Best of our wild blogs: 1 Jul 14

Another new journey along the Rail Corridor
from The Long and Winding Road

Talk: Wallace Lecture Series presents “Sea star and sea cucumber reproduction enhancement strategies” by Dr Peter Mark O’Loughlin
from News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Malaysian citizens want govt to spend more to save native rainforests
from news by Rhett Butler

Featured video: What would you change in conservation?
from news by Jeremy Hance

Read more!

New water pipeline to city area to be completed by 2019: PUB

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 30 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE: A 22-kilometre water pipeline from the Murnane Service Reservoir to the city will be completed by 2019, the PUB announced on Monday (June 30), to meet the central region's future demands for water.

Construction of the Murnane pipeline from the reservoir - located near the Bukit Timah Expressway and the Pan Island Expressway - is expected to start in 2016 and be completed by 2019, the PUB said. This is to meet future demand for potable water, which is expected to increase from the current 30 million gallons daily, to about 60 million gallons a day by 2060, it added.

The national water agency said it has conducted detailed feasibility studies on various options to lay the new underground Murnane pipeline. About half of the 22km pipeline will be laid underneath the lower half of the Rail Corridor.

The agency will close off the stretch of Rail Corridor south of Holland Road from the first half of 2016 as the pipeline is being laid for public safety, and will progressively reopen these sections after the line has been laid and the ground reinstated, according to the statement.

Tenders for a detailed engineering design and an environmental impact study will be called in July, with the latter to recommend measures to minimise the impact of construction works to the environment, the PUB added.

Mr Chew Men Leong, PUB Chief Executive, said: "We will work with various community members such as residents of nearby premises, rail corridor users and relevant interest groups at different stages of the project - from planning to construction - to ensure this project, while ensuring water supply for the city area in the long term, will minimise any inconvenience to the community."

- CNA/kk

50 years on, the city will drink to this
PUB has announced plans to lay a new 22-km trunk water pipeline under the southern half of the Rail Corridor to meet future water demand in the city area.
Gurveen Kaur My Paper AsiaOne 1 Jul 14;

SINGAPORE - As the years pass, the demand for water in downtown Singapore could double.

To make sure that it continues to get its fill of the precious liquid, a new water pipeline will be laid out. It will carry water from the Murnane Service Reservoir - located near the Bukit Timah Expressway and the Pan Island Expressway - all the way to Maxwell Road.

That is a distance of 22km. About half of this pipeline will be laid under the southern half of the Rail Corridor.

The pipeline is expected to meet the water needs in the current city area and future developments, including Marina South and East, as well as the Greater Southern Waterfront.

Currently, water demand in the city area is about 30 million gallons per day, said national water agency PUB yesterday.

This is expected to double to 60 million gallons per day by 2060, said George Madhavan, director of PUB's 3P Network.

"Major water infrastructure takes a long time to plan and implement. That is why...we typically plan for 50, or even, sometimes, 100 years," he said.

Construction work for the pipeline will be carried out from 2016 to 2019, and the stretch of the Rail Corridor south of Holland Road will be closed to the public temporarily from the first half of 2016.

A segment of the corridor that runs from the Pan-Island Expressway to Holland Road will be kept accessible via a 2m-wide pathway.

Pedestrian paths crossing the corridor will still be maintained or diverted temporarily, and the areas will be reopened progressively after the pipeline has been laid.

PUB will employ pipe-jacking, an alternative method to avoid and preserve heritage structures such as the former Bukit Timah Railway Station and a steel truss bridge along Bukit Timah Road, added Mr Madhavan.

From this month, PUB will carry out soil investigation works, and environment-impact and detailed engineering studies before the works begin.

"We will work with various community members, such as residents of nearby premises, rail-corridor users and interest groups at different stages of the project... to ensure that this project... will minimise any inconvenience to the community," said PUB chief executive Chew Men Leong.

The project is expected to cost about $300 million, depending on the tender results.

"This pipeline will help us secure water supply to the city and Marina area for the next 50 years or so," said Mr Madhavan.

In a post uploaded onto Facebook yesterday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan wrote: "My initial concern was whether this pipe would disrupt the rail corridor. I agreed to this plan because it not only enhances water resilience, but it is also one way of guaranteeing uninterrupted public access along this corridor for hopefully a century and beyond."

The minister walked along a section of the Rail Corridor on Saturday with members of the Nature Society and Rail Corridor Partnership.

New pipeline to deliver water to city area
Grace Chua The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Jul 14;

National water agency PUB plans to lay a new trunk water main under the southern half of the Rail Corridor to meet future water demand in the city area.

It announced the move yesterday and said it would preserve the lower half of the former railway line as an open green space for the foreseeable future.

About half of the 22km pipeline from Murnane Reservoir in Bukit Timah to Maxwell Road will be beneath the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway line, which has been vacant since train service from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands ceased three years ago.

The Murnane pipeline, a concrete-lined steel pipe 2.2m in diameter, will deliver potable water to the city area and complement an existing central pipeline that also does this.

The new pipeline will be 3m to 4m deep, or more where needed, depending on engineering studies.

It will sit above parts of the upcoming Deep Tunnel Sewerage System Phase 2 pipeline, which will link the downtown area with Tuas at depths of 20m to 50m.

The project is expected to cost roughly $300 million, depending on tender results. Construction will take place between 2016 and 2019, and some sections of the corridor will be closed temporarily. Before that, PUB will carry out soil investigation works, environmental impact studies and detailed engineering studies. The rail corridor will remain accessible to the public during all this.

The pipeline will also go under or around wildlife spots such as a bat roosting site and historic structures such as the former Bukit Timah Railway Station and a brick culvert along the Rail Corridor.

Typically, no permanent structures are permitted over such major water pipelines.

PUB spokesman George Madhavan said: "Once this pipe is laid, we don't envisage us coming in for the next 50 years or so." Water demand in the city is currently about 30 million gallons (136 million litres) a day - about 55 Olympic-size swimming pools - and this is expected to double by 2060, said PUB.

Nature and heritage interest groups have long pushed to save the Rail Corridor as a continuous green space for recreation. Last Saturday, they walked a stretch of it with Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and PUB representatives.

Green corridor supporter Eugene Tay, an environmental consultant, said that while pipeline construction will pose a temporary inconvenience, "I hope this short-term disruption would eventually lead to the long-term conservation of the corridor over the next 50 to 100 years and beyond for future generations to enjoy".

Yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan posted on Facebook: "I agreed to this plan because it not only enhances water resilience, but it is also one way of guaranteeing uninterrupted public access along this corridor for hopefully a century and beyond."

Read more!

SIA Cargo to stop carrying shark’s fin from August

Wildlife protection groups laud move and note the Republic’s position as a trade hub for shark’s fin products
Tan Shi Wei Today Online 30 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE — Following similar moves by other airlines in the past two years, Singapore Airlines (SIA) Cargo will stop carrying shark’s fin from August.

“SIA Cargo carried out a thorough review which took into account increasing concerns around the world related to shark-finning. Following this review, SIA Cargo will no longer accept the carriage of shark’s fin, with effect from Aug 1,” said an SIA spokesperson today (June 30).

SIA Cargo is a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines.

Wildlife protection groups lauded the move and noted the Republic’s position as a trade hub for shark’s fin products.

A 2013 report by wildlife trade monitoring network, Traffic, showed that Singapore was one of the world’s top four exporters and the third-largest importer of shark’s fin between 2000 to 2009.

Hong Kong was the world’s largest importer, responsible for more than half of the imported shark’s fin in the same period, the report said.

Cathay Pacific, a Hong-Kong based airline, was the first airline to stop carrying shark’s fin in late 2012, in response to pressure from various environmental groups in Asia to ban such shipments.

Several other airlines, such as Korean, Asiana, Qantas and Air New Zealand, later followed suit in enforcing restrictions or bans.

An online petition calling for SIA to end its involvement in transporting shark’s fin was launched last year and has attracted more than 45,000 signatures so far.

A Facebook page was also set up this year, calling on pro-shark activists to meet at SIA’s check-in counters in Singapore, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles and Hong Kong on Aug 10, to protest against its shark’s fin cargo policy.

Following SIA Cargo’s policy change, Mr Alex Hofford, director of WildLifeRisk, which is leading the Facebook campaign to get airlines to stop carrying shark’s fin, told TODAY that the SIA event had been cancelled.

Mr Hofford, whose conservation group is based in Hong Kong, told TODAY that they are delighted to see SIA takes its corporate social responsibility seriously.

He said: “This decision is a major milestone in our global campaign to encourage airlines everywhere to go shark-free.

“The new shark’s fin cargo policy of Singapore Airlines will go a long way in helping the shark populations in South-east Asia recover from the relentless onslaught that they have been suffering at the hands of the shark-fin trade for decades.”

The activists have now set up a Facebook page asking shark advocates to converge at Thai Airways check in-desks at airports on five continents on Aug 10 to protest the airline’s shark’s fin cargo policy.

Ms Elaine Tan, chief executive officer of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore, added: “This is a responsible move that encourages all other airlines flying into Singapore to follow suit.

“When airlines stop shipping shark’s fin, it directly impacts overall availability and, in turn, lowers consumption, which is a good thing.

“The WWF will keep working hard with industry to remove shark’s fin altogether.”

Read more!

Malaysia: Reefs showing only minor signs of stress as sea temperatures return to normal

g. surach The Star 1 Jul 14;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s coral reefs remain healthy in general despite the heat wave that the country is currently experiencing, say experts.

Reef Check Malaysia general manager Julian Hyde said that recent checks on the country’s coral reefs revealed that sea temperatures were back to normal after experiencing a spike in April and May.

“The latest findings have really surprised us since we felt that mass coral bleaching was a very high possibility just a few weeks earlier.

“This is certainly good news and we hope that it remains that way,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Mass coral bleaching is a phenomenon which threatens the health of reefs due to a sudden increase in sea water temperature as a result of global climate change.

The bleaching causes the reefs to lose their colour due to stress, making them vulnerable to starvation and eventually death.

After making personal observations off the waters of Semporna recently, Hyde said the condition of the coral reefs there remained healthy but also showed minor signs of stress.

He added that despite coral reefs of Pulau Tioman showing tremendous improvement, those off the waters in Pulau Redang were beginning to show signs of bleaching.

James Tan, a coral ecologist at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, said that while the coral reefs off Pulau Redang were showing signs of bleaching, the effects were not as serious as the mass coral bleaching which occurred in 2010.

“The bleaching is very minor compared to 2010 and following my observation last week, the severity is less, as the affected corals are located at the shallow area, between three and five metres from the beach.

He said temperatures also seemed normal at 28°C as the water goes deeper.

Tan said the overall improvement was due to the mixture of cold and hot sea water following rainfall in the area as well as the effects of solar radiation.

The latest survey by Reef Check Malaysia last year showed that live coral cover in Malaysian waters was at 48.33%, while in 2009 it was at 49.96%.

Coral cover is a measure of the proportion of reef surface covered by live stony coral instead of other organisms.

Last month, the Marine Parks Department warned that mass coral bleaching could be a high possibility following reports from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis­tration’s Coral Watch Programme, which issued a “Bleaching Watch Alert” for Redang Island Marine Park on April 17.

The notification indicated that sea surface temperatures around Malaysia were above the norm of 28°C to 29°C and that coral bleaching was a possibility if conditions did not return to normal within a few weeks.

Read more!

Malaysia: Sabah reclamation may affect five islands

muguntan vanar The Star 1 Jul 14;

KOTA KINABALU: The proposed sea reclamation and re-zoning of Sabah’s iconic Tanjung Aru for hotels and resorts under a redevelopment plan may affect five islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park here, said WWF-Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma.

He said coastal sea reclamation could cause irreparable damage to the eco-system in Tanjung Aru and areas around it.

WWF-Malaysia believes that coastal reclamation can affect the water table, ground water, salt water and freshwater interface, in-shore current systems and coastal morphology, among others.

It can also cause marine changes which may have an impact as far out as the islands and reefs in and around Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, he said yesterday.

Furthermore, he said, the development plan for hotels and resorts was zoned at sea which was outside the gazetted boundary of Tanjung Aru beach.

“Such zoning of sea areas implies that development involving reclamation might be allowed in the seas,” he added.

Dr Sharma said the Tanjung Aru beach area here was an important green space for the public.

“Urban green space per capita is an important indicator for a sustainable and liveable city,” he said.

Environmental groups are campaigning for City Hall to abandon re-development plans for Tanjung Aru beach.

Dr Sharma said any development must not interfere with existing public access to the beach.

“Public access should be readily available and not be overly burdensome,” he added.

The latest Tanjung Aru Eco-Development (TAED) plan shows that the beach is proposed to be widened to at least 50m at high tide from the current 9m.

TAED executive director Datuk Victor Paul said the beach had lost 60m to 70m to erosion over the past 50 years.

“It would be important to examine the evidence and record of the erosion to date to identify possible causes.

“If the extent of the erosion in the past is true, how would the developers ensure that erosion will not wash away the reclaimed beach in the future?” he asked.

He said there should be more public briefings and consultations on the reclamation area and zoning of Tanjung Aru beach.

WWF-Malaysia concerns over DBKK’s Local Plan
WWF media release 30 Jun 14;

30 June 2014, Kota Kinabalu: World Wide Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) is raising concern about the reclamation area and zoning for ‘Hotel & Resorts’ in Tanjung Aru Beach as shown in the Dewan Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu (DBKK) Local Plan 2020.

The zoned area under ‘Hotels & Resorts’ as shown in the draft DBKK Local Plan for the Tanjung Aru beach area covers three areas on water. According to the Local Plan, there are zoned areas of seas which are outside the gazetted boundary.

“Such zoning of the sea areas implies development involving reclamation might be allowed in the seas. WWF-Malaysia believes that coastal reclamation can affect the water table, the ground water, the salt water and freshwater interface, the inshore current systems and coastal morphology, the sea biota, the hydrodynamic of sediment transportation, and changes in oceanography which may have impacts as far out as the islands and reefs in and around Tunku Abdul Rahman Park,” said WWF-Malaysia’s Executive Director/CEO, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma.

The Tanjung Aru beach area in Kota Kinabalu is an important green space for the public. Public parks and open spaces are vital for the quality of life and public health. Urban green space per capita is an important indicator for a sustainable and liveable city.

WWF-Malaysia recognises the necessary right of the public’s enjoyment of the beach. Any development made must not interfere with the existing public access to the beach nor negatively affect the beach. Public access should be readily available and not be overly burdensome.

The latest Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) plan shows that the beach is proposed to be widened to at least 50 metres (m) at high tide from the current 9m. According to TAED Executive Director Datuk Victor Paul, the beach has previously lost 60 to 70m to erosion over the past 50 years.

“It would be important to examine the evidence and record of the erosion to date to identify possible causes. If the extent of the erosion in the past is true, how would the developers ensure that erosion will not wash away the reclaimed beach in the future? Another important factor to this development is the sourced sand in the beach and possible impacts it may cause at the sand mining site.” said Dr Sharma.

“Transparency of the development is important to the public. As part of the concerned citizens of Sabah, WWF-Malaysia urges for more public briefings and consultations towards the reclamation area and zoning of Tanjung Aru beach. WWF-Malaysia strongly urges for sustainable development of the Tanjung Aru beach. Let us advocate for sustainable living and live together in harmony with nature.” added Dr Sharma.

Read more!

Malaysia: The heat will go on for another three months, says dept

loshana k shagar The Star 1 Jul 14;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians must brace themselves for hot and dry weather for the next three more months at the least. This is because effects of the southwest monsoon is on course to be boosted by the El Nino phenomenon.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) said though there would be a respite this week with isolated rains in several areas in the country, the dry weather would continue until September, at the least.

“Isolated rains are forecast due to the weakening in wind speed and availability of moisture,” MetMalaysia said in a statement yesterday.

“El Nino has not been established yet, but the majority of climate prediction centres worldwide expect it to develop in the next few months,” it said.

MetMalaysia noted that rain over the past weekend reduced the impact of the hot weather, which hit a maximum 33.6°C in the peninsula and 32.8°C in Sabah and Sarawak.

However, it warned that temperatures could spike to 36°C when the El Nino phenomenon emerged.

The department did not comment on whether the unfavourable weather conditions would have an impact on water supply.

On the haze situation, the Department of Environment said 40 areas recorded good air quality readings yesterday, while 10 areas, mostly in Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Kuala Terengganu, Muar, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, recorded moderate readings.

This was a marked improvement from Sunday, which showed 24 areas with moderate air quality levels and 26 others with good air quality.

Milder El Nino but Govt leaving nothing to chance
The Star 1 Jul 14;

PUTRAJAYA: Although the intensity of this year’s El Nino is expected to be mild or moderate, the Government is leaving nothing to chance.

The special cabinet committee set up to brace for weather phenomenon held its first meeting yesterday and was informed by the Malaysian Meteorological Department that, unlike the extreme El Nino of 1997 and 1998, the effects this time may not be as drastic.

The committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin discussed measures to ensure adequate food and water supply, besides contingencies to handle open burning.

“Steps to ensure food security including agriculture, livestock and fish supplies were discussed,” the committee said in a press statement.

The Government was also prepared to increase food imports, if there were serious shortages.

The National Security Council will also be coordinating efforts by various ministries and agencies to tackle the effects of the El Nino on the environment and public health.

Teams will be deployed to tackle open burning and peat fires. Cloud seeding will also be conducted to increase raw water in dams and to reduce haze if necessary.

The National Water Services Commission (Span) will also work with state governments to monitor raw water reserves.

“Contingency plans will be activated if water levels in rivers and dams fall to critical levels.”

The committee said water rationing would only be implemented as a last resort.

‘Govt geared for El Nino’
ADIB POVERA New Straits Times 1 Jul 14;

PUTRAJAYA: THE government has made preparations to cushion the aftermath of the El Nino phenomenon, which started with a prolonged dry spell last month.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in a statement, said the government would ensure there was an adequate stockpile of food for the people from the agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors.

Muhyiddin, who also heads a national committee in the wake of El Nino, said the government would implement short-, medium-and long-term initiatives in view of the phenomenon.

Among the efforts are the efficient management of irrigation for agricultural and farming activities.

“Other steps include cultivating drought-resistant and precocious plants, developing a local crops module, diversifying sources of income for farmers, embarking on an awareness campaign and establishing an El Nino forecasting simulation module.

“As an alternative measure, the government will increase the import of food items should the country’s food production plunge drastically,” said Muhyiddin.

He had earlier chaired a meeting of the committee. Present were Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam and Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa.

To lessen the burden of farmers and breeders who had suffered losses because of the dry weather, Muhyiddin said the government would provide financial aid.

“If the nation’s food production continues to drop after all measures have been exhausted, the government will provide assistance through the Agrofood Disaster Assistance Fund to affected farmers, breeders and agro-based entrepreneurs.”

Federal agencies will work with the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) and National Water Services Industry to monitor the water levels in rivers, dams and treatment plants.

Muhyiddin said a contingency plan would be activated if the water levels in all main rivers and dams dropped to critical levels.

“The contingency plan comprises actions to redistribute water from supply systems in areas with sufficient levels to affected areas.

“The government will deploy tankers and station static water tanks in areas experiencing water cuts,” he said, adding that water rationing would be enforced if the need arose.

To minimise the impact on the environment, the government, via the National Security Council, will mobilise its task force, comprising representatives from the Health Ministry, Education Ministry, Meteorological Department, Environmental Department, Fire and Rescue Department, DID, Information Department and Radio Televisyen Malaysia.

Muhyiddin said the task force would monitor and conduct actions to control open burning and peat fires.

“The task force will be involved in cloud-seeding operations to increase the raw water levels in rivers and dams, and reduce haze.”

He said indicators had shown that the El Nino phenomenon in the country was at a weak or moderate level.

Five areas record moderate API at noon
The Star 30 Jun 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Only Kuala Terengganu, Malacca City, Port Dickson, Nilai and Muar recorded moderate Air Pollutant Index (API) readings as at noon Monday.

According to the Department of Environment (DOE) portal, Kuala Terengganu and Malacca City recorded an API reading of 59, Port Dickson (55), Nilai (54) and Muar (51).

An API reading of between zero and 50 indicates good air quality; between 51 and 100, moderate; between 101 and 200, unhealthy; between 201 and 300, very unhealthy and over 301, hazardous.

Members of the public can refer to the DOE portal at to find out the current API reading for their areas. - Bernama

Moderate API in 41 areas

KUALA LUMPUR: Nine areas in the Peninsula recorded moderate air quality level in the Air Pollutant Index (API) as of 5pm.

Department of Environment (DOE) director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan said the API readings showed 41 other areas have good air quality.

“The nine areas are Kuala Terengganu (68), Seremban (60), Malacca (58), Indera Mahkota, Kuantan (55), Kemaman (53), Batu Muda, Kuala Lumpur (52), Nilai (52), Muar (52) and Pasir Gudang (51).

“Two hotspots have been detected in Sumatera, Indonesia via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite,” she said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Meteorological Department officer Ambun Dindang expected continuous rain beginning next month.

However, as at 8am today, there are 62 open burnings, peat fires, forest fires and bush fires reported in the country.

Fire and Rescue Department enforcement officer Ahmad Faizol Che Mud @ Hashim said Perak recorded the most number of open burnings with 21 affected areas followed by Selangor with 17 areas and few other states such as Sarawak (6) and Johor (4).

16 haze hotspots found
New Straits Times 30 Jun 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: All haze-causing hotspots detected in the country shall be properly investigated and acted upon, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G.Palanivel.

He said 16 hotspots have been detected through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite images; one in Selangor and Johor, two in Pahang, four in Sarawak and 8 in Sabah.

“However, the satellite was not able to show the actual number of hotspots as its observation was not comprehensive and because of thick cloud cover,” he said yesterday.

The minister said the Department of Environment had also detected 3,973 cases of open burnings, namely on agricultural land (1,271 cases), shrubs (921 cases), jungle land (840 cases), other small areas with open burning (724 cases), construction areas (117 cases), waste disposal sites (69 cases) and industrial areas (31 cases) as of yesterday.

Palanivel said one hotspot was also detected in Sumatera, Indonesia yesterday.

Air Pollutant Index (API) readings as at 1pm yesterday showed that the air quality in 30 areas was good, while residents in 20 other areas enjoyed moderate air quality.

According to the DOE website, the areas with good API readings included Kota Tinggi (30), Alor Setar (42), Tanah Merah (30), Jerantut (45) and Ipoh (47), while among those with moderate air quality were Muar (53), Sungai Petani (54), Melaka (68), Port Dickson (71) and Bintulu (52).

API readings are categorised as good (0 to 50), moderate (51 to 100), unhealthy (101 to 200) very unhealthy (201 to 300) and very dangerous (300 and above).

The public can refer to the DOE’s website at to find out the API readings in their respective areas. Bernama

Huge spike in dengue cases and deaths
The Star 1 Jul 14;

PETALING JAYA: For those who thought that the rise in the number of dengue cases was bad, here’s the real bad news – there has been a 248% spike in the number of cases this year, and a 228% increase in the number of deaths.

The total number of reported dengue cases throughout the country this year rose to 42,229 cases compared to 12,143 for the same period last year,” said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam.

As at June 21, 82 people have died of dengue nationwide – a 228% increase compared to the 25 recorded over the same period last year.

On a weekly basis, Dr Subraman­iam said 2,021 cases were recorded from June 15 to June 21, a 12.5% increase compared to the 1,797 cases reported the previous week.

Four deaths were reported for the week beginning June 15, including that of a five-year-old boy in Selangor.

“All cases were given treatment before they died due to dengue-related complications,” he added.

Dr Subramaniam had previously said the number of cases were higher this year due to the shift in the dominant dengue virus serotype that is circulating here.

Four serotypes are always in circulation (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4), but the dominant serotype can change from time to time. DEN-2 has been found to be the prevalent serotype here since the middle of last year.

With the current fasting month under way, Dr Subramaniam said Ramadan bazaar areas should be kept clean to prevent them from turning into mosquito breeding grounds.

“Bazaar operators and visitors should ensure that cleanliness is maintained and rubbish is not thrown everywhere.

“That could lead to the water stagnating and forming breeding grounds for Aedes mosquitoes.

“Mosque and surau areas should also be free of mosquitoes,” he said, urging all parties to do their part to prevent dengue.

He encouraged the public to use repellents or to cover up to minimise chances of being bitten by the Aedes, which typically feeds in the mornings or dusk.

Read more!

Beseiged by the rising tides of climate change, Kiribati buys land in Fiji

Nation finalises purchase of land on Vanua Levu, 2,000km away, but it may be just the first of many seeking refuge
Laurence Caramel Guardian Weekly 1 Jul 14;

The people of Kiribati, a group of islands in the Pacific ocean particularly exposed to climate change, now own a possible refuge elsewhere. President Anote Tong has recently finalised the purchase of 20 sq km on Vanua Levu, one of the Fiji islands, about 2,000km away.

The Church of England has sold a stretch of land mainly covered by dense forest for $8.77m. "We would hope not to put everyone on [this] one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it," Tong told the Associated Press. Kiribati has a population of about 110,000 scattered over 33 small, low-lying islands extending over a total area of 3.5m sq km.

In 2009 the Maldives were the first to raise the possibility of purchasing land in another country in anticipation of being gradually submerged. At the time the government looked at options in India and Sri Lanka.

Now Kiribati has taken action. "Kiribati is just the first on a list which could get longer as time passes," says Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles ambassador at the United Nations, who took part in the international negotiations on climate change in Bonn last month.

In March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the volume on adaptation of its fifth assessment report, confirming in starker terms forecasts first outlined by scientists in 1990. Within a few decades, small islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans risk being extensively or even completely submerged. In places the sea level is rising by 1.2cm a year, four times faster than the global average.

The cost of protecting these places against rising sea levels, compared with national income, is among the highest in the world. Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Maldives are among the 10 countries where the financial impact of climate change is the most severe.

For many of these countries, which are represented by the Alliance of Small Island States, the impacts of climate change are "irreparable", as Tong has often stressed. "Whatever is agreed within the United States today, with China [the two largest sources of CO2 emissions], it will not have a bearing on our future, because already, it's too late for us ... And so we are the canary. But hopefully, that experience will send a very strong message that we might be on the frontline today, but others will be on the frontline next," he said in an interview on CNN last month. This explains why small island states think it is so important to set up an international mechanism for loss and damage, to compensate for the irremediable consequences of global warming.

The international community approved the principle of such a mechanism in November 2013. "When a population is forced to leave its country, it is no longer a matter of adaptation," Jumeau claims. "Where will these countries find funds? It is up to the industrialised countries, which caused global warming, to shoulder their responsibilities." He wants to make the loss and damage mechanism a priority for the global deal on climate change slated to be signed in Paris in December 2015.

In the immediate future, the land purchased by Kiribati will above all be used to for agricultural and fish-farming projects to guarantee the nation's food security. With sea water increasingly contaminating the atolls' groundwater and catastrophic coral bleaching – total in some cases such as Phoenix atoll – there are growing food shortages. "Among the small islands, Kiribati is the country that has done most to anticipate its population's future needs," says François Gemenne, a specialist on migrations at Versailles-Saint Quentin University, France. "The government has launched the 'migration with dignity' policy to allow people to apply for jobs on offer in neighbouring countries such as New Zealand. The aim is to avoid one day having to cope with a humanitarian evacuation."

Kiribati has long-standing relations with Fiji. In the 1950s families from Banaba island, who had been displaced to make room for a phosphate mine, took refuge there, Gemenne recalls.

According to the IPCC there is as yet no proof that climate change is the only cause of migration from small Pacific islands. But in the most vulnerable places, islanders have few options. The government of the Marshall islands has decided to follow Kiribati's example. Others, such as Tuvalu, refuse to entertain the idea of leaving their land. In either case, the radical decision by President Tong highlights their dilemma.

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Up to 88 percent of ocean surfaces sullied by plastic

AFP Yahoo News 1 Jul 14;

Washington (AFP) - As much as 88 percent of the open ocean's surface contains plastic debris, raising concern about the effect on marine life and the food chain, scientists said Monday.

Mass-produced plastics from toys, bags, food containers and utensils make their way into the oceans through storm water runoff, a problem that is only expected to get worse in the coming decades.

The findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences are based on more than 3,000 ocean samples collected around the world by a Spanish science expedition in 2010.

"Ocean currents carry plastic objects which split into smaller and smaller fragments due to solar radiation," said lead researcher Andres Cozar from the University of Cadiz.

"Those little pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, can last hundreds of years and were detected in 88 percent of the ocean surface sampled during the Malaspina Expedition 2010."

The study projected that the total amount of plastics in the world's oceans -- between 10,000 and 40,000 tons -- is actually lower than prior estimates.

However, it raised new concerns about the fate of so much plastic, particularly the smallest pieces.

The study found that plastic fragments "between a few microns and a few milimeters in size are underrepresented in the ocean surface samples."

More research is needed to find out where these are going and what effects they are having on the world's marine life.

"These micro plastics have an influence on the behavior and the food chain of marine organisms," said Cozar.

"But probably, most of the impacts taking place due to plastic pollution in the oceans are not yet known."

Ocean Garbage Patch Is Mysteriously Disappearing
Tia Ghose Yahoo News 1 Jul 14;

A vast amount of the plastic garbage littering the surface of the ocean may be disappearing, a new study suggests.

Exactly what is happening to this ocean debris is a mystery, though the researchers hypothesize that the trash could be breaking down into tiny, undetectable pieces. Alternatively, the garbage may be traveling deep into the ocean's interior.

"The deep ocean is a great unknown," study co-author Andrés Cózar, an ecologist at the University of Cadiz in Spain, said in an email. "Sadly, the accumulation of plastic in the deep ocean would be modifying this mysterious ecosystem — the largest of the world — before we can know it."

Researchers drew their conclusion about the disappearing trash by analyzing the amount of plastic debris floating in the ocean, as well as global plastic production and disposal rates. [Photos: Trash Litters Deep Ocean]

Age of plastic

The modern period has been dubbed the Plastic Age. As society produces more and more of the material, storm water runoff carries more and more of the detritus of modern life into the ocean. Ocean currents, acting as giant conveyer belts, then carry the plastic into several subtropical regions, such as the infamous Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.

In the 1970s, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that about 45,000 tons of plastic reaches the oceans every year. Since then, the world's production of plastic has quintupled.

Missing mass

Cózar and his colleagues wanted to understand the size and extent of the ocean's garbage problem. The researchers circumnavigated the globe in a ship called the Malaspina in 2010, collecting surface water samples and measuring plastic concentrations. The team also analyzed data from several other expeditions, looking at a total of 3,070 samples.

What they found was strange. Despite the drastic increase in plastic produced since the 1970s, the researchers estimated there were between 7,000 and 35,000 tons of plastic in the oceans. Based on crude calculations, there should have been millions of tons of garbage in the oceans.

Because each large piece of plastic can break down into many additional, smaller pieces of plastic, the researchers expected to find more tiny pieces of debris. But the vast majority of the small plastic pieces, measuring less than 0.2 inches (5 millimeters) in size, were missing, Cózar said.

Unknown impact

So what exactly is happening to the debris?

One possibility is that it is being broken down into tiny, undetectable particles, whose impact on the ocean is unknown. Another possibility is that it is being carried into the deep ocean.

Whether that's good or bad isn't clear.

Less trash at the surface may mean less wildlife comes into contact with plastic.

"The plastic pollution in surface waters can more easily interact with the ocean life, because the surface layer of the ocean hosts most of the marine organisms," Cózar said.

On the other hand, small fish — particularly lanternfishes — may be eating some of these small plastic pieces, dubbed microplastics, and breaking them down even more. Because small fish are the ecological link between plankton and small vertebrates, and because commercial fish such as swordfish and tuna eat these small fish, it's important to understand whether the absorption of toxins from the plastic will impact these animals' health, he said.

The findings were published today (June 30) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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