Best of our wild blogs: 18 Sep 14

Pacific Reef Heron at Seletar Dam
from Francis' Random Yaks, Articles & Photos

Activists urge outgoing Indonesian president to protect key forest area before he steps down
from news by Rhett Butler

Environment and Society: Where is the Disconnect?
from Worldwatch Institute

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Challenges remain even after Indonesia’s ratification of haze pact: legal experts

Eileen Poh Channel NewAsia 17 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: Legal experts in Singapore say Indonesia's ratification of the haze pact is a step forward for both Indonesia and ASEAN, but it is the implementation on the ground that will determine if the agreement has teeth.

Indonesia's Parliament on Tuesday (16 Sep) voted to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The agreement requires Indonesia to work closely with fellow ASEAN members to prevent forest fires. The move comes after a 12-year wait as Indonesia is the last of the 10 ASEAN countries to ratify the agreement.

Legal experts in Singapore whom Channel NewsAsia spoke to said it is a significant move, but challenges remain.

Associate Professor Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, commented: "Law, just on paper, is meaningless. It really has to be enforced on the ground. What we have to see now is whether officials are implementing and enforcing their own laws. (This is) especially because the ASEAN Agreement, at the regional level, has no particular penalties."

Added Mr Paul Tan, partner at Rajah & Tann Singapore: "The agreement does not spell out in great detail the specific obligations of each member state. It just provides a framework and the infrastructure with which to cooperate with one other. So this will be left to the initiative of member states to work out over time what they want to do and how they want to approach the problem."

Mr Tan, who specialises in international law and arbitration, also noted that the agreement does not spell out penalties for non-adherence. "The dispute resolution mechanism that is contemplated is that of amicable resolution. So for example, if there is an issue between one member and another over the implementation of the agreement, they have to go through negotiation and consultations," he said.

Under the agreement, Indonesia will also have to be more transparent in sharing information, and that will include providing satellite images that could point to which areas are burning and who owns them.

- CNA/ms

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3-hour PSI reading creeps into unhealthy range

Today Online 17 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) tipped into the unhealthy range at 102 at 8pm after staying in the moderate range for most of today (Sept 17).

The 24-hour PSI reading across Singapore was 62-66 as at 8pm, in the moderate range.

Hazy conditions are expected for tonight, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in its haze update.


It was “slightly hazy” over some parts of Singapore late this afternoon, likely due to smoke haze from the surrounding region, blown in by the prevailing winds.

A total of 23 hotspots were detected in Sumatra today, but the NEA said the low count was due to cloud cover over parts of the island. Smoke haze was visible over the southern half of Sumatra.

Hotspot activities in Kalimantan have also escalated in recent days, said the NEA, with 139 hotspots detected today. “Widespread thick smoke haze was observed in southern and western parts of Kalimantan. Some of the haze has spread to the southern parts of the South China Sea,” said the advisory.

3-hour PSI hits unhealthy level of 102
Channel NewsAsia 17 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The 3-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) at 8pm on Wednesday (Sep 17) hit 102, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA). This nudges the air quality into the unhealthy level, which means a PSI ranging from 101 to 200.

In an advisory, NEA said the haziness was likely due to smoke haze from the surrounding region, blown in by the prevailing winds. The total number of hotspots detected in Sumatra on Wednesday was 23, while 139 hotspots were detected in Kalimantan. "Smoke haze was visible over the southern half of Sumatra," stated the NEA advisory. "Widespread thick smoke haze was observed in southern and western parts of Kalimantan. Some of the haze has spread to the southern parts of the South China Sea."

Occasional slight haziness may be experienced during the day on Thursday, said the NEA, which added that "the overall air quality for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the high-end of the Moderate range but may creep into the low end of the Unhealthy range from time to time".

Tomorrow, there may be “occasional slight haziness” during the day. The overall air quality for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the high-end of the moderate range but may creep into the low end of the unhealthy range from time to time.

Prevailing winds are forecast to blow from the east or south-east, and thundery showers are forecast in the late morning and early afternoon.

- CNA/xy

Haze eases as wind direction changes
Audrey Tan and Chang May Choon The Straits Times AsiaOne 17 Sep 14;

KEEP an umbrella handy today, as rain is likely to hit Singapore in the afternoon. Unhealthy levels of haze, however, may not return for now.

Instead, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said to expect moderate air quality today - an improvement from the unhealthy levels of smoke that blanketed western Singapore on Monday. Then, the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) - a measure of air quality here - had exceeded 100 and crossed into the unhealthy range, the first time since April this year.

At the unhealthy range, prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical activity should be reduced. At moderate levels of 51-100, normal activities can still be carried out.

The improved air quality was due to a change in the wind direction, said the NEA in its daily haze advisory. Only seven hot spots were detected in Sumatra yesterday, it added, although the low number spotted was also due to partial satellite coverage and cloud cover.

In the agency's weather outlook for the remainder of the month, the NEA warned that Singapore could experience occasional slight haze on a few days due to periods of consecutive dry weather in the region - characteristic of the south-west monsoon season Singapore is now experiencing.

If the winds continue to blow the smoke away from the Republic, the 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix this weekend will go ahead.

But even though air quality has improved since yesterday, a contingency plan is in place in case the haze descends on the muchanticipated motor racing event this weekend.

"The possibility of haze is just one of the many potential issues that are covered in (the) contingency plan," said a Singapore GP spokesman, who did not give details of the plan.

"In the event that the haze causes visibility, public health or operational issues, Singapore GP would work closely with the relevant agencies before making any collective decisions regarding the event," she said.

Formula 1 commentator Steve Slater said that the event is unlikely to be cancelled, unless the haze severely affects drivers' visibility, or if organisers feel there is a safety risk.

"Organisers will be under very strong pressure not to cancel the race," said Mr Slater, pointing out that the Singapore Grand Prix is considered one of the two most prestigious Formula 1 events, the other being the Monaco Grand Prix.

Italian Dante Care, 49, a Bangkok-based managing director of an industrial automation firm, said the haze would not stop him from watching his third F1 race here.

He said he had booked a package on Monday to attend the motor racing event, without realising the haze had returned. However, he said he would be concerned only if flights are cancelled as a result of the haze.

"I'll stick to it till the last minute," he said, adding that he would cancel only if everyone else did. Meanwhile, organisations with haze contingency plans in place after last year's record pollution are monitoring the situation before rolling out measures such as running ventilation systems or distributing N95 masks.

Last year, many firms were caught flat-footed by the worst haze crisis in Singapore's history, with three-hour PSI readings soaring above 400 in June.

Dr Ow Chee Chung, chief executive of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital, said the hospital's ventilation system will be fully operational when the PSI hits 150.

A spokesman for United Overseas Bank said it has issued a haze advisory to its employees and is distributing N95 masks as a precautionary measure. "We continue to monitor the filters in our air-conditioning systems at our buildings and all branches," he added.
- See more at:

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‘Forgotten’ reservoir discovered near Mount Faber

Jessica Yeo and Tan Shi Wei Channel NewsAsia 17 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Heritage Board (NHB) has uncovered a “forgotten” reservoir near Mount Faber that dates back to more than a century ago.

The size of three badminton courts, the water body which survived two World Wars is located on land zoned for park use, less than 400m away from Telok Blangah Road.

NHB chanced upon the oval-shaped reservoir while researching on the history about the island, cross-referencing modern and historical maps.

Further research showed that it was first mentioned as a private reservoir that was used as a water source for the Tanjong Pagar Dockyard and subsequently mentioned as a swimming pool during the Japanese Occupation. By the year 2000, the image of the water source completely disappeared from local maps.

A group of five NHB researchers made a total of five site visits starting this February, and found features of a reservoir including chute spillways of a dam, filter beds that supported their previous inferences.

Dr John Kwok, 36, assistant director of research at NHB’s impact assessment and mitigation division, who headed the research team, said that the water source was subsequently not marked on the maps as it was not a municipal reservoir.

"The reservoir was built sometime in 1905 and we know that because of the colonial bricks that we found on the reservoir wall. But once we advanced to another part of the reservoir, we found that the bricks were from a different time period. So it showed this reservoir was in constant use for a long period of time," he said. “It was forgotten because it was a private reservoir and through time, we think that it changed owners and subsequently abandoned as there was no use for it as a reservoir or a swimming pool.”

The reservoir was discovered by a group of NHB researchers who were looking at old maps of Singapore to trace the country's developments. Said Mr Alvin Tan, Group Director (Policy) for NHB: "Our research team was looking at maps from the early days all the way until Independence and they noticed a discrepancy, that there was a body of water in the older maps that actually disappeared when they looked at the maps in the 1980s. Because of that we actually came down on a few recce visits, bashed through the dense jungle vegetation and eventually located the reservoir."

In light of the new discovery, NHB has made a documentary on the forgotten reservoir and the almost eight minute long clip will be live on the NHB website on Thursday (Sep 18).

However, NHB would like to discourage the public, especially families with young children and elderly, from making their way to the reservoir on their own due to the “challenging terrain”.

Those with more information about this “forgotten” reservoir can send their feedback to .

- CNA/TODAY/cy/xy

Abandoned reservoir near Telok Blangah Road found
Tan Shi Wei Today Online 17 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE — Once a reservoir that served the Tanjong Pagar Dock in 1905, it was later abandoned and vanished from contemporary maps of Singapore — until a group of National Heritage Board (NHB) researchers stumbled upon it while poring over old maps during a routine research on the island’s history in February.

“‘How did we not know about the reservoir’ was the first thing that came to our minds.” said Dr John Kwok, assistant director (research) of NHB’s impact assessment and mitigation division.

Their curiosity sparked, the five-member research team, headed by Dr Kwok, 36, began comparing maps from different periods to piece the picture together.

“It was a long and gruelling process, as most research are,” said Dr Kwok, during a media visit to the reservoir today (Sept 17). “We had to go through a lot of records and pretty much camped in the archive room to look at them over and over again.”

Through their research, the team found that the reservoir — which is at least 2m-deep — was a water source for Tanjong Pagar Dock back in 1905. Subsequently, maps dating to the Japanese Occupation marked the water body as a swimming pool, although a map and report from a British aerial inspection in 1944 called it a reservoir.

In the intervening years, one newspaper report in 1948 referred to it as Keppel Hill Reservoir, but in the first Urban Redevelopment Authority Masterplan in 1958, it was simply an outline, without a caption. In the 1980s, maps only showed an outline, and by around 2000, it had entirely disappeared from maps.

“It was forgotten because it was a private reservoir and through time, we think that it changed owners and was subsequently abandoned as there was no use for it as a reservoir or a swimming pool.” Dr Kwok said.

Responding to media queries, the PUB said it was recently informed of the existence of the reservoir, and also visited the site with the NHB. “PUB understands that the site may have started out as a private pond used to collect rain water under the then Singapore Harbour Board. Given its relatively small size, it is not viable for tapping on as a reliable water supply source,” a spokesperson said.

Calling the finding “the first of its kind”, Dr Kwok said it was luck that enabled them to locate it so quickly. “We were ecstatic when we had found the site and spent some time there, climbing around,” he said, adding that the team were shocked at how well-preserved it was. The rusted hinges of an old diving board alongside the mould-ridden chute spillway of the dam spotted on site supported their research findings. The team trekked down the overgrown terrain— 400m off Telok Blangah Road — four more times to document the place. The site is not fenced off, although an old and battered sign hanging from a tree cautioned visitors not to swim or fish in the reservoir.

The discovery and history of the reservoir has been made into a nearly eight-minute long documentary called Forgotten Reservoir, which can be viewed on the NHB website from tomorrow.

Asked about the future of the reservoir, NHB’s Group Director (Policy) Alvin Tan said the land has been zoned for park use and he did not foresee any developments. “We would advise members of the public with children, elderly and those with certain handicaps to avoid to coming to the site itself, because it is inaccessible due to the dense jungle grove and possibly slippery roads.” he said, adding that they might look into organising guided tours.

The board would also like to encourage those who have more information about the reservoir to email them at

Forgotten reservoir found by Heritage Board
Melody Zaccheus My Paper AsiaOne 18 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - An abandoned reservoir that dates back to 1905 has been uncovered by the National Heritage Board (NHB).

Located off Telok Blangah Road and near Mount Faber, it was part of the Tanjong Pagar Dock but is not demarcated in the modern maps of Singapore.

However, while doing a study on the topographical changes in Singapore over the past 100 years, a team from the board discovered the reservoir, nestled in a densely-forested area.

"We were poring over old maps of the area and saw a body of water marked out on them," said John Kwok, 36, assistant director of research at NHB.

Following the discovery in February, Dr Kwok and four researchers spent another four months going through old maps and documents to piece together the story of the forgotten reservoir, which is about one-third of the size of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Based on a 1924 map by the former Singapore Harbour Board, the researchers found it was one of three small reservoirs that used to be in the area.

It most likely served residents of a nearby settlement.

Later, it was used as a swimming pool, based on pre-war and post-war maps. Remnants of a diving board and a bathing area still stand today.

The place, which used to be referred to as Keppel Hill reservoir, made the news in 1936 and 1948 when two soldiers and a boy drowned in two separate incidents after taking a dip.

An oasis of calm amid one of the world's busiest ports, a busy bus interchange and dense residential estates, the site still has a functioning water filtration system which uses different rock types to remove sediment. There are a total of six filter beds. It also has a dam on its southern end.

The board said the land the reservoir sits on is zoned as park land.

Singapore has 17 reservoirs which are managed by the PUB.

Meanwhile, the NHB said the discovery is historically significant because of the building materials and methods used.

The bricks used to build the reservoir showed that the body of water was constantly in use, said Alvin Tan, 42, its group director of policy. Some were handmade and date back to the colonial period.

Mr Tan advised people to be careful about exploring the place as the terrain is slippery and overgrown with heavy foliage. He said guided tours may be organised if there is demand.

Nature Society's (Singapore) president Shawn Lum said the reservoir, together with its surrounding mature secondary forest, is worth documenting for a closer look at the biodiversity.

"It's a nice, isolated habitat with a lot of vegetation and sufficient shade - pre-requisites for small wildlife such as birds, frogs and aquatic insects to thrive."

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Malaysia: Put out forest fires, Indonesia urged


KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA has written to Indonesia expressing its concern over the rising number of hotspots in southern Sumatera and Kalimantan, which has caused parts of the country to be blanketed in haze.

The letter was sent by the Department of Environment director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan to her Indonesian counterpart two days ago. She urged Indonesia to take action over forest fires in west and central parts of the country.

According to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, 226 hotspots were detected in Indonesia yesterday based on satellite imagery from the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The number was a slight decrease from the previous day’s of 232.

In a statement yesterday, Halimah said smoke from the fires in the west and central Kalimantan, and the movement of wind from the southeast had led to trans- boundary pollution in Sarawak, which borders the western part of Kalimantan.

As at 10am yesterday, Kuching’s Air Pollutant Index (API) reading was at 99, Samarahan, 125, and Sri Aman, 106.

However at 5pm, Sri Aman’s API reading decreased to 96 while Kuching and Samarahan’s API stood at an unhealthy level of 110 and 113, respectively.

These areas had shown unhealthy readings in the last two days.

Following this, AFP reported that Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday had voted to ratify a regional agreement on cross-border haze as fires ripped through forests in the west of the country.

“Under the agreement, Indonesia is obliged to strengthen its policies on forest fires and haze, actively participate in regional decision making on the issue and to dedicate more resources to the problem regionally and domestically,” the report said.

Haze set to disappear with wind pattern changes in South China Sea
hanis zainal, christopher tan, AND yu ji The Star 18 Sep 14;

Dreaded haze: A ferry crossing the South Channel with Penang island barely visible in the background at 4.15pm yesterday.

Dreaded haze: A ferry crossing the South Channel with Penang island barely visible in the background at 4.15pm yesterday.

PETALING JAYA: The country will see a brief respite from the present haze situation starting today.

This is a result of a change in wind pattern, brought about by the dissipation of Typhoon Kalmaegi over southern China.

“We will see the haze gradually disappearing as the wind pattern changes to bring in wind from the South China Sea instead (of Sumatra and Kalimantan),” said Malaysian Meteorological Department spokesman Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip.

He said winds from the South China Sea would bring in more moisture in the air, resulting in more rain over all parts of the country today.

Dr Hisham said Malaysians could expect a longer respite from the haze once the inter-monsoon season, expected to start by the end of next week, arrived.

The country has recently been hit with haze, as evidenced by the Department of Environment’s Air Pollutant Index (API) readings which recorded “Moderate” at most areas in the country.

Sarawak was the most affected as two areas in the state recorded unhealthy API readings at 5pm yesterday.

The two areas were Samarahan and Kuching, which saw an API reading of 113 and 110 respectively.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is considered good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy; and 301 and above, hazardous.

In George Town, the air quality deteriorated with the API readings nearing the “unhealthy” level.

The readings recorded at the Prai station at 6am was 32, and 37 at 11am before shooting up to 73 at 2pm.

In Seberang Jaya 2 in Prai, it was 48 at 6am and 53 at 11am. The index then rose to 71 at 2pm.

In Kuching, the API was around 80 on Tuesday, but by yesterday noon, it was 119.

State authorities are blaming the smog on the 219 hotspots detected in southern Kalimantan.

However, there were also five hotspots detected within Sarawak yesterday.

Assistant Environment Minister Datuk Len Talif Salleh said two hotspots were identified in Samarahan, two in Sarikei and one in Sri Aman.

“We have absolutely not issued any open burning permits. Our officers have been dispatched to carry out on-the-ground assessments at the hotspots,” Talif said.

Sarawak has been experiencing lower rainfall this year, leading to dry taps in several villages about 100km from Kuching in July.

Kuching API levels reach unhealthy levels

yu ji The Star 17 Sep 14;

A view of Kuching through the haze from the south to north banks of Sarawak River. This photo was taken at noon on Wednesday.

A view of Kuching through the haze from the south to north banks of Sarawak River. This photo was taken at noon on Wednesday.
KUCHING: The haze across southern Sarawak worsen overnight mid this week. On Malaysia Day, the air pollution index (API) here was around 80, but by Wednesday noon, it reached 119.

State authorities are blaming the smog on the 219 hotspots detected in southern Kalimantan. However, there were also five hotspots detected within Sarawak.

Assistant Environment Minister Datuk Len Talif Salleh said two hotspots were identified in Samarahan, two in Sarikei and one in Sri Aman.

“We have absolutely not issued any open burning permits. Our officers have been dispatched to carry out on-the-ground assessments at the hotspots,” Talif told The Star. Asked about the possibility of large scale commercial burning, he said these hotspots were unlikely to be from oil palm plantations.

“We are not sure yet but based on the coordinates, one of the hotspots is near a plantation in Samarahan, but not within it. Another hotspot in Sarikei is near a longhouse. The haze you see now is from the wind blown from south east Kalimantan. We know this clearly because at Tebedu (a border town between Sarawak and Indonesia) the API reading is about 150.”

The highest API readings nationwide yesterday were all in Sarawak.

At Samarahan, a suburb near Kuching, the reading was 123, in Sri Aman it was 104. Readings between 101 and 200 fall within the “unhealthy” range, while readings between 51 and 100 are considerate “moderate”. The air quality in Sibu, which is in the middle of the state, was 66.

Less affected areas in Sarawak were all in the north. In Miri, where Malaysia Day celebrations were held, the API was only 49, at Limbang it was 26.

Since mid this year, open burning permits from the Natural Resources and Environment Board have stopped being issued. Sarawak has been experiencing less rainfall this year, leading to dry taps in several villages about 100km from Kuching in July.

According to the latest monthly weather bulletin available, most areas received 20% below the average of rainfall in June.

“Malaysia in generally still experiencing phase of Southwest Monsoon, which is characterized by surface winds that blow regularly from the west, and also relatively drier condition than the other seasons,” said the bulletin from the Malaysian Meteorological Department.

“This situation will result in most areas across the country will have more days without rain compare to rainy day, and in turn will lead to drier weather conditions,” it added.

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Indonesia: Riau hot spots dog Sumatra Island

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 17 Sep 14;

Haze has been reported to cover a number of regions in Riau province over the past few days as more hot spots have been detected, adding to the haze coming from the neighboring provinces of South Sumatra and Jambi.

Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) data shows that the Terra and Aqua satellites detected 267 hot spots across Sumatra on Tuesday morning. Riau dominated the figure with 114 hot spots, or twice as many as the 51 hot spots detected on Monday.

Other provinces in Sumatra suffering from haze include South Sumatra with 70 hot spots and Jambi with 66. The agency also detected hot spots in Lampung, Bangka Belitung and Bengkulu.

In Riau, hot spots were spread through nine regencies, mostly in Pelalawan with 38 hot spots. Other hot spots were detected in Indragiri Hulu, Indragiri Hilir, Kuantan Singingi, Kampar, Bengkalis, Rokan Hilir, Siak and Meranti Islands.

“Based on the analysis, 45 of the hot spots are fire spots with a reliability level of 70 percent,” National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s (BNPB) data and information section head Agus Wibowo said on Tuesday.

He said the number of hot spots in Riau could continue to increase, considering that the province had hot weather and only experienced rain of light intensity, usually at night or very early in the morning.

“The rain is predicted to fall only in the northern and western parts of Riau,” Agus said.

The increase in the number of hot spots, he said, had caused haze in a number of regions in the province and limited visibility in the mornings.

In Pekanbaru, visibility was only 1 kilometer on Tuesday morning. Poor visibility also occurred in Pelalawan and Rengat while visibility in Dumai was 5 kilometer the same day.

Dense haze resulted in delays in a number of flights from Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru.

The airport duty manager, Baiquni, said that by Tuesday afternoon the arrival of four flights had been delayed due to limited visibility of only 1,500 meters. Of the flights, one belonged to Garuda Indonesia, two to Lion Air and one to Batik Air. All had departed from Jakarta.

“Visibility actually is considered safe, but the airlines took the side of caution for passenger safety,” Baiquni said.

Separately, the head of the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), Said Saqlul Amri, said the agency had maintained an emergency status for forest and land fires in the province.

“The coordinating post that handles forest and peatland fires at Roesmin Nurjadin Airport in Pekanbaru will continue to operate until Nov. 31,” he said.

He said the Riau governor had sent letters to all mayors and regents in the province to remind their respective people and companies to actively participate in preventive measures and to quickly respond when a fire was found, no matter how small it was.

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Malaysia's 'Smart Villages' and 9 other proven ideas for sustainable development

EurekAlert 17 Sep 14;

As nations zero in on the UN's post-2015 global Sustainable Development Goals, innovations being successfully pioneered and demonstrated in Malaysia offer several proven tactical ideas for improving the world, says an influential international sustainable development networking organization.

The UN's Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), through its Malaysian chapter, cites ways in which the country is "rising to the challenge," including the construction of ingenious, self-sustaining "smart" villages -- each lifting about 100 families out of poverty and into affordable homes and employment.

Meanwhile, guides for minimizing the carbon footprint of cities while promoting healthy lifestyles, and using science to extract new wealth from palm biomass waste are among other creative initiatives underway in Malaysia that help light a path for emerging economy countries.

Malaysia's achievements in sustainable development will be highlighted at the 2nd Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice (Columbia University, New York, Sept. 17-18,

At the event, experts will share proven, evidence-based approaches to sustainability with the goal of informing negotiations underway on the world's post-2015 development agenda. A special conference session, "Sustainable Development: Experiences from Malaysia," is detailed below). The Conference immediately precedes the 5th SDSN Leadership Council meeting (Sept. 19-20, Colombia University).

The achievements also reflect the success of the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council, comprised of leading international experts in education, economics, business, science and technology advising Malaysia's drive to achieve an environmentally-sustainable, high-income economy based on knowledge and innovation.

On Sept. 24, at the New York Academy of Sciences, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Najib Razak, will chair GSIAC's 4th annual meeting.

Says Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to Malaysia's Prime Minister and co-chair of MIGHT: "This review of Malaysia's achievements in sustainable development is in part a tribute to the international expertise, perspectives and advice provided by our country's unique GSIAC. Malaysia continues progressing towards high-income status -- $20,000 per capita annually -- but recognizes inter-generational obligations and is determined to achieve our goal without compromising the future of our successors on this planet."

Successful sustainable development innovations: 10 examples from Malaysia

1) Smart villages: a global model for poverty relief

High-tech "smart villages" under construction in Malaysia are lifting incomes for scores of rural families while promoting environmental sustainability.

Each community consists of about 100 affordable homes, high-tech educational, training and recreational facilities, with an integrated, sustainable farm system providing villagers with food and employment -- on average tripling monthly income to about US $475.

Three villages are completed, four more are in progress and 11 more are planned in rural Malaysia for completion next year. Nine of the villages are in areas settled under Malaysia's Federal Land Development Authority -- a government agency founded to help resettle poor families in newly-developed areas with smallholder farms growing cash crops.

The smart villages -- designed, built (on about 50 acres each) and initially managed by Malaysia's IRIS corporation -- feature 1,000 square-foot homes built largely from post-consumer materials, each home constructed in just 10 days at a cost of under $20,000 (see

The innovative farming operations include a cascading series of fish tanks. Aquafarmed at the top of the water ladder are fish species sensitive to water quality, next tilapia, then guppies and finally algae, the latter two used to feed the larger fish.

Filtered fish tank wastewater then irrigates trees, grain fields, and high-value plants grown in "Autopots" - a three piece container featuring a smart valve that detects soil moisture levels and releases water precisely as required, reducing the need for fertilizer and pesticides. Worms from plants compost are fed to free-range chickens.

This system optimizes nutrient absorption, minimizes waste and enables crops to be grown in previously non-arable land. Premium produce sold at market include Golden Melon, Butterhead Lettuce, Misai Kuching (herbal tea), Jade Perch fish and the free-range chickens.

The village's solar-generated power is complemented by biomass energy and mini-hydro electricity. A community hall, resource centre, places of worship, playgrounds and educational facilities equipped with 4G Internet service support both e-learning and e-health services.

2) Low-carbon "smart cities"

Malaysia's population grew 53% in 20 years - from 18 million in 1990 to 28 million in 2010 with over 33 million predicted by the end of this decade. In 2020, some 75% will live in cities (almost tripling Peninsular Malaysia's urban demographic from the 27% proportion recorded in 1960).

With urban developments contributing 50% of world greenhouse gas emissions, striving to achieve low-carbon cities is essential to mitigating the planet's warming trend.

The Low-Carbon Cities Framework and Assessment System, created by Malaysia's Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water and partners, offers a guide to planning low-carbon cities and their management.

And it includes an assessment system enabling the calculation of a carbon footprint baseline and the measurement of changes in emissions from a particular development.

Two pilot sites:

Tasik (lake) Kenyir resort area, northeast Malaysia: CO2 emissions are being reduced this year from 95.39 to 62.35 tonnes (confirm) from 2011 baseline levels by 2014
Cyberjaya, the national capital area high-tech corridor: CO2 emissions are being reduced from 1.4 million to 1.1 million tonnes from 2011 levels

Among hallmarks of low-carbon urban areas:

Compact development within a defined carbon budget
Open green space and trees
Bicycling, walking and public transportation are easy, attractive alternatives to driving while policies promote car-pooling, lower driving speeds and better traffic flow
Water and energy efficiency is promoted in initial construction designs and retrofitting, along with fostering the use of renewable energy
Infrastructure enables district cooling, effective storm water management and flood mitigation

Meanwhile, Iskandar Malaysia under development in the south of the country, is the first "smart metropolis" of Southeast Asia founded on principles of social integration and ambitions of being a low carbon emitting city thanks to a green economy and green technologies. The development offers a potential template for urban development in emerging economy countries with burgeoning populations.

Located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula opposite Singapore, Iskandar covers 2,217 square km -- an area the size of Luxembourg - and is made up of skyscrapers and high rises as well as low-carbon, self-contained cities, townships, villages and neighbourhoods.

Its population of 1.3 million people in 2010 expected to roughly triple by 2025

Livability and sustainability are cornerstones of Iskandar development, as is the goal of greenhouse gas emissions no greater than the volume that nature absorbs.

3) Biomass waste to wealth

Having determined that the oil palm industry's waste biomass can be refined into high value "green chemicals," Malaysia has in sight a major potential economic windfall from massive plantations covering almost 15% of the nation.

Introduced to the country as an ornamental plant in 1870, oil palms today cover roughly 5 million hectares (19,000 sq mi) of Malaysia. The reddish pulp of the plant's fruit is used to make a vegetable oil widely used worldwide in cooking, as well as in an enormous range of consumer products from toothpaste to lipstick.

Typically today, some 40% of the fibers and shells of empty fresh fruit bunches is unused. Now available, thanks to new technologies, is a potential national economic bonus amounting to billions of dollars each year, creating thousands of jobs in the bargain.

International experts estimate that the potential from processing 20% of Malaysia's 80 million metric tonnes of annual oil palm biomass could generate an economic windfall in green chemicals and products valued at $30 billion per year by 2025.

Prime Minister Najib created MYBiomass -- a special-purpose organization dedicated to making the nation as a market leader in high value green chemicals, in 2011 on the advice of the GSIAC.

And an agreement signed last year between MYBiomass's shareholders -- MIGHT, Sime Darby Berhad and Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad -- confirms the commitment of Malaysia's largest plantation companies in this initiative.

The green chemical industry today worldwide is estimated at $2.8 billion, seen rising to about $100 billion in 2020.

MYBiomass has done extensive feasibility studies, factoring in fertilizer replacement costs and evaluating alternative potential uses of the biomass as energy feedstock.

The cost of constructing a bio-refinery to produce green chemicals in Malaysia ranges between US $80 million and $300 million, depending on such factors the size, technology and location.

4) The Kondo Rakyat Community

Started in 2010 in a predominantly low-income neighbourhood with about 15,840 residents in five apartment blocks, the Kondo Rakyat Community Project strives to be a model of sustainable urban practices.

The project's initial activities: collect used cooking oil (sold to the biofuel industry), create gardens (herbs, vegetables and fruits) in kitchens throughout the complex, convert garden waste into compost aided by an on-site shredder and anaerobic digester (the compost recycled through the kitchen gardens), and a "green bazaar" (in which the sale of reusable items provides an assistance fund for the community's neediest individuals).

The program helps community members to help themselves with fresh, self-grown produce and income generating activities while reducing the release of oils into surrounding waters.

5) Greening higher-education campuses

Some 2,500 bicycles purchased by Universiti Putra Malaysia form part of a major new drive to make cycling and walking the main modes of transportation for students and staff. The program not only fosters healthier, active lifestyles, it will cut campus bus rentals by 65% (saving about US $940,000), and lower carbon dioxide emissions by more than one-third.

A holistic "Zero Campus Waste" management model at Universiti Malaya, meanwhile, is diverting 80% of the campus' annual 11 tonnes of food and plant waste away from landfills and converting it into biofuels and compost for organic farming operations. The proceeds from the food harvests, served in the campus' Green Cafe, help fund the programme. In addition to its teaching value as an exemplary practice, annual savings amount about 10 tonnes of carbon emissions.

6) Langkawi Geopark: raising local incomes through eco-tourism

The first comprehensive initiative of its kind in SouthEast Asia, creation of the Langkawi Geopark has significantly raised the income of fishing boat operators by transforming them into eco-tourism boat guides.

Not only has the effort aided research and conservation of Langkawi's 550 million year-old rock formations, it has created a tourism hot-spot -- the number of visitors rising from 1.8 million in 2005 (estimated spending: US $2.8 million) to 3 million (spending US $6.8 million) in 2012. The successful approach has set the model for three new geo-heritage parks.

7) Drying agricultural and marine produce with solar energy

Using a rural cottage industry business model, the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and a private firm, Solartif, have create a job-creating, eco-friendly enterprise manufacturing solar panels to dry an extensive variety agricultural and marine products. The products include tapioca, groundnuts, noodles, coffee beans, mussels, anchovies, bananas and other tropical fruits, fish, seaweed, chilies, medical herbs and palm oil fronds.

The solar panel systems produce an estimated 1 megawatt of energy per year and replace conventional diesel-fired dryers, with savings that repay the capital investment required in less than two years, while creating job opportunities in rural areas with large growth opportunities seen ahead. World seaweed production alone in 2012 was an estimated 700,000 tonnes. The solar drying systems, now in use in Malaysia and Cambodia are designed to process 5 tonnes per year.

8) Affordable medical diagnostics

Lymphatic filaiasis is a disfiguring disease transmitted by mosquito bites. Parasites lodge in the lymphatic system causing elephantiasis - a thickening of the skin and underlying tissues. Worldwide, the number of life years lost to disability due to the disease is 5.8 million.

Early, accurate diagnosis is critical and the Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine at the Universiti Sains Malaysia's has spearheaded development of rapid test kits as part of the answer to this health scourge.

It is an affordable, mass-produced kit providing results in just 15-20 minutes. It has been commercialized in 18 countries, benefiting 2 million patients while creating 500 jobs so far.

Meanwhile, an initiative called "Endevour Mobile" created the world's first mobile radiology collaboration platform. Combining medical imaging and cellular communications technologies, the platform lets medical professionals provide real-time advice to patients in remote parts of Malaysia, improve healthcare nationwide by extending the reach of medical expertise and enabling savings for patients who otherwise require transportation and lodging.

9) Inspiring the next generation of taxonomic scientists

The Consortium of Southeast Asian Seaweed Taxonomy is building expertise in taxonomic science while helping to preserve biodiversity and document commercially valuable species used in a variety of industrial products as well as in drugs and cosmetics.

Led in Malaysia by the University of Malaya and supported by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and national marine research institutes, students collect samples, identify them with the help of laboratory mentors, and co-author papers and monographs.

10) The Borneo turtle census

Every year on May 23, world turtle day helps increase knowledge and respect for turtles and tortoises. Around the island of Mabul, the Universit Malaysia Sabah's Borneo Marine Research Institute and several partners, including popular diving resorts, conduct an annual underwater census of local turtles during which the animals are measured, tagged and photographed. The most recent census found 46 animals, helping create public awareness of turtles' declining numbers (down 95% worldwide) while enhancing research and conservation.



The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network

Launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August 2012, the SDSN mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society and the private sector in support of sustainable development problem-solving at local, national, and global scales.

The SDSN promotes integrated approaches to the world's interconnected economic, social, and environmental challenges, working closely with UN agencies, multilateral financing institutions, the private sector, and civil society. The SDSN Secretariat is hosted by Columbia University with staff in Paris, New York, and New Delhi.

National SDSNs mobilize universities, research centers, civil society organizations, business, and other knowledge centers around practical problem solving for sustainable development.

Brazil - Hosted by Conservation International-Brazil, Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and Instituto Pereira Passos

Ethiopia - Hosted by Wollega University

Germany - Hosted by German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

Indonesia - Hosted by the University of Indonesia

Malaysia - Hosted by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology

Nigeria - Hosted jointly by the Universities of Ibadan and Nnamdi Azikiwe University

Russia - Hosted by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration

South Korea - Hosted by the Korea Development Institute

Turkey - Hosted by Boğaziçi University

Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology

The Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee under the purview of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. MIGHT is an organization built on the strength of public-private partnership with more than 100 members, both local and international, from industry, government and academia. As an organization MIGHT is dedicated to providing a platform for industry-government consensus building in the drive to advance high technology competency in Malaysia.

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Red tide off northwest Florida could hit economy

JASON DEAREN Associated Press Yahoo News 17 Sep 14;

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — It's like Florida's version of The Blob. Slow moving glops of toxic algae in the northeast Gulf of Mexico are killing sea turtles, sharks and fish, and threatening the waters and beaches that fuel the region's economy.

Known as "red tide," this particular strain called Karenia brevis is present nearly every year off Florida, but large blooms can be particularly devastating. Right now, the algae is collecting in an area about 60 miles wide and 100 miles long, about 5 to 15 miles off St. Petersburg in the south and stretching north to Florida's Big Bend, where the peninsula ends and the Panhandle begins.

Fishermen who make a living off the state's northwest coast are reporting fish kills and reddish water.

"It boils up in the propeller wash like boiled red Georgia clay. It's spooky," said Clearwater fisherman Brad Gorst as he steered the charter fishing boat Gulfstream 2 in waters near Honeymoon Island, where dead fish recently washed ashore.

Red tide kills fish, manatees and other marine life by releasing a toxin that paralyzes their central nervous system. The algae also foul beaches and can be harmful to people who inhale the algae's toxins when winds blow onshore or by crashing waves, particularly those with asthma and other respiratory ailments.

In 2005, a strong red tide killed reefs, made beaches stinky and caused millions in economic damage. A weaker red tide in 2013 killed 276 manatees, state records show, after infecting the grasses eaten by the endangered creatures.

"This red tide ... will likely cause considerable damage to our local fisheries and our tourist economy over the next few months," said Heyward Mathews, an emeritus professor of oceanography at St. Petersburg College who has studied the issue for decades.

Despite years of study, there is nothing anyone has been able to do about it. In the 1950s, wildlife officials tried killing the red tide algae by dumping copper sulfate on it, which made the problem worse in some ways. But some researchers are working to change that.

Predicting when red tides are going to be especially bad can help fishermen and beach businesses prepare.

Right now, much of the information comes from satellite images, which are often obscured by clouds.

"In this particular red tide, we got a good image on July 23 — then we went weeks without another image," said University of South Florida ocean scientist Robert Weisberg.

Weisberg is one among a team of researchers developing a prediction model based on ocean currents data, rather than satellite images.

The prediction model tracks the currents that bring natural nutrients like phytoplankton the red tide needs to gain a foothold. Unlike other red tide species, Karenia brevis is not believed to be caused by man-made pollution such as agricultural runoff, and historical accounts of what is believed to be the same red tide date back to the 1700s.

Using his method, Weisberg in March predicted the current late summer bloom that is now causing so much worry. It allowed state officials to issue a warning July 25.

While the project recently received "rapid response" money from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to send a data-collecting robotic glider into the bloom, future funding for this work is in doubt.

Weisberg said the team is still trying to develop a model that can look further into the future.

But the tides often start far offshore, where gathering data and images can be a time-consuming, expensive undertaking. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has tried to stem this data gap by giving fishermen sampling jars to take out to sea with them.

While a good stopgap, Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who represents St. Petersburg, has called for more NOAA funding to help prepare for future events.

"Using fishermen to collect samples clearly shows we have a research gap," Jolly said. "The more we learn about it, the more we can prevent a spread and protect our shoreline."

NOAA spokesman Ben Sherman said the president's 2015 budget does ask for a $6 million increase for research related to red tide forecasting, including the Gulf of Mexico, but Congress still has to approve it.

Fishermen say a better warning system could help save time and money.

"If we had more of a head's up we could plan out where we would go fish," said Mike Colby, captain of the Double Hook fishing vessel in Clearwater.

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Natural disasters displaced more people than war in 2013, study finds

Norwegian Refugee Council finds ‘mega disasters’ such as typhoons and hurricanes drove 22 million people from homes
Suzanne Goldenberg 17 Sep 14;

Natural disasters displaced three times as many people as war last year – even as 2013 was a horrific year for conflict – with 22 million people driven out of their homes by floods, hurricanes and other hazards, a new study has found.

Twice as many people now lose their homes to disaster as in the 1970s, and more people move into harm’s way each year, the study by the Norwegian Refugee Council found.

“Basically, the combination of mega natural disasters and hundreds of smaller natural disasters massively displaces people in many more countries than the countries that have war and conflict,” said Jan Egeland, the secretary of the Norwegian refugee council.

He said he hoped the findings would prod leaders meeting at a United Nations climate summit next week to work to protect populations from more disaster-prone future under climate change.

Last year was in some ways an anomaly because so many people were driven out of their homes by war. In some years, 10 times as many people lose their homes to natural disasters. “Natural disasters are underestimated as a scourge that is hitting tens of millions of people every year,” Egeland said.

On average, 27 million people a year lost their homes to natural disasters over the last decade. In 2010, that number rose to 42 million.

While mega-disasters such as the devastating typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines attract international attention, the losses due to smaller-scale storms and flooding often go unrecorded.

The global figure for those displaced by disasters could even be higher, Egeland said.

Those living in developing countries are most at risk. The study found more than 80% of those displaced over the last five years lived in Asia. That pattern held last year as well when nearly 19 million of the 22 million displaced lived in Asia.

In many instances, local people do not have time to recover from a disaster before a new one hits, the study found.

In the Philippines last year, some 5.8 million people lost their homes because of a constellation of disasters.

Typhoon Haiyan alone displaced some 4.1 million, with others forced out by typhoon Trami and an earthquake.

Africa also saw widespread displacement by rainy season flooding in Niger, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan.

America did not go unspared, with nearly 220,000 people losing their homes to tornadoes in Oklahoma.

The risk of such disasters is also rising, outpacing population growth and even rapid urbanisation. Global population has doubled since the 1970s, but the urban population has tripled since that time.

The mass migration from countryside to cities is putting more and more people at risk – especially in Asia’s mega-cities, which are the most disaster prone.

Africa, where populations are expected to double by 2050, also faces increasing risk.

“These vast urban areas become traps when a natural disaster hits,” Egeland said. “People are crammed together and there is no escape. They live in river deltas, they live on hurricane beaches, they live along river beds that are easily flooded, they live where there are mud slides, and so on.”

Scientists predict a rise in such extreme weather events in a future under climate change.

Better early warning systems in some countries, such as Bangladesh, have succeeded in keeping people safe during such storms. But they are still at risk of losing all they own.

“We are now better at saving lives, but we are not able to save their homes and their livelihoods so they become destitute,” he said.

Floods, storms and quakes uproot 22 million in 2013, numbers to rise
Laura Onita PlanetArk 17 Sep 14;

The majority were in Asia, where 19 million were displaced by floods, storms and earthquakes, according to the report from the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Typhoon Haiyan caused the largest displacement, with 4.1 million people leaving their homes in the Philippines, a million more than in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania combined. Typhoon Trami displaced another 1.7 million people in the Philippines and floods in China displaced 1.6 million.

The new statistics show more than twice as many people are affected by natural disasters than 40 years ago and the trend is expected to worsen as more people move to crowded cities in developing countries.

"This increasing trend will continue as more and more people live and work in hazard-prone areas," said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. "It is expected to be aggravated in the future by the impacts of climate change."

Africa will be particularly vulnerable as its population is expected to double by 2050.

Last year, seasonal floods caused significant displacements in sub-Saharan Africa, notably in Niger, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan, countries also affected by conflict and drought.

Positive trends include improvements in disaster preparedness and response measures, including early warning systems and emergency evacuations, which mean that more people now survive disasters. Improved data collection helps planning for future catastrophes.

"Most disasters are as much man-made as they are natural," said Alfredo Zamudio, IDMC's director. "Better urban planning, flood defenses and building standards could mitigate much of their impact."

(Editing by Ros Russell)

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Ditching cars for buses, bikes best way to cut city pollution : study

Laura Onita PlanetArk 17 Sep 14;

The report, by the University of California and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), proposed governments expand rail and bus transport and ensure cities are safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Researchers found that a radical change in the way people get around cities could cut carbon dioxide emissions from urban passenger transport by about 40 percent by 2050 and save $100 trillion in public and private spending.

Michael Replogle of ITDP, a co-author of the report "A Global High Shift Scenario", said transport, driven by a rapid growth in car use, had been the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions in the world.

"While every part of the global economy needs to become greener, cleaning up the traffic jams in the world's cities offers the least pain and the most gain," said Replogle.

Replogle said better access to public transport would also foster economic opportunities, providing the poor with better access to employment and services - and the private sector had an important role to play.

"It is clear that the success of developing good public transport in wealthy countries has come by governments establishing systems for greater private investment in public transport," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"That has not been happening as effectively in much of the developing world, but this report describes the framework in which it could happen."

Carbon dioxide emissions are likely to increase fastest in developing countries because of growing wealth and sprawling urban populations.

United Nations figures released this year show that 54 percent of the world population lives in cities and this figure is forecast to rise to 66 percent by 2050.

Indian emissions, for example, are expected to leap nearly eight-fold to 540 megatons by 2050 from 70 megatons now but the researchers found this rise could be reduced by more than a third if cities managed to cut down car use.

Similarly, projections showed that in China emissions could be cut by almost a half if bus and metro systems were developed extensively.

Replogle said initiatives similar to those proposed were already happening in countries like Mexico and Colombia, which have plans for comprehensive urban transport programs.

"The bottom line message is that to address climate change we really need to undertake all of the measures that are feasible to help us reduce global warming pollution," Replogle said.

"We particularly need to take rapid action on things that support sustainable development for low and moderate income countries so that they can realize their economic aspirations."

(Editing by Ros Russell and Belinda Goldsmith)

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