian farmers who take advantage of the dry season from June to October to burn land, clearing it illegally for agriculture.

The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index in Singapore hit a record, “very unhealthy” 246 last June 20, far above the previous record of 138 in 1997. The Environment Ministry has said this year’s haze could be worse due to the possible El Nino, which is linked to drier-than-usual weather in the region.

In April, Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya reportedly said the country would never again borrow equipment from Singapore and Malaysia, but he did not preclude future environmental collaborations.

He also said the two countries had previously lent Indonesia substandard equipment, which they had passed off as “considerable assistance”, thus making his country look bad.

Singapore’s Environment Ministry said it was “puzzled” by the comments about the equipment quality. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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Malaysia: Scorching temperatures are coming

The Star 11 Jun 14;

PETALING JAYA: The sweltering heat over the past few days is a taste of how hot it can be in the coming months.

Although there may be isolated rain and even thunderstorms in the next three months, the Meteo­rological Department says the average temperature could go as high as 36°C.

On Sunday, it said, meteorological stations in Felda Belera, Terengganu, and Daro, Sarawak, recorded readings of up to 37°C.

Apart from the hot and dry weather, more forest fires and thick smog are also expected in the near future.

The department said the country had entered the south-west monsoon season and Malaysians would experience an average maximum temperature of 33.1°C daily until September.

“The south-west monsoon season is synonymous with hot and dry weather.

“We expect to see more days without rain compared to days with rain and because of this, the heat from the sun will also become more apparent,” it said in an e-mail yesterday.

Despite the heat, the department said there would still be instances of heavy rain in the interior areas of west Peninsula Malaysia and in Sabah and Sarawak.

The northern and central peninsula are expected to record the highest daily average temperatures of between 33°C and 34°C during the next three months.

The looming thick haze, it said, would be hazardous to health and affect the agricultural, aviation and tourism sectors.

“During the previous strong El Nino phenomenon which hit in 1997 and 1998, the maximum temperatures went up between 0.5 degrees and two degrees above the average.”

On rain, the department said it expected up to 17 days without rain in the peninsula this month, and up to 19 days without rain for Sabah and Sarawak.

“During this dry season, the public is advised to drink a lot of water and avoid being exposed to direct sunlight.

“People are also advised to cut down on outdoor activities,” it said.

Global Environment Centre director Faizal Parish said water levels in the dams were also likely to drop due to the hot spell.

“This year may be an El Nino year which means there will be less rain than normal.

“It is better to be cautious now, minimise water use and wastage and not wait for any crisis,” he said.

According to the Selangor Water Management Authority website, water levels at the Sungai Selangor dam, which supplies water to over 60% of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Selangor, stood at 43.52% of its capacity yesterday. It’s optimum level is 55%.

Cloud seeding is still being continued in Selangor in the target areas, especially over the Sungai Selangor dam.

785 projects not approved due to water supply crisis
New Straits Times 10 Jun 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 785 development projects submitted to the government could not be approved due to the water supply crisis in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya from February until March, this year.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Deputy Minister, Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said in the same period, the government approved only 45 development projects.

"During the water rationing period, companies that use a lot of water for their operations had met with the ministry to seek assistance.

"Foreign investors were also afraid to come in due to the insufficient water supply as water is a vital component of their operations.

"If the water supply problem is not resolved, it will not only adversely affect domestic consumers but will also be a loss to the nation," Mahdzir said in reply to a supplementary question from Datuk Noor Ehsanuddin Mohd Harun Narrashid (BN-Kota Tinggi) at the Dewan Rakyat sitting, here, today.

Earlier, to the original question from Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani (BN-Titiwangsa) on the latest developments of the Langat 2 water treatment plant project, he said the contractor had started the preliminary works involving surveying the land and marking its boundary while waiting for other approvals from the Selangor government.

"The ministry and state government are also in the final stage of entering into an agreement, detailing actions that need to be taken in implementing the memorandum of understanding signed by both sides on Feb 26," he added. -- BERNAMA

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Indonesia: Sumatra Sees Surge in Hotspots After Relative Lull

Jakarta Globe 10 Jun 14;

Jakarta. Satellites on Sunday detected 227 hotspots across Sumatra — the highest number in three months, after a relative lull — including 37 in the hard-hit Riau province, where blazes have caused school cancelations and widespread respiratory illness.

According to information obtained by NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites, fires were burning over the weekend in Aceh, Jambi, North Sumatra, Riau, South Sumatra and West Sumatra, state-run Antara news agency reported.

“There are three helicopters on standby, as the [rental] contract expires in September,” National Disaster and Mitigation Agency (BNPB) information division head Agus Wibowo said on Monday, as reported by Antara. The helicopters could carry a combined 8,600 liters of water, he said.

Riau officials said that plans for cloud seeding and water bombing were underway.

As of Friday, two days before the surge, NASA only detected eleven Sumatra hotspots, and only two in Riau.

BNPB predicted that El Nino, at the end of June, would bring hot, dry weather, causing blazes to flare up again.

Read more!

IPS to launch books to celebrate Singapore's 50th birthday

Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 10 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: A series of books to commemorate Singapore's 50th year of independence will be launched next year, the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) announced on Tuesday (June 10).

The Singapore Chronicles will comprise of 50 volumes written by experts in their field. It will cover topics in the fields of politics and governance, the environment, arts and culture and the economy, the IPS stated.

Each book is to serve as a primer on a subject, and can be thought of as an "extended Wikipedia article" written by specialists for the general public. It will serve to record, explain and offer some insights into what makes Singapore, Singapore, it added.

Authors include Ambassador Chan Heng Chee, former Permanent Secretaries Peter Ho and Bilahari Kausikan, food writer Sylvia Tan, academic Chua Beng Huat and biologist N Sivasothi, the IPS revealed.

- CNA/ek

IPS to launch books to celebrate S’pore’s 50th year
KOK XING HUI Today Online 11 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE — From local politics to the origins of chilli crab and whether Singapore’s conservation efforts led to the reappearance of otters on our shores, topics related to “what makes Singapore, Singapore” will be addressed in 50 books to be launched by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) next year to commemorate the Republic’s 50th year of independence.

The Singapore Chronicles will be authored by renowned researchers, scientists, engineers, writers and policy practitioners, such as former Permanent Secretaries Peter Ho and Bilahari Kausikan, as well as food writer Sylvia Tan, who will take charge of books on governance, Konfrontasi and food respectively. Each book in the series is expected to delve into the history, issues and future outlook of its respective subject.

IPS special research adviser Arun Mahizhnan said the chronicles would record, explain and offer insight into what makes Singapore, Singapore. While the books will be penned by experts in their field, they will be written for the public, from A-level students and lay people to business leaders and foreign diplomats, he said.

IPS director Janadas Devan described them as extended Wikipedia entries.

Mr Ho, former head of the Civil Service and one of the 50 authors, said he chose to write about governance as he felt “it’s important that we have a record of how governance in Singapore has evolved”.

“This is not just for the Singapore public, but also for our civil servants because our civil servants need to know … how governance has evolved through the years,” he added.

The topics were whittled down from more than 70 suggestions that the IPS had received from its staff and experts. “We shortlisted the final 50 based on whether the subject was important, whether it added to the comprehensiveness of the coverage and whether we could find the right author,” said Mr Arun.

Ideas that were tossed out included subjects such as government-linked companies and fashion, which Mr Arun said were not as important.

Government-linked firms, for example, he said, were “too narrow a focus and did not help with the diversity as we’re already doing a book on economy, finance, trade and so on”.

The IPS is in the midst of commissioning the authors, with 47 on board so far. Likely to be launched in batches over the course of next year, the Singapore Chronicles will be sold individually or in box sets at major bookstores and promoted in schools.

Write way to mark nation's 50th birthday
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Jun 14;

A team of experts on Singapore has been called on to pen 50 books to mark the nation's golden jubilee next year.

The Singapore Chronicles will be launched by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) next year to help Singaporeans deepen their understanding of the nation's journey from fishing village to global city.

Academics, civil servants and journalists will delve into 50 topics, including the country's bleak, war-torn years during the Japanese Occupation, civil society, and even the Central Provident Fund - the talk of the town in recent weeks.

"The series will provide a guiding hand to navigate the sometimes murky waters of politics, economics and social development, and give insight into what makes Singapore tick, and why Singapore chose certain paths untrodden," said IPS special research adviser Arun Mahizhnan at a media briefing yesterday. For the young, especially, he hopes the series will provide a "comprehensive picture of Singapore as a whole in a digestible form".

Mr Arun is one of two coeditors of the project, and will be writing on literature. The other is Mr Asad Latif, visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

The books are intended to serve as simple primers for the general public on wide-ranging and sometimes complex issues in about 100 pages each.

They will give historical accounts, highlighting critical milestones and issues, and also provide a glimpse into the future.

To fund this project, IPS has approached the SG50 committee, which is planning a nationwide celebration of Singapore's 50th birthday bash next year, and will also seek sponsorship from other organisations, said Mr Arun.

So far, 47 books have been commissioned, and some manuscripts have already started coming in, he said. The books will be released in batches throughout the year, and sold at major bookstores here. IPS is looking at promoting them in schools as well, he added.

Five of the authors shared their thoughts on the project yesterday.

One of them is National University of Singapore (NUS) sociology professor Chua Beng Huat, who will explore Singapore's policies in managing different cultures, religions and races.

Prof Chua said: "Every city, every post-colonial society is a mix of races, but there are very few which consciously make multiracialism a policy, especially constitutionally (like Singapore)."

Another is NUS biology lecturer N. Sivasothi, who will write on Singapore's ecological development to showcase the country as a "petri dish for South-east Asia".

Ambassador-at-large and policy adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bilahari Kausikan will draw lessons on the country's approach to foreign policy from the Confrontation era in the 1960s, while former civil service head Peter Ho, now the Urban Redevelopment Authority chairman, will share how "achieving good governance is not a simple matter".

Food writer Sylvia Tan said her message will be simple - that Singapore has "the best food in the world".

The ensemble of writers also includes IPS director Janadas Devan, who will write on Singapore's separation from Malaysia, and Ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee, who will give a broad view of political developments.

The Straits Times' deputy editor Zuraidah Ibrahim will focus on opposition politics.

Read more!

Space for makers to work their do-it-yourself magic

Cheryl Faith Wee The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE - Those who like to make their own furniture or toys now have a new place to get their fix.

Hardware retailer Home-Fix DIY is converting two floors of its Tai Seng headquarters into a workshop and co-working space with specialised equipment for hobbyists and professionals to put things together.

It is the newest "maker space" here, a term said to have originated in the United States in the mid-2000s. It refers to shared spaces, often furnished with things such as specialised tools and equipment, that people can use for a fee to design and create objects.

It adds to at least two other maker spaces here: Social enterprise Sustainable Living Lab, which opened in Yishun in 2011, and Mettle Work, which opened in Geylang last October.

Besides providing infrastructure, they are also where hobbyists gather to exchange ideas. The concept stems from the maker movement in the US, which encourages the do-it-yourself, or DIY, culture and innovation.

More people here are becoming interested in making their own things, said Mr William Hooi, 41, an event and creative consultant who organises "maker gatherings". About 300 people showed up for a meet-up two months ago, up from about 20 at the first one in January last year.

"We usually invite speakers - from scientists, to designers and educators - to talk about projects which show inventiveness and resourcefulness. After that, people tend to stay late to talk, discuss and 'geek out'," he said.

At the Home-Fix maker space, a day pass costs $20, while a monthly one costs $120.

It can accommodate only about 12 people now, but is being expanded to fit 40 to 50 people.

Since its soft launch two weeks ago, about eight people, including German carpenter Till Oliver Kautz, 30, have signed up.

Mr Kautz, who has a monthly pass, has been visiting the centre's wood workshop almost daily for the past two weeks to build a coffee table for the apartment where he lives with his girlfriend.

"I have no space at home for this kind of work. It gets too dusty and there is a smell. This place is good as it is very big and there are good tools," he said.

Other projects that users are working on include the building of speakers and 3D printers.

Home-Fix managing director Low Cheong Kee decided to set up this $500,000 space last year when he heard about the maker movement. "Most of the population lives in HDB flats and we do not have garages to tinker with things," he said. "So we decided to convert some of the underutilised space in our industrial building into the maker space."

At Sustainable Living Lab, students and people keen to try hands-on projects do not pay. Instead, the social enterprise supports itself via a start-up grant from Spring Singapore and activities such as paid classes and corporate team-building events.

Said co-founder Veerappan Swaminathan: "In exchange for using our space, people help us out and also contribute to the community via their projects."

Mettle Work is a 12,000 sq ft co-working space geared towards professionals, from designers to architects. It cost between $150,000 and $180,000 to set up and is fitted with equipment such as power tools, drills, saws and a welding machine. People pay between $399 and $900 a month to use it. Founder Daniel Tay, 39, says the workshop has a six-month waiting list."We will take it day by day, and try the best we can. We don't know what will happen tomorrow so there are no long-term medal targets set for her."

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Rats! Rodents sighted in Orchard Road again

Ng Lian Cheong Channel NewsAsia 10 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: Rats have been sighted in Orchard Road once again. The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it has received 13 complaints about rodents in Orchard area shopping malls as of May this year. It has taken enforcement action against two food shop operators after investigations showed signs of rat activity.

Even the newly opened Orchard Gateway mall has not been spared. Looking out for rat droppings at the garbage dump and setting a variety of rat traps has become a daily ritual for some staff at Orchard Gateway. The mall's management has engaged a pest control company to make sure tenants follow the rules that protect the mall from pests. Recalcitrant tenants face a fine or may have their contracts terminated.

The NEA said its checks in April found evidence of rat activities at Orchard Gateway's basement, bin centre areas as well as rat burrows at planter areas outside the building. It has also instructed building management Knight Frank Asset Management to clean up the area. Subsequent checks have shown the building to be satisfactorily maintained, according to the agency.

Pest experts believe the mall's rat problem may have started while it was under construction. Said Mr Ng Say Kiat, Vice-President of the Singapore Pest Management Association: "The main reason is that there are a lot of workers at the construction site, and when they eat, the environment and the conditions may not be satisfactory. As a result, there will always be some rat problem at the construction site. And if this is not properly controlled, when the building is completed, rat infestation will continue in the new building."

- CNA/xy

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Malaysia: Explosion rips apart section of Sabah-Sarawak gas pipeline

STEPHEN THEN The Star 10 Jun 14;

MIRI: An explosion ripped apart a portion of the RM3bil Sabah to Sarawak interstate gas pipeline project at the stretch between Lawas town and Long Sukang in the northern most district of Sarawak on Tuesday.

The 2am incident resulted in the evacuation of nearby villagers with some houses and vehicles reportedly damaged, said Lawas MP Datuk Henry Sum.

Luckily, no lives were lost in the incident, he said.

A high level investigation have started in Lawas and also in Kuala Lumpur to probe the cause of the incident as the project belong to national oil giant Petronas.

Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department Director Nor Hisham Mohamad said the fire had been brought under control.

The pipeline is meant to channel raw gas from Kimanis in Sabah via a 600km route through Lawas district, across Ulu Baram, into Miri district and onward to Bintulu in northern Sarawak for conversion into gas for export.

Fire at Sabah Sarawak Gas Pipeline
New Straits Times 10 Jun 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd has confirmed that a fire incident occurred on a section of the Sabah Sarawak Gas Pipeline in Lawas, Sarawak at about 2am.

The location is about 135 from the Sabah Oil and Gas Terminal in Kimanis, the starting point for the 500km pipeline that stretches to Bintulu in Sarawak.

A statement from the Petronas Sarawak Regional Office said the fire has been extinguished and there were no injuries.

No communities along the pipeline were affected as the closest was about nine kilometres away, the statement added.

Explosion followed by raging forest fire, witnesses relate
ROY GOH AND GOH PEI PEI New Straits Times 11 Jun 14;

LAWAS: Two cousins who went wildboar hunting lived to tell of the explosions at the Petronas Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline that shocked the district near here.

Parang Sebilor, 39, claimed he had just started hunting with his cousin Thomas Etam Adam, 44, when they heard the explosion and saw flames rising up to the sky in front of him early Tuesday morning.

"We ran separate directions and heard a second explosion," said Parang adding that the jungle behind him was ablaze as he fled from the site at Bukit Berikau about 30km from here.

"As I was running, I saw a river and jumped in. I stayed there for a while until the fire became smaller and made my way out of the jungle," said Parang who eventually made his way to a dirt road where a passer-by helped send him home to Long Ugui about seven kilometres away.

His cousin also made his way back to Long Ugui and both of them later went to the district hospital for medical treatment for minor injuries. Parang said he was injured around his waist and a bit of his hair was also burnt.

The plantation workers said large plots have been planted with oil palm in the area surrounding the pipeline stretching from Kimanis in Sabah to Bintulu in Sarawak.

The location where the explosion happened was 135km from Kimanis.

Meanwhile a team of policemen headed by Assistant Superintendent Mutang Nawat were at the scene together with officials from Petronas and Fire and Rescue Services Department.

A source from Petronas said pipeline leaks would normally be detected by a drop in pressure gauges at the control centre. "In this case, that would likely be in Kimanis because that is where the LNG (liquefied natural gas) is pumped from.

"To determine the cause of the explosion would not be easy but based on what has been reported, there seem to be agricultural activities in the area and reports of people from surrounding communities hunting there. Sparks and flammables are not supposed to mix."

State Fire and Rescue Services Department director Noor Hisham Mohammad said it was still too early to determine the cause of the fire but investigations were continuing.

The 512km pipeline feeds natural gas to the Petronas LNG Complex in Bintulu from the Sabah Oil and Gas Terminal in Kimanis.

An initial flow of 65 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd) from the Kinabalu Non-Associated Gas field southwest of the state via a 120km underwater pipeline has been pumped to the SOGT since Dec 18 last year.

Petronas in blowdown operation
New Straits Times 14 Jun 14;

KUCHING: Petronas will conduct a blowdown operation tomorrow from noon to 3pm near Merapok in Lawas following the Bukit Berikau gas explosion.

The operation is a process to remove residual gas in the affected section of the Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline (SSGP) as a safety measure prior to commencing repair work.

"The removed gas is harmless and the process will not affect the environment or public health as it is a controlled release," said Petronas' Sarawak regional office in a statement.

On Tuesday, a massive gas explosion at a part of the SSGP in Bukit Berikau happened at 2am.

Petronas is leading the investigation into the incident. A forensic team from the Department of Occupational Safety and Health in Putrajaya was also at the scene to carry out assessments.

"All necessary measures have been taken to ensure that the area is secure and safe. Petronas adheres to stringent safety measures in line with international standards," said the statement.

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Malaysia: Ships can no longer refuel at private jetties

The Star 11 Jun 14;

PUTRAJAYA: Ships and vessels can no longer refuel at private jetties as the Government has revoked all bunkering permits for these jetties with immediate effect.

This was among measures announced by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumer­ism Ministry to curb fuel smuggling activities – believed to have cost the Government millions due to the abuse of fuel subsidies.

Minister Datuk Seri Hasan Malek said the Customs Department would review the bunkering process as many vessels were found to be involved in diesel and petrol smuggling through licensed wholesalers which operated from private jetties.

“At the same time, our legal team, together with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, will review the Control of Supplies Act 1961 to revisit penalties for offences involving fuel subsidies abuse,” Hasan said after meeting oil company representatives here yesterday.

The announcement came just a day after the ministry imposed a six-month freeze on applications for wholesale diesel and petrol licences and the opening of new petrol stations of all brands.

The freeze will last until December and Hasan said petrol stations operating within a 25km radius from an international border have been limited to a monthly quota of 600,000 litres of the RON95 fuel effective this month.

Consumers with information on fuel smuggling activities may forward their complaints to the ministry at 03-8000 8000, 1-800-886-800, or e-mail

Licence for fuel bunkering revoked
AZURA ABAS and KOI KYE LEE New Straits Times 10 Jun 14;

PUTRAJAYA: Bunkering activities at private jetties nationwide are cancelled and prohibited with immediate effect.

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hasan Malek said all bunkering licences that were previously approved were withdrawn.

He explained that bunkering is a process of supplying fuel to ships ‎and the process would be reviewed by the ministry and Customs Department.

Hasan said the decision to cancel the existing permits was due to enforcement activities that were carried out and officers had found smuggling of diesel via the vessels.

On another issue, Hasan said oil companies would be taking over key petrol stations that had their licenses revoked following investigations of smuggling subsidised fuel.

He said: "However, this only applies to key petrol stations that supply fuel to the people as the ministry wants to ensure that there is continuous supply to the people."

However, Hasan added that it would only be a temporary measure as it would depend on the outcome of the probe carried out against them.

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Indonesia: A Chance for Forests, if Government Can See Past the Trees -- World Resources Institute

Vita A.D. Busyra Jakarta Globe 7 Jun 14;

Jakarta. Indonesia’s economic ascendancy from the crippling financial crisis of the late 1990s has seen the country become one of the biggest economies in the world.

But the boom has been built in part on a high rate of natural resources extraction — including coal mining and the wholesale clearing of forests to make way for oil palm plantations — that is not sustainable, experts warn.

“With the booming economy and rise of the middle class, we’re putting a lot of stresses on our natural environment, including power, wood, minerals, oil, gas and food,” says Andrew Steer, the president and chief executive of the World Resources Institute, an organization that focuses on the overlap between the environment and socioeconomic development.

Steer, speaking at the opening of the WRI’s Indonesian office on Wednesday, Steer said those stresses were responsible for Indonesia being a major emitter of greenhouse cases, mostly from deforestation.

“Over the last decade, Indonesia’s economy has become the third-fastest-growing economy in the world. With a massive 35 million people emerging into the middle class, or consuming class, we are trying to drive people to consider their consumption with the environmental sector,” he said.

“Indonesia has contributed to climate change and should be part of the solution to make it more resilient,” he added.

Steer said it was not all gloom and doom, though, noting that his institute was encouraged to open an office here because of the government’s commitment to extending a moratorium on issuing new land-clearing permits in primary and peat forests.

The moratorium was issued in May 2011 and was initially set to run for two years. However, the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono decided last year to extend it to May 2015.

Dino Patti Djalal, a board member of the WRI in Indonesia, said there was an increasing number of environmentalists, activists and civil society groups raising awareness about environmental and economic issues.

He said the country was also witnessing the rise of a new generation of local government leaders coming up with innovative ideas to address their local economic and environmental challenges.

He cited the example of an Islamic boarding school, or pesantren , in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, that had begun using e-books after finding a way to generate electricity from waste.

“They also grow tree seedlings and give them to members of the local community to take care of the trees,” said Dino, the former Indonesian ambassador to the United States. “So from the local [government] level to pesantren, university and civil society level, many people are adopting new techniques to promote environmental stewardship.”

Dino, who also mounted a failed bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, said the central government needed to do more in terms of adopting and propagating environmentally friendly technologies for sustainable development.

“They have to know what they want, what the demands of development truly are, and what types of technologies are needed to fulfill those needs,” he said.

Among the technologies that the government has often been criticized for being slow in adopting is mapping technology to assess the true condition of forests across the country.

The first few months after the implementation of the forestry moratorium were marked by numerous instances of plantation companies being issued forest-clearing permits in areas that clearly fell within the no-limit zone defined in the government’s moratorium map. The map has since been updated several times.

The WRI has proposed the use of its Global Forest Watch platform, which it says combines innovative technologies, open data and crowdsourcing at a global scale for everyone to see the real condition of forests all over the world.

“Global Forest Watch is accessible to everyone, from governments and nongovernmental organizations and indigenous communities, to buyers, suppliers and the media,” said Nigel Sizer, the director of the platform.

He said the government could use the online map, at, to inform forest policies and regulations, observe concessions, and identify illicit deforestation.

NGOs, meanwhile, can use it to identify deforestation zones and fire hot spots to mobilize real action and collect evidence to hold the government and companies to account for their forest-related commitments.

“Citizens can also share their experiences on forest-related issues,” Sizer said.

Rudi Putra, an environmental activist who won the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize for his successful efforts to tackle illegal oil palm plantations in Aceh’s Leuser Ecosystem — whose omission from the original moratorium map was a major source of controversy — says there needs to be a greater understanding about the importance of forests, not just for local biodiversity but also for communities.

He welcomed any new technology that would help in the monitoring of forest conditions. Such innovations, he said, would allow people to combat illegal logging and forest encroachment, deforestation and degradation.

Besides the issue of forests, Steer said Indonesia should look to develop its wealth of renewable energy.

The country has the world’s biggest reserves of geothermal energy, but to date generates less than 5 percent of its total electricity this way. The bulk of electricity here is generated by coal-fired plants.

“Indonesia is pretty dependent on fossil fuel, so it needs a revolution in the energy sector,” Steer said.

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Japan shrugs off embarrassing court loss, vows resumption of Antarctic whaling

Elaine Lies PlanetArk 11 Jun 14;

An embarrassing court ruling that halted Japan's Antarctic whaling will actually help Tokyo take whales in the name of science, a top whaling official said just a day after the prime minister vowed to press for commercial whaling.

Tokyo's decades-old and disputed "scientific whaling" program suffered a blow in March when the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in a surprise ruling, ordered a halt to annual hunts in the Southern Ocean.

Though Japan abandoned its Antarctic hunt for this year, it immediately vowed to retool its research program with an eye to resuming it as early as the 2015-2016 season, and eventually to resume commercial whaling as well.

It is carrying out a scaled-down version of its less known Northern Pacific hunt.

The court ruling was actually good for Japan by upholding the legal basis for whaling, said Joji Morishita, Japan's commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

"The assumption of the court is that Japan could ... look at a new research plan," Morishita told a news conference in Tokyo.

"And that it's okay for Japan to propose a new plan which involves killing whales as long as it takes account of the reasoning and conclusions set by the ICJ at this time."

Though anti-whaling nations say the IWC should be acting to conserve whales, Japan and its allies argue that it was set up to manage whales as a resource, a stance Morishita said the court supported by saying the IWC's purpose remains the same.

In consideration of the ruling, Japan did cut its quota for the Pacific hunt, which extends from Japan's coastline out into a broad swathe of the ocean, to 210 from 380.

Japan has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and began what it called scientific whaling in 1987, a year after an international moratorium came into effect, despite growing global outrage, including from key allies such as the United States.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, himself hailing from one of Japan's major whaling areas, told a parliamentary committee on Monday that Tokyo would press ahead with its whaling plans.

"We will carry out surveys on whales with the aim of reviving commercial whaling," Abe said. "I will also make further efforts to gain international understanding."

Though few Japanese now eat whale, the government argues that the meat is a part of Japanese food culture.

"Even if some country thinks that whales are special or sacred, as long as whales are sustainably utilized that view should not be forced on others," Morishita said.

"...If people in India tried to impose their way of treatment of cows on the rest of the world and tried to promote prohibiting of eating at McDonald's or hamburgers, what would happen?"

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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EU warns Philippines, Papua New Guinea on illegal fishing

Barbara Lewis PlanetArk 10 Jun 14;

The European Commission delivered a formal warning to the Philippines and Papua New Guinea on Tuesday over illegal fishing, a step that could lead to a ban on exporting to the European Union, the world's biggest fish importer.

The warning, which was welcomed by environmental groups, puts the two countries on the EU's "yellow list", which requires them to improve monitoring and control of fishing practices.

Failure to do so will put them onto the "red list" of nations which are not allowed to sell fish to the 28-nation EU.

"If half of the Western Pacific's tuna is exported to the EU, we cannot ignore illegal fishing activities in this region," European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said in a statement.

The warning follows a thorough analysis and takes into account the countries' development level, the Commission said.

The EU issued similar warnings in 2013 to Curacao, Ghana and South Korea and the Commission is now reviewing whether any of those countries should be red-listed or whether they have improved enough to be taken off the yellow list.

Campaign groups the Environmental Justice Foundation, Oceana, The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF welcomed the EU's latest move, saying that illegal fishing accounted for around one in five wild-caught marine fish, a haul worth up to 17 billion euros ($23 billion) per year.

The EU has banned fish imports from Cambodia, Belize and Guinea over illegal fishing, and EU fishing vessels are not allowed to operate in those countries' coastal waters.

($1 = 0.7332 Euros)

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Fish stocks depleted in tropics as poorer nations feed themselves

Much of the overfishing has occurred in Indonesia and China, up by 4.7m and 3m tonnes respectively in the 60 years to
Melissa Davey 10 Jun 14;

Fishing in low-income countries with growing populations has led to severe depletion of fish numbers in the tropics, a new global study has found.

Fishing in those regions now accounts for more than 40% of the wild marine catch, the study found.

The number of fish caught in the tropics – particularly in south-east Asia – has increased while the marine catch has decreased in the rest of the world. Many wild marine fisheries will not be able to increase production until effective management plans are put in place to rebuild the overfished stocks, the study found.

Fish accounts for 16% of the world’s animal protein intake, increasing to 20% in low-income food-deficit nations, most of which are in the tropics.

The findings are an early insight from the landmark State of the Tropics report, which involves 12 research institutions from around the world, including Australia’s James Cook University.

A senior research fellow at the university’s Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, Andrew Tobin, said much of the overfishing had occurred in Indonesia and China, up by 4.7m and 3m tonnes respectively in the 60 years to 2010.

“Most Australian fisheries are well managed and very few are classified as overfished,” Tobin said.

“This report shows there is certainly a mentoring role for Australia to play in south-east Asia, and we should share the lessons we have learned domestically.”

A recent government assessment of about 150 Australian fisheries found only two were in an unsustainable position, he said.

But it was important not to get “over-emotional” about the state of fish stocks elsewhere in the tropics, he said.

“It is possible to have sustainably overfished stock, which just means that the fish population is not as abundant as it could be – so it is still possible to fish from that population, but just in smaller numbers than you could if better management was in place,” he said.

“The good news is that with proper management, we find fish populations can replenish relatively quickly.”

But Australian Marine Conservation Society campaigns officer Toomi Mahto said Australia was not completely off the hook.

“There are three fish species caught in the tropical north of Australia – northern red snapper, saddletail snapper and coral trout – which we have very limited information about in terms of the health of those populations as a result of fishing,” she said.

“These three species are frequently the target of fisheries in WA, the Northern Territory and Queensland, and we don’t have enough research on the state of this stock.”

The full findings from the State of the Tropics report will be launched by the Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on 29 June.

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