First local loris study slow-going

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Aug 14;

FOR 200 years, this "ninja" of the forest has eluded explorers.

The Sunda slow loris, a nocturnal primate with panda-like dark circles around its large eyes, is so painfully shy it could barely be found in our forests.

Famed British naturalists in the colonial days tried and failed.

And it is still giving local scientists the slip.

The first-ever local study of the native cat-sized animal has reinforced how notoriously elusive it is, throwing up the need for many more longer-term surveys in order to study it properly.

In 108 night-time hours spent surveying seven forested sites in 2007 and 2008, just one Sunda slow loris, which is very sensitive to light and sound, was seen.

It was spotted in the Nee Soon swamp forest, a permanently flooded freshwater swamp located near Upper Seletar reservoir.

Fewer than 250 of the poorly studied, critically endangered creatures remain here on the mainland and on Pulau Tekong. Its exact population is unknown.

It is a similarly vague picture elsewhere in the region, where it is so rarely encountered that data is limited.

Lead researcher Fam Shun Deng, president of the South-east Asian Biodiversity Society, noted that even expert British naturalists in the 19th century, who collected thousands of animal specimens from the region, did not have better luck.

"For all their prolific collecting, there is not a single wild collected loris specimen in any museum in the world that is from Singapore," he said.

The Sunda slow loris is usually solitary, and spends almost all its time in treetops.

Unlike humans, it has excellent night vision. It feeds on tree gum and insects.

In Indonesia, it is known as malu malu or "shy one" because it freezes and covers its face when spotted.

The one-year study done in collaboration with the National Parks Board did however turn up encouraging data showing that loris sightings have increased sharply in recent decades.

From just a handful of sightings reported in the four decades prior to 2000, 32 have been reported in the decade and a half since.

However, Mr Fam cautioned that the increase in sightings may be simply because more field work is being done in Singapore's forests.

To further complicate the picture, the study found that the numbers are possibly inflated by an illegally smuggled exotic species, the Pygmy slow loris.

The loris' popularity in the illegal pet trade means owners could be releasing them once they tire of them, it concluded.

There have been at least six cases since 1999 of lorises being confiscated by the authorities, the most recent of which was last June.

A Pygmy slow loris was also spotted in the survey.

Findings from the study were published last month in the international journal Endangered Species Research.

The paper calls for more action to halt the illegal trade.

It also urges forest gaps to be bridged by planting trees or building rope bridges, to expand the lorises' habitat.

In addition, it recommends more "sustained, focused and regular surveys" to establish the precise Sunda slow loris population.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said: "Without having the facts, it is very difficult to create policies to protect these animals in the long term."

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Walk on the wild & wet side

Yvonne Privitha The New Paper 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - Her alarm was set for midnight, and she had three computers turned on, ready to register for tickets.

Finance executive Sonu Chhina, who declined to reveal her age, was not hoping to attend a football match or concert.

Slideshow of these photos
She was trying to get a spot on a guided walk at Sisters' Islands organised by the National Parks Board (NParks).

In its latest marine biodiversity conservation initiative, NParks has started organising introductory guided walks at Singapore's first-ever Marine Park on Sisters' Islands.

Within an hour of online registration beginning, all spots for the first such walk for the public last Thursday were snapped up.

Said Ms Chhina: "I was so excited. I waited until the day they released the spots online."

She went with her parents, both of whom flew to Singapore from India for a holiday.

They were thrilled at the chance to view more of Singapore's natural environment.

Her father, Mr D.S. Chhina, 75, is a retired agricultural scientist. It was the first time he got to see wild marine life in Singapore.

Ms Chhina's mother, housewife Narinder Chhina, 67, said she was so excited about the walk, she woke up five hours earlier than her family thinking that it was already time to set off.

Also in the group of close to 40 people on Thursday were Shin Rei, seven, and her sister Sze Shuen, four.

The girls have already had more outdoor adventures than most children their age.

Their dad, Mr Chung Swee Yit, 38, has taken them to the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Denali National Park in the US.

In Singapore, they have trekked through reservoir parks at Macritchie and Seletar.

The girls, like others in the group, were mesmerised by the diversity of marine life at Sisters' Islands.


This included moon snails, sea anemone, giant clams and a collection of starfish nestled in the sand.

Volunteer guide Ria Tan, 53, said a guide would be able to spot small creatures and plants an untrained eye would likely miss.

Besides the starfish, she was able to identify a tiny jelly-like mass of cuttlefish eggs which no one noticed beneath a large patch of seagrass.

Not too hard to spot was the giant clam, a huge crusty creature with green and yellow patterns curling across its mouth.

"It's best not to touch anything that you're not familiar with, especially with marine life - the most dangerous things can look innocent," explained Ms Tan.

Deputy director of the Coastal and Marine National Biodiversity Centre, Ms Karenne Tun, 44, said seeing and experiencing marine life was the best way Singaporeans could understand the importance of conserving it.

"We have a rich natural heritage in Singapore and it's important that we don't lose this diversity so that future generations can access it too," she said.

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Mediation helped reduce cat cullings

Linette Heng The New Paper AsiaOne 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - Like Ms Angela Ling, most of the mediators in the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) started out as volunteers.

The team has two full-time staff members, one part-time staff member, six board members and more than 35 volunteers.

The CWS, which was formed in 1998, has been working closely with the 16 town councils for the past six years.

Ms Joanne Ng, its chief executive, believes that its efforts in mediation have been crucial in reducing the number of cat cullings.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority euthanised about 1,000 strays last year, a huge drop from 3,300 in 2008 and 13,000 in 2001.

Ms Ng said: "Mediation will lead to a possible solution that both sides can tolerate.

"It also educates people of the other options available. Often, the first thought is to remove the cat, which means culling or moving the cat to another location. This just makes it another person's problem."

Catching a cat culprit
Linette Heng The New Paper AsiaOne 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - She had waited at the void deck for more than an hour, hoping to catch sight of the elusive feline.

Finally, a small black adult cat appeared and scurried up the stairs.

It was the cat that had been defecating and urinating at a block at Hougang.

For the past year, Ms Angela Ling has been trying to catch the culprit in action.

She was also counselling a resident on the 11th storey to stop feeding the cat at the corridor, but to no avail.

This is an ongoing case that Ms Ling has been handling for the past year.

When The New Paper visited the block with Ms Ling one evening, the cat was loitering at the 11th storey.

It ran away as soon as it was spotted.

The resident who has been feeding the cat did not open the door when Ms Ling knocked.
A neighbour on the 12th storey, Mr Chan Hua Heng, 52, has been dealing with cat urine at his doorstep in the morning for the past year.


He said: "We didn't want to complain because we are all neighbours, after all. The cat urinates on our slippers so we just make sure that we keep our slippers and shoes in the shelf every night."

But someone in the neighbourhood complained to the town council, which got the Cat Welfare Society in to mediate.

Ms Ling assured the Chans that the society will be working with the resident to solve the problem. They hope to catch the cat, neuter it and hopefully re-home it.

She also gave the family some tips to get rid of the smell of cat urine - by placing lemon or vinegar on their doorstep. It will also keep the cat away.

"This is not a cat problem, it's a human problem and we'll try our best to solve it so give us some more time," she told Mr Chan in Mandarin.

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Singapore can tap more solar power by 2050

Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE - The sun could supply almost a third of Singapore's electricity, up from less than two per cent now, by 2050.

If predictions made by researchers from the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (Seris) come to pass, it may mean lower electricity bills and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.

It could also increase the island's energy supply security and reduce uncertainties about cost.

Singapore has no energy resources and depends on imports to support its energy needs.

Currently, the Republic gets more than 80 per cent of its electricity from natural gas and about 18 per cent from fuel oil.

The rest comes from other sources, including waste incineration.

The potential of solar energy and photovoltaic technology - which enables the conversion of sunlight into electricity - was detailed in a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Roadmap for Singapore, which was unveiled last month.

Experts said the 30 per cent target is possible but added that it depends on whether certain conditions are met.

For one thing, Singapore must control its electricity demand. In 2012, the country consumed 42.6 terawatt-hours (TWh). By 2050, this cannot exceed 50 TWh, based on the assumption of the road map.

This is not easy. Singapore's population is predicted to grow, meaning electricity usage would surge as well.

In June last year, Singapore's population stood at 5.4 million but this has been projected to reach 6.9 million by 2030.

Maintaining electricity demand will be challenging but possible, said Seris deputy chief executive Thomas Reindl. He cited how Germany's energy efficiency measures have resulted in falling electricity consumption.

Said Dr Reindl: "It would be a great opportunity for Singapore to try to achieve future population and economic growth in an energy-neutral and carbon-neutral way."

Experts said this could be achieved through policy or pricing, such as by imposing higher electricity tariffs or giving incentives for energy savings.

Air-conditioning is one area where consumption can be slashed substantially, they said.

On the supply side, the road map also listed three conditions that would help achieve its target.

These are: ensure that areas available for PV installations - such as rooftops - are fully tapped; achieve greater efficiency and yield of PV systems; and make PV electricity cheaper.
But there could be obstacles, such as competing uses. Some rooftop spaces, for instance, are shared with chillers or gardens, said Nanyang Technological University's Energy Research Institute executive director Subodh Mhaisalkar.

The Building and Construction Authority told The Straits Times that rooftop greenery and solar panels can be located in the same place, although care must be taken to ensure plants do not cast shadows over the solar panels.

"It is possible to have greenery underneath, alongside or running parallel to the solar panels," said a BCA spokesman.

Another obstacle cited was the intermittency of solar energy due to cloud cover or storms.
A smart grid, which supplies electricity from different sources, could help, said the Institution of Engineers vice-president Edwin Khew.

But the already declining cost of PV is an encouraging sign that Singapore is on track to meeting the 2050 projection.

Pointing to cheaper solar panels and the prospect of further reductions, Mr Khew said: "With these projections being realised earlier than predicted, and with my knowledge of the pace of research at Seris, I am confident that... solar PV (can) contribute up to 30 per cent of the electricity demand in Singapore by 2050."

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It’s time to rethink tourism

RICHARD HARTUNG Today Online 20 Aug 14;

Singapore faces a dire shortage of hotel rooms, so the Government needs to release more hotel sites, real estate consultancy Chesterton International pronounced recently. Given the importance of tourism to the country, building more hotels might indeed seem urgent.

From an economic perspective, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has said the tourism sector contributes 4 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product and supports about 160,000 jobs. And tourism is continuing to grow, with receipts rising 5 per cent year-on-year to S$6 billion in the first quarter of this year, driven especially by a 19 per cent increase in sightseeing, entertainment and gaming.

Beyond the numbers, the STB has said tourism plays an essential role in reinforcing Singapore’s status as a vibrant global city that is a “magnet for capital, businesses and talent”.

There are undoubtedly benefits to tourism, but downsides also exist. It requires bringing in more foreign workers to take on jobs that Singaporeans shun. There are also hidden costs such as higher food prices due to increased demand, money that flows out to buy supplies for tourists and an adverse impact on the environment.

So, rather than a continual push to bring in more tourists, perhaps it is time to rethink the strategy behind the long-held view that tourism growth must continue unabated and consider shifting the focus to other sectors that can add greater value.


As far back as 1994, Singapore researcher Peggy Teo noted that while tourism had grown rapidly and was deemed economically beneficial, it also resulted in resentment against foreign workers and changes to the vernacular landscape that pushed out locals. Two decades later, similar issues loom even larger.

The tourism sector continues to rely on foreign workers, especially since Singaporeans are less attracted to jobs that are crucial to the sector, such as waiters, cleaners or chambermaids. While data on how many of the 160,000 jobs in tourism go to foreigners is elusive, anecdotal evidence suggests that the percentage is high.

At a time when Singapore is curbing the inflow of foreign labour, the need to recruit foreign workers to fill positions in new hotels will not only be a challenge, but also put a further squeeze on the tight labour market.

A hidden cost of tourism is financial leakage, which the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) describes as “the loss in tourism revenue due to the need to procure tourism-related goods and services from abroad”. Data from the UNCTAD showed leakages of 10 to 20 per cent in developed countries and as high as 70 per cent in developing markets such as Thailand. Singapore may have higher leakages than other developed countries since it imports almost everything it offers to tourists — from food, drinks and clothes, to buses for tours.

Another hidden cost, said the UN Environment Programme, is the “unfavourable economic effects on the host community”, as tourism could lead to price hikes for locals due to increased demand for basic services and goods.

While prices in the heartlands have remained affordable, and though tourism is not the only factor driving up prices in central areas, prices for almost everything — from meals in restaurants to clothes at boutiques in tourist areas — have risen relatively quickly. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), in naming Singapore the most expensive city in the world, said it is the third-most expensive destination for utility costs and the priciest place in the world to buy clothes.

However, the Government has clarified that cost-of-living reports such as EIU’s are aimed at comparing the costs of living for expatriates and thus do not reflect the living expenses of a local resident.

Moreover, the UNCTAD has pointed out that tourism makes a country vulnerable to adverse environmental impacts. Research by Sustainable Travel International showed that an average hotel uses about 825 litres of water a day for every occupied room — for everything from showers and laundry to swimming pools. This compares with the average of 151 litres used each day by each resident in Singapore.

Water management practices should have improved since data were released in 2008. Still, Mr Choi Shing Kwok, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, highlighted waste management at hotels and water usage as still being key issues in a speech earlier this year.


Tourism receipts also do not tell the full picture. Dr Douglas Frechtling, professor of tourism at George Washington University, explained that tracking tourism expenditures alone can be “quite misleading in evaluating the economic benefits or economic costs of travel and tourism”.

Tallying the hidden costs of tourism means that the economic benefits of tourism are, in fact, less than expected, and may exacerbate the issues related to foreign workers here.

Rather than continuing to bank on tourism, it may be a good time to hit the pause button and ask: Should Singapore focus on bringing in more tourists or channel its efforts into other industries that bring in skilled jobs, pay more and enhance job quality for Singaporeans? For instance, new investments in headquarters and professional services that the Economic Development Board attracted last year created 5,120 skilled jobs and added nearly 1 per cent to GDP.

Any change in focus would almost inevitably result in rebuttals from the tourism sector. While policymakers should not neglect this sector, stopping to review tourism more holistically and potentially focusing instead on higher-value-added industries could ultimately create better-paying jobs for Singaporeans and benefit the economy.


Richard Hartung is a financial services consultant who has lived in Singapore since 1992.

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3% rise in number of contraband smuggling cases

Today Online 20 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE — Caged puppies hidden in a box and live birds concealed in tubes were among methods used by smugglers to bring their goods into Singapore, as the number of contraband smuggling cases detected rose 3 per cent in the first half of the year.

However, the number of immigration offenders arrested between January and June fell 22 per cent from the same period last year, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) in its mid-year report released yesterday.

The offenders arrested between January and June comprised 203 illegal immigrants and 817 overstayers, representing a fall of 36 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, from the same period last year.

One hundred and nine harbourers and 40 employers of immigration offenders were arrested during the period, a decrease of 2 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively, from a year ago.

The number of contraband smuggling cases detected rose from 46,300 to 47,800 cases between January and June, added the ICA.

Security items, such as bulletproof vests, throwing knives, pepper sprays and night-vision binoculars, were among the common items smuggled.

Animals, such as birds hidden in tubes, resulting in the death of some of them, have also been detected.

“While smugglers of contraband items have been seeking new methods of concealment, some of them have also reverted to known methods such as concealing contraband in Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) tanks of cars, hollow plywood doors and the modified floorboard of vans,” said the ICA.

In June, three separate cases involving the concealment of contraband cigarettes in the modified CNG tanks in cars were detected, added the ICA, nothing that such methods had been detected in 2010 and 2011.

The first half of this year also saw five cases of concealment using the modified floorboard in vans — up from only one for the whole of last year.

“The same method of concealment could similarly be employed by terrorists to smuggle dangerous materials, such as weapons or explosives, into Singapore,” said the ICA.

To prevent immigration offences, the ICA has adopted a multi-pronged approach, such as conducting stringent border checks and public awareness programmes on harbouring offences.

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Indonesia: Scientists identify deforested idle land as source of Indonesia "haze" fires

Alisa Tang Thomson Reuters Foundation 19 Aug 14

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A month after Singapore was shrouded in a thick haze produced by Indonesian fires in June 2013, scientist David Gaveau went to the source of the smoke in Riau province to survey the charred aftermath.

News reports attributed the haze to slash-and-burn forest clearance to make way for oil palm plantations. But what Gaveau, a scientist with the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), discovered during his five days examining the still-smouldering ground on Sumatra island was different.

His team already knew from satellite images that over 80 percent of the burned 163,336 hectares was “non-forest” land - ranging from scrub and exposed soil to oil palm plantations with trees more than five years old - but they wanted to know what it really looked like.

So Gaveau and his colleague, Mohammad Agus Salim, met up with two drone technicians and snapped aerial images from seven burn sites around Riau. According to a paper published on Tuesday in Scientific Reports, they concluded that 57 percent of the burned “non-forest” land was made up of what they call “forest cemeteries”.

According to Gaveau, these areas had already been stripped of forest, but not yet converted for cultivation: “decapitated stumps, branches lying around, a lot of wood debris - you see the dead trees scattered about”.

The fires behind the haze were short-lived and confined to recently deforested peatlands in Riau, reflecting ongoing conversion to oil palm plantations, the researchers wrote in their paper.

In their pristine state, Indonesian peatland swamps are covered in lush tropical forests and are resistant to fire because the ground is wet year-round and the canopy keeps it cool, Gaveau said.

But when the trees are removed and the ground is drained for farming, this land rich in peat – decayed organic matter used as fuel in places like Ireland and Finland – becomes highly flammable.

“During a hot day, at noon, the dry peat soil becomes extremely hot, and all it takes are a few consecutive days of little rain for peat to burn” even in a wetter-than-average year, Gaveau told Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Bali. That is what the scientists observed in June 2013, and also in February-March 2014.


Until now, transboundary haze events in Southeast Asia occurred during drought years with low rainfall, Gaveau said, pointing to the El Nino years of 1982, 1997 and 2006.

But migrants pouring into the region and using fire to clear land for cultivation have added another dangerous variable, he said.

Just over half the total burned area in Riau in 2013 - nearly 85,000 hectares - was on land allocated to companies for plantation development, but of that area, some 50,000 hectares was also occupied by locals or migrants.

The combination of large numbers of people searching for land and extremely fire-prone peat covered in wood debris “creates this mess”, Gaveau said.


Peat fires do not have the raging flames seen in wildfires in Southern California and Australia.

“It’s almost like they are flameless fires. It’s not like you have to run away, or the flame will kill you. People still go about their business,” Gaveau said.

However, smouldering peat releases much greater amounts of greenhouse gases per unit of fuel consumed than flaming combustion, he noted.

The CIFOR scientists found that the haze that has angered Singaporeans is due to these smoky fires on land that has remained idle for several years rather than slash-and-burn forest clearance, as commonly thought.

Pristine forests are deemed safe from fires, as are established plantations, because companies and landowners want to protect their assets. It is areas at the in-between stage that are particularly vulnerable.

Gaveau said the transition from forest to farmland in Riau is more complex than scientists had thought, and takes longer than the three years or so they had expected – for reasons they still haven’t worked out.

“What that means is that the same area can burn several times over the course of several years before it gets converted to agriculture. It keeps getting burned and burned and burned.”

This is bad news for Southeast Asia - and in particular Singapore, which has been so hard hit by the haze that earlier this month its parliament passed a bill proposing fines of up to S$2 million ($1.6 million) for companies found guilty of causing it, whether or not they operate on the island.

The smog caused by fires often leads to the closure of airports, and sometimes schools and offices too. It can trigger respiratory diseases, as well as eye and throat infections.

“It is not just city dwellers who are affected, but also, and most importantly, local people who live around these fires,” Gaveau said.

(Editing by Megan Rowling:

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Malaysia: New efforts needed to protect orang utans -- WWF

Dennis Wong New Straits Times 19 Aug 14;

KUCHING: The conservation of 54,000 orang utans in Borneo will depend on the commitment of logging concessionaire holders to provide corridors for the species to thrive in.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia said this was crucial as the species is threatened due to development, and are concentrated in forests that dot the Malaysia-Indonesia in Borneo, an area known as the Heart of Borneo.

WWF Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said a corridor is needed for forests between the Batang Ai National Park in Sarawak and Betung Kerihun National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

"To achieve an orang utan management plan, there is a need to develop an ecological connectivity for wildlife movement and secure good standing forest in the Heart of Borneo," said Dionysius in conjunctionwith World Orang Utan day celebration today.

He said it was high time for stakeholders to be committed in “responsible forestry” as stipulated under the Orang Utan Transboundary Action Plan, which was initiated by the Sarawak Forestry Department nine years ago.

Sarawak Forestry Department Director Sapuan Ahmad said it was making sure the policy was being implemented at all levels.

Such efforts also benefits flora and fauna.

Meawhile, WWF Indonesia chief executive officer Dr Efransjah said 70 percent of the orang utans in Betung Kerihun National Park, West Kalimantan thrived in areas that spanned into Malaysia's Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary.

"This highlights the importance of collaboration between the two countries in protecting the species," said Efransjah.

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Malaysia: Going against the tide -- Sturgeon aquaculture

ong han sean The Star 12 Aug 14;

KUANTAN: Sturgeon would be imported if it is proven that cultivating the fish species is possible, Fisheries Department director-general Datuk Ahamad Sabki Mahmood said.

“Even though the sturgeon is listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), if it is proved they can be farmed, then permission can be given for the fish to be imported with conditions,” he said after holding a dialogue on new zoning rules with fishermen here recently.

Sturgeons are native to subtropical, temperate and sub-Arctic rivers, lakes and coastlines of Eurasia and North America. Several species of sturgeons are harvested for their roe, which is made into caviar - a luxury delicacy.

The RM120mil sturgeon farming project being developed in Kuala Tahan by Felda Investment Corporation and MMC Hassed Co Ltd of South Korea had drawn objections from the Pahang National Park Tourism Operators Association which feared that it would affect eco-tourism in the area.

Its chairman Abdul Jalil Abdul Rahman was that the foreign fish species could pose a threat to the ecosystem and jeopardise the livelihood of those involved in eco-tourism.

The project had also been criticised by Sahabat Alam Malaysia and the Malaysian Nature Society and they said the import of exotic species such as the sturgeon was prohibited under the Fisheries Act Fisheries Regulations (Prohibition of import etc, for fish) (Amendment).

Ahamad Sabki gave an assurance that measures would be put in place to prevent the fish from being released into the wild.

“We have conditions in place and we will monitor the project closely.

“The fish will not escape,” he reiterated.

Ahamad Sabki said the project was important to position the country to farm high-value products.

On the new zoning rules, he said traditional fishermen in Pahang were supportive of the plan to expand the fishing zone from five to eight nautical miles.

“This means trawler fishermen will have to fish further away.

“This is to protect our marine resources and also the livelihood of traditional fishermen,” he said.

Ahamad Sabki added the department would hold a dialogue soon to collect feedback on the proposal to ban trawling.

“This is because the catch from trawlers make up 47% of fish landed in our country.

“Even if we want to ban the use of trawling nets, it should be done in stages and maybe an alternative can be proposed,” he said.

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Dugong (Sea Cow) Viewing Tower being built in Trang to welcome tourists

National News Bureau of Thailand 19 Aug 14;

TRANG, 19 August 2014 (NNT) -The President of Trang Provincial Administrative Organization Kij Leekpai recently led a team of engineers, community leaders and residents from Moo 4, Libong Island sub district, Gantang District to observe the active sea life nearby and authorize the construction of a Dugong Viewing Tower. The Dugong is also widely known as the Sea Cow. The work also includes the restoration of the harbor area and renovation of the Leekpai bridge.

The ongoing construction is expected to be completed within 180 days or before the beginning of the high season towards the end of this year.

The Dugong Viewing Tower, is to be 16 meters high, 4.2 meters wide and consist of four levels It is being constructed with a budget of 3,729,000 baht and is intended to facilitate viewing by tourists keen to witness the Dugong in its natural habitat without requiring the visitors to climb a hill or take a long-tailed boat out to sea.
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Climate change to cut South Asia's growth 9 percent by 2100: ADB

Gopal Sharma PlanetArk 20 Aug 14;

Climate change will cut South Asia's growth almost 9 percent by the end of the century unless world governments try harder to counter global warming, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Tuesday.

The region is home to a fifth of the world's population and is already vulnerable to climate extremes: seasonal floods, cyclones and droughts that ravage vast swathes of agricultural land and displace hundreds of thousands of people every year.

The costs of countering climate change in South Asia will also increase over time and will be prohibitively high in the long term, the ADB's "Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia" report said.

Gross domestic product (GDP) losses are projected at 12.6 percent for the Maldives, 9.9 percent for Nepal, 9.4 percent for Bangladesh and 8.7 percent for India by 2100.

"Without global deviation from a fossil-fuel-intensive path, South Asia could lose an equivalent of 1.8 percent of annual GDP by 2050, which will progressively increase to 8.8 percent by 2100 on the average under the business-as-usual scenario," it said.

The Maldives will also be hardest hit in the next few decades, with a loss of 2.3 percent of GDP. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka will lose 2 percent, 1.4 percent, 1.8 percent, 2.2 percent, and 1.2 percent, respectively, by 2050.

Those countries, excluding Sri Lanka, will see more frequent severe weather, damaging property, infrastructure, agriculture and human health, the ADB said. Between 1990 and 2008, more than 750 million people in South Asia were affected by at least one natural disaster, resulting in almost 230,000 deaths, it said.

Coastal areas of Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka will see sea level rises that are likely to displace people and adversely affect the tourism and fisheries sectors.

The cost of shielding the region against climate change could be lowered if the world's governments significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions and, if the rise in global temperatures was kept below 2.5 degrees Celsius, that cost could be nearly halved to about $40.6 billion, or 0.48 percent of GDP, it said.

South Asia also needs to introduce flood- and saline-resistant crop varieties, better coastal zone management, improved disease surveillance, protection of groundwater and greater use of recycled water.

India, one of the world's largest agrarian economies, is badly at risk, the report said, and may see GDP losses of up to 8.7 percent by 2100.

"Agriculture provides employment and livelihood opportunities to most of India's rural population and changes in temperature and rainfall, and an increase in floods and droughts linked to climate change, would have a devastating impact on people's food security, incomes, and lives," ADB Vice-President Bindu Lohani said in a statement.

(Writing by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Earth sliding into ‘ecological debt’ earlier and earlier, campaigners warn

World has already exhausted a year’s supply of natural resources in less than eight months, Global Footprint Network says
Press Association 19 Aug 14;

Humans have used up the natural resources the world can supply in a year in less than eight months, campaigners have warned.

The world has now reached “Earth overshoot day”, the point in the year when humans have exhausted supplies such as land, trees and fish and outstripped the planet’s annual capacity to absorb waste products including carbon dioxide.

The problem is worsening, with the planet sliding into “ecological debt” earlier and earlier, so that the day on which the world has used up all the natural resources available for the year has shifted from early October in 2000 to August 19 in 2014.

In 1961, humans used only around three-quarters of the capacity Earth has for generating food, timber, fish and absorbing greenhouse gases, with most countries having more resources than they consumed.

But now 86% of the world’s population lives in countries where the demands made on nature - the nation’s “ecological footprint” - outstrip what that country’s resources can cope with.

The Global Footprint Network, which calculates earth overshoot day, said it would currently take 1.5 Earths to produce the renewable natural resources needed to support human requirements.

The network warned that governments that ignore resource limits in decision-making are putting long-term economic security at risk.

Mathis Wackernagel, president of the Global Footprint Network, said: “Global overshoot is becoming a defining challenge of the 21st century. It is both an ecological and economic problem.

“Countries with resource deficits and low incomes are exceptionally vulnerable.

“Even high-income countries that have had a financial advantage to shield themselves from the most direct impacts of resource dependence need to realise that a long-term solution requires addressing such dependencies before they turn into a significant economic stress.”

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