Best of our wild blogs: 14 Aug 14

Colourful life on boulders of Punggol
from wild shores of singapore

"Action Plan to Reduce Marine Trash in Singapore" by Green Future Solutions
from wild shores of singapore

Strange Horizons: Past, present and the probable future
from The Long and Winding Road

Pink-necked Green-pigeon uses abandoned munia’s nest
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Butterflies Galore! : Psyche
from Butterflies of Singapore

Pacific Reef Heron in Singapore
from Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos

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Help fund non-govt efforts to map haze

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Aug 14;

LAST week, Singapore passed a ground-breaking transboundary haze law designed to punish companies that cause fires overseas, leading to haze here.

The Bill received a unanimous vote from lawmakers. But they and other experts also expressed concern about the lack of information to identify errant companies, and noted the problems involved in enforcing penalties against companies with no presence or assets in Singapore.

While these difficulties are not insurmountable, they do underline the challenges ahead and the need for cooperation with regional non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to gather evidence on the ground.

Under the new law, Singapore can fine companies for fires on their land if the resultant haze affects Singapore. Haze in Singapore has been largely blamed on farmers in Indonesia - and some in Malaysia - using fires to clear land during the June-to-October dry season.

To identify errant firms, the authorities can overlay satellite images of fires and smoke over concession or licence maps showing which firms are in charge of land plots. They can also use weather information like wind direction and strength to gauge fires' starting points.

But foreign governments have been reluctant to share official concession maps.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan acknowledged the point last week, saying in Parliament: "Civil servants tend to be very protective of data, and they say, 'no, we cannot share official concession maps' or 'the maps are not ready'."

The law's provisions help Singapore to sidestep this issue by allowing prosecutors to rely on other, non-official maps deemed reliable by the Singapore authorities.

But such non-government maps are rare, and even those currently available are patchy.

Dr Balakrishnan has said, for instance, that there are maps put online by the non-government environmental group World Resources Institute (WRI).

The WRI's Global Forest Watch initiative gets most of its concession maps for Indonesia from the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, which maintains these maps as a matter of public record.

However, the maps are widely regarded as incomplete and out-ofdate in many cases.

The WRI also sources maps from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a non-profit consortium of plantation firms, traders, retailers, green groups and others that promote palm oil supply from estates that do not harm wildlife or cut primary and high-conservation-value forests to expand.

After last year's record haze pollution in the region, when several palm oil firms were blamed for the fires, RSPO palm oil-growing members agreed to provide the RSPO with their concession maps by September this year.

But when asked, the RSPO said it did not have current data on the proportion of land its members hold, out of all of the palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia.

It said only that RSPO-certified plantations of members made up 13 per cent and 20 per cent of the total planted area in Indonesia and Malaysia respectively, based on public, 2012 land use data.

The members also have non-RSPO certified plantations.

In any case, data on plantation land may be of limited use. During the blazes in Indonesia's Riau province in February and March, fires on the two largest burned areas were started outside concessions, or on land occupied by small-scale operators within the concessions. This was the assessment of the Centre for International Forestry Research.

Without comprehensive maps, Singapore will find it difficult to identify the firms in charge of land where fires occur.

And even if companies are prosecuted, it may be difficult to enforce penalties against those with no presence or assets in Singapore, said Singapore Management University's associate professor of law Eugene Tan.

Officers or partners of companies accused under the law will be served notice in person when they enter Singapore. They can also be ordered to stay on the island to assist in investigations. Failure to comply could lead to fines and even jail.

To give the law more bite, Singapore should help fund the efforts of NGOs to come up with accurate concession maps.

According to Dr Balakrishnan, "there's this element called ground-truthing. What you really need is someone with a camera phone on the ground to say that, 'This is the fire and this is occurring here and I saw this person'."

He added: "Information gathering is sometimes best done through a non-government channel, so you don't invoke issues of sovereignty and other political sensitivities, but at the same time sufficient transparency and information is put into the hands of consumers."

Legislation is no silver bullet, and a "full menu of options" is needed, he added.

If nothing else, the law can have a deterrent effect if the threat of penalties can lead to good behaviour. That's because suspected firms' officers face fines or jail sentences when they come to Singapore, if the firms do not help with investigations.

Firms might thus want to make public maps of the concessions they hold, to pre-empt suspicion.

"Companies that refuse to volunteer their maps are likely to come under greater scrutiny from the public and NGOs," reckoned the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

So far, fortunate weather has kept the haze away from Singapore during this dry season. But more than luck - and the new law - will be needed to keep the skies blue.
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Malaysia: Twice daily cloud seeding ops for Sungai Selangor dam

rahimy rahim The Star 14 Aug 14;

PETALING JAYA: Cloud seeding operations have begun over catchment areas for the Sungai Selangor dam with twice-daily runs since Aug 1.

State exco in charge of infrastructure and public amenities Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi said the operations, which were carried jointly by the Selangor water management board (Luas), Meteorological department and the air force, were carried out using salt or sodium chloride solution.

“Based on records, the amount of rain over the dam has improved to 181.65mm from 69.52mm in June and 73.05mm in July. This is a positive development,” he said in a statement here yesterday.

Other mitigation measures, added Dr Ahmad, included reducing the rate of release of water from the Sungai Selangor dam and the Sungai Tinggi dam from 700 million litres to 500 million litres daily.

The Sungai Selangor dam’s water level continues to hover near the critical level despite rain over the past few days, with water levels only increasing from 32.03% of the reservoir’s storage capacity on Tuesday to 32.10% yesterday, a mere increase of 0.07%.

Sungai Selangor supplies raw water that meets some 60% of the Klang Valley’s needs. The Sungai Selangor dam as well as six other dams in the state are managed by Luas.

The treatment of raw water is conducted by plant operators including Puncak Niaga and Sya­rikat Pengeluar Air Selangor Sdn Bhd.

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd is in charge of the water supply distribution systems in Selangor and the Federal Terri­tories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Malaysia Meteorological Depart­ment spokesman Dr Hisham Mohd Anip said there would be isolated rain throughout the month as the country was facing the southwest monsoon, which typically brings hot and dry weather.

On Tuesday, the Selangor government had announced that water rationing would not be imposed.

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US: Florida reef showing signs of coral bleaching

KEVIN WADLOW Keys Info Net 13 Aug 14;

A warm winter and hot summer have pushed water temperatures at the Florida Keys reef to a point where coral bleaching may occur.

"The Florida Keys reefs are under a bleaching warning, which means thermal stress continues to accumulate and coral bleaching is possible," said a Tuesday report from Mote Marine Laboratory's Florida Keys Coral Bleaching Early Warning Network.

A state coral researcher reported Monday that water temperatures on shallower patch reefs in the Lower Keys "were in the high 80s, even touching 90 degrees at some spots."

Smaller corals "are paling or beginning to partially bleach," biologist Ron Ruzucka wrote. "However, larger boulder and brain corals on nearshore or patch reefs have started to turn."

"Certainly if conditions remain like they are, it could be a very stressful August and September for the corals," he wrote.

Divers and scientists noted that water temperatures dropped slightly Saturday when the Gulf Stream moved closer to shore.

Coral bleaching -- when extreme temperatures cause corals to expel the algae that give corals their color -- is a natural summer event, but frequent or extended bleaching can damage or kill corals.

Volunteer divers in the Keys can report incidents of bleaching at

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