Best of our wild blogs: 7 Aug 14

Coconut Lorikeet in Singapore
from Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos

The banana plant and its complement of fauna
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Chestnut Bob
from Butterflies of Singapore

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LTA unveils master plan to build an intelligent transport network

Neo Chai Chin Channel NewsAsia 7 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Wednesday (Aug 6) launched its master plan to improve Singapore’s transport systems and enhance commuters’ travel experience with the latest technologies.

The master plan, named Smart Mobility 2030, outlines how the country will develop its Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) over the next 15 years, LTA said.

The plan, launched jointly with the Intelligent Transportation Society Singapore (ITSS), has three key strategies: Implementing smart mobility solutions to facilitate better travel for commuters and transport management; developing and adopting ITS standards for the sharing of accurate transport data and the provision of reliable, timely and relevant information services; and establishing close partnerships and fostering co-creation between the public and private sectors.

Said Mr Chew Hock Yong, Chief Executive of LTA: “In the past, ITS were often infrastructure-reliant. Today, greater emphasis is placed on data collection, analytics and the availability of relevant, useful information on the move.

“It is crucial to ensure that Singapore can effectively tap on technological advancements and map out the overall direction for ITS developments in the next 15 years."


The blueprint published on Wednesday, a 44-page document, highlights ways in which high-quality information can be provided for diverse users, with interactive elements, to create a safer and better travel experience: For example, accurate information on crowd levels in buses and trains, warnings delivered to drivers via in-vehicle devices so some accidents can be avoided, and perhaps even driverless buses to ferry commuters within certain areas.

Information provided to users has to be simple, relevant and accurate, the master plan noted. While on-site signs, websites and radio broadcasts would continue to be the main channels to disseminate advisories, platforms for targeted and localised information — such as through smartphones, personal navigation devices and in-vehicle systems — will become more common.

In future, vehicles will be more connected with one another, and possibly with the authorities’ back-end operations for faster response to incidents. Alternative modes of transport can be deployed during a train breakdown, for instance, and motorists nearby can be alerted. But for vehicles to communicate with one another, open in-vehicle standards have to be adopted, with standard interfaces and connection protocols between smart devices required.

Experts speaking to TODAY noted the benefits — for example, congestion management — that can be reaped with new technologies such as the future satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system.

The Intelligent Transportation Society Singapore was formed in 2001 to provide a forum for academics, public and private organisations, among others, to exchange ideas and information on intelligent transportation systems.

National University of Singapore professor Lee Der Horng, who is a council member of the society, felt the next-generation ERP system would be a game-changer, enabling distance-based pricing of road usage. This, in turn, could allow the authorities to be “a bit more lenient with ownership control”, he said. Other benefits offered by satellite-based ERP lie in parking enforcement, and the potential to guide drivers on routes to take between places, Prof Lee added.

Dr Alexander Erath of the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability said measures to improve public transport should be the priority. Data from travel smartcards is a “wonderful source to get insights” for researchers, and Dr Erath suggested other forms of data could also be collected and shared with commuters through smartphone applications.

Existing and new technologies could also be exploited to improve the experience of pedestrians and cyclists, and in ticketing — such as removing the need to swipe travel cards on buses and at gantries, he suggested.

The plans laid out are fairly ambitious, he said. Commuters “shouldn’t expect less-crowded trains or roads because of intelligent transport systems, but more abilities to know how to avoid (congestion)”, he added.

More extensive and reliable data can, nonetheless, allow the public to better utilise their time, said Prof Lee. Smartphones today can provide information on bus arrivals, but not how crowded they are, for instance. With the extra information, “if peak hour is not over and I’m flexible, I may choose to stay home to do other work before leaving to take public transport”, he said. “The same applies when driving.”


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Malaysia: ‘We don’t have enough raw water’

loshana shagar AND patrick lee The Star 7 Aug 14;

PETALING JAYA: A second water rationing exercise for Selangor has become necessary as the state government cannot rely on the usual intermonsoon rainfall expected in September, said the Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer).

President S. Piarapakaran des­cribed the state government’s meeting today to decide on whether water rationing should be implemented for the second time this year as better late than never.

“It is a pretty straightforward situation.

“We clearly do not have enough raw water to supply to the four major treatment plants that produce water for about 60% of consumers in the state.

“It is also unwise to rely on the rains during the intermonsoon period next month because we cannot say for sure if there will be a stable rainfall pattern or if the rainfall amount will be high,” he said when contacted.

Malaysian Water Association president Syed Mohamad Alhabshi said the water industry had expected to see such problems occur here after the delay of the Langat 2 water treatment plant.

“Why have we allowed ourselves to be in this situation? We saw this coming four years ago,” he said, when met by The Star.

He said those who advised the state previously that there had been enough water would “get away scot-free”.

Syed Mohamad also warned that the rationing might continue again next year and after that, until the Langat 2 plant was completed.

“It will be a yearly event,” he said.

Many consumers in the state were subjected to water rationing between February and March this year when the Sungai Selangor dam, which supplies water to over 60% of households, dropped to near critical levels.

When the last rationing exercise was imposed between February and March, the level at the Sungai Selangor dam was 37%. It is now 32%.

However, Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim had repeatedly assured Selangor consumers that there would be no water rationing yet. He added that there was enough raw water to last for the next few years.

Klang API reaches unhealthy level
The Star 7 Aug 14;

PUTRAJAYA: Air quality in Port Klang hit the “unhealthy” level yesterday when the Air Pollutant Index (API) reached 115.

The air quality in Sungai Petani and Sri Aman, however, recorded an improvement from API readings of 106 and 117 respectively on Tuesday to a moderate 63 and 74 yesterday.

Other places with moderate API included Seri Manjung (67), Tanjung Malim (61) Batu Muda in Kuala Lumpur (63) and Cheras (62). Petaling Jaya and Perai saw readings of 58.

Natural Resources and Environ­ment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said satellite imagery by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admini­stration detected 32 hotspots in Sumatra and 48 in Kalimantan on Tuesday.

He said there were also 15 hotspots detected in the country with Pahang having eight followed by Sarawak (three), Selangor (two) and one each in Sabah and Negri Sembilan.

On instances of open burning this year, he said there had been 4,431 cases locally since January.

“Of this, 903 are in forested areas, 1,436 on agricultural land and 1,014 in bush areas.

“Others are 833 cases of small open burning incidents, 137 in construction areas, 870 at dump sites and 34 in industrial areas,” he said.

Palanivel said 45 investigation papers were opened and compound notices sent to those involved in 324 open burning cases while warning notices were sent out in 115 other cases.

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Malaysia: Stricter reclamation rules soon

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 6 Aug 14;

JOHOR BARU: The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Order 1987 will likely be amended in a move to make it mandatory for developers to submit detailed reports for coastal reclamation projects that span 20 hectares or more.

The proposed amendments, which are being forwarded by the Department of Environment (DoE), will ensure stricter regulation for developers who are involved in coastal reclamation works in the country.

At present, developers only need to submit a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) if the reclamation involves an area of 50 hectares and above. If the amendment to the act is made, projects with span 20 hectares or more would also require for an DEIA.

A DoE source told the New Straits Times that the amendment is good news for environmentalists due to their growing interest and concerns of late, especially on the destruction of flora and fauna brought about by coastal reclamation works.

"We hope to complete the amendment by year-end and enforce it by next year.

"By revising the requirement for coastal reclamation and making it more strict for developers, we hope to monitor all development on reclaimed land closely and ensure developers will abide by all rules and regulations," said the source.

It could not be verified if the proposed amendment is linked with the controversial Forest City project along the Johor Straits near the Second Link, as the first phase of the project involved an area of 49ha, which means no DEIA report was required.

There were speculations the developer might divide the 2,000 hectare reclaimed island project into many phases of not more than 50ha each so as to avoid from requiring a DEIA report.

Reclamation works for the 49-hectare first phase of the project began in early March and was expected to be completed by year’s end.

The project hit a snag after the Singaporean government raised concerns over the two coastal land reclamation projects in Johor, citing that it might cause trans-boundary issues. Other than the Forest City, the other project is the Princess Cove just next to the Causeway.

Singapore sent several diplomatic notes and a formal request to the Federal Government for more information on the state’s coastal projects, specifically in the Straits of Johor.

The DoE source also said the National Physical Planning Council will compliment the role of the DOE in monitoring coastal reclamation and development.

"Coastal reclamation shall not be encouraged, except for the development of ports of strategic national importance. Coastal reclamation shall not be permitted in or adjacent to sensitive ecosystems such as marine parks, mangroves, mudflats, coral reefs, seagrass beds, turtle landing sites and major tourism beaches.

"All proposals involving coastal reclamation shall be referred to the National Physical Planning Council," said the DOE source. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is the council's chairman.

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Indonesia: Riau's two million hectares of oil palm plantation illegal - Minister

Antara 6 Aug 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan has urged the Riau Province Administration not to issue additional permit for oil palm plantation, as two million hectares of the plantation is illegal or has no permit.

Minister Zulkifli Hasan during his visit to Pekanbaru on Wednesday noted that Riau has become an attraction for oil palm growers, as its land is flat and fertile that has incredible potential for oil palm plantation.

However, the size of the existing oil palm plantation in the province is too large, the minister said. Four of the eight million hectares of plantation area of Riau Province has been used for growing oil palm.

"Theoretically, additional permit may not be issued," the minister affirmed.

"Only two million of the total four million hectares of oil palm plantation area have official permit for forest conversion," the minister pointed out.

A total four million hectares should not be utilized for oil palm plantation alone, but also for rubber and sago plantations.

Meanwhile, the two million hectares of illegal oil palm plantation has been existing for at least 10-15 years, the minister explained.

The new land conversion for oil palm plantation may endanger the ecosystem, as the planters may use areas on the peat land or in the conservation areas such as Tesso Nilo National Park.

On the occasion, Minister Hasan was very appreciative with the work of Riau Police in enforcing the law on forest conservation and preventing forest fires.

The government and the law enforcement will not show discrimination in cracking down the perpetrators of forest fires.

From January until July, the local police has arrested 189 suspects allegedly involved in causing forest fires.

"More suspects may be caught as our team is still hunting them down," Spokesperson of Riau Police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Guntur Aryo Tejo added.

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For most of us, global warming has become 'normal' climate

Reuters 6 Aug 14;

Aug 6 (Reuters) - Global warming has been going on for so long that most people were not even born the last time the Earth was cooler than average in 1985 in a shift that is altering perceptions of a "normal" climate, scientists said.

Decades of climate change bring risks that people will accept higher temperatures, with more heatwaves, downpours and droughts, as normal and complicate government plans to do more to cut emissions of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Because the last three decades have seen such a significant rise in global and regional temperatures, most people under the age of 30 have not lived in a world without global warming," Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), told Reuters.

"On human time scales the changes in our climate can seem gradual, so we will increasingly need to remind the public about just how rapid and unprecedented the changes truly are," Jarraud said.

February 1985 was the last month when global temperatures were below the 20th century average, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a leading source of global temperature data.

Meanwhile, the estimated median age of the world population in 2014 is 29.4 years, meaning half are older and half younger, Francois Pelletier of the U.N. Population Division told Reuters.

Taken together, the NOAA and U.N. yardsticks mean the world's 7.2 billion population has shifted in recent weeks for the first time to a majority born since the last cool month.

"People have to get used to continuous change in the climate," said Thomas Peterson, principal scientist at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center and president of the WMO Commission for Climatology.

Some other weather agencies, using differing methods and baselines, estimate later dates for the most recent cold month than NOAA. The WMO, which compiles annual data, says 1985 was the last colder-than-average year.

Global averages go largely unnoticed because individuals experience weather and climate locally - this past winter was bitterly cold in parts of North America, for instance. But the overall warming trend is clear.


Peter Thorne, a climate researcher at the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Bergen, west Norway, said people are more likely to remember extreme weather events than to notice any fractional rise in temperatures.

"Heatwaves, droughts and extreme floods are more likely to trigger associations with climate change," he said. And more extremes could in turn put pressure on governments to act.

Almost 200 governments have agreed to work out a deal to slow global warming at a summit in Paris in late 2015, mainly by cutting emissions of greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and factories.

Governments have promised to limit warming to below 2 degrees (3.6F) above pre-industrial times - average temperatures have already risen by about 0.8C (1.4F).

Peterson said historical records of average temperatures, used by everyone from farmers planning crops to companies deciding how much insulation to install in new buildings, were no longer a reliable guide to the future.

His WMO commission said last month that the concept of "normal" weather should to be updated more frequently to take better account of warming.

Currently, the WMO period for normal weather is 1961-1990 and is due to be replaced by 1991-2020 in 2021. The Commission wants rolling updates every decade, meaning the current period would be 1981-2010 and become 1991-2020 in 2021.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Toby Chopra and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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