Best of our wild blogs: 21 Sep 14

Some Dragonflies @ Lornie Trail
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Life History of the Peacock Royal v2.0
from Butterflies of Singapore

Palm oil giants announce deforestation moratorium -- effective immediately
from news by Rhett Butler

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142 hotspots detected in Kalimantan, Sumatra on Friday: NEA

Channel NewsAsia 20 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE: The overall air quality for Saturday (Sep 20) is expected to be in the "moderate" range, even as 142 hotspots were detected in Indonesia's Sumatra and Kalimantan on Friday.

According to an advisory by the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Saturday, there were 44 hotspots in Sumatra and 98 hotspots in Kalimantan on Friday, which caused the haze experienced in the city-state. Air quality improved overnight though, helped by showers and a change in wind direction in some parts of the region.

It added that prevailing winds are expected to blow from the southeast or south, and showers are expected Saturday afternoon.There may be occasional slight haze experienced, but overall air quality is expected to be in the "moderate" range. As of 4pm, the three-hour PSI reading is at 60, while the 24-hour PSI reading ranges between 60 and 63, NEA data showed.

For updates, visit NEA's website (, the haze microsite (, or via Facebook ( and Twitter (@NEAsg).

- CNA/kk

Overall air quality expected to stay in ‘moderate' range for next 24 hours: NEA
Today Online 20 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Occasional slight haze is expected to continue tomorrow as prevailing winds are forecast to blow from the southeast or south, says the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The weather agency said “the overall air quality for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the moderate range,” in their daily haze situation report released at 5pm today (Sept 20).

For most of today, the air quality remained in the moderate range, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) recording the highest reading of 82-88 in the wee hours of the morning between 1am and 2am before slipping gradually. As of 9pm, the PSI registered 55-60 while the three-hour reading registered 55. Air quality is in the moderate range when the PSI value is between 51 and 100, and is considered unhealthy when the PSI value is between 101 and 200.

This marks an improvement from yesterday where air quality hovered into the unhealthy range for some periods in the day. The three-hour PSI reading was above 90 throughout, reaching a peak of 106 at 4pm. The 24-hour charted a peak of 96-102 at 5pm.

The NEA also gave an assurance to members of the public that routine activities can be allowed to proceed tomorrow based on the 24-hour haze forecast.

“Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, everyone can continue with normal activities,” the agency said.

Earlier this week, the NEA said that Singapore is expected to experience haze for the next two weeks due to prevailing wind conditions from the south-southeast or the south-west where Sumatra lies, with periods of consecutive dry days that are typical during this South-west Monsoon season.

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Malaysia: Govt complains to Indonesia over rise in hotspots

The Star 21 Sep 14;

PETALING JAYA: The Government has written formally to Indonesia to express concerns over the increase in hotspots in south Sumatra and Kalimantan that had led to haze over Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said the Department of Environment director-general had written to his Indonesian counterpart on Sept 15.

“Malaysia has urged Indonesian authorities to carry out preventive measures and extinguish fires, which have resulted in trans-boundary haze,” he said in a statement here yesterday.

According to the Singapore-based Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), some 18 hotspots were detected in Kalimantan on Friday and 44 in Sumatra.

However, the actual number of hotspots could not be determined due to thick cloud cover. The satellite imagery also showed a ring of haze in central Kalimantan.

Palanivel said there were also nine hotspots in the country – one each in Kedah, Johor and Sabah, two in Terengganu and four in Pahang.

“These hotspots will be investigated and action will be taken by the authorities against those responsible,” he said.

He pointed out that the ban on open burning remained in effect, adding that local authorities had taken action against those found to have defied the restrictions.

To date, he said, 4,705 cases of open burning had been detected throughout the country this year, and that 389 compounds along with 119 warnings were issued.

Investigation papers, added Palanivel, had also been prepared for 47 cases while 14 cases were pending in the Sessions Courts.

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Indonesia: Law enforcement key to curbing forest fires

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 20 Sep 14;

In a bid to combat the rampant forest fires on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, the government is planning to strengthen its law enforcement following the country’s decision to ratify a decade-old regional haze treaty.

Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) said on Friday that the unit was planning to do so by several means, such as closely monitoring all government units.

“We will intensify law enforcement to show that we are capable. The 13 action plans [on forest fires eradication that had been formulated by the government] will be constantly monitored by the UKP4,” Mas Achmad Santosa, the deputy of law enforcement in the UKP4, told The Jakarta Post.

He said that the working unit and the police would also try to punish agroforestry companies that had caused rampant forest fires by implementing a “multi-door system”, which is a system seeking the harshest punishment possible by all legal means.

The government recently adopted the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution amid pressure from neighboring countries following the spread of haze caused by land clearing in Sumatra to Singapore and Malaysia last June.

According to the Singapore National Environment Agency, the country’s air pollution rose to unhealthy levels as of Monday, as winds changed direction and brought in smoke from forest fires in Indonesia.

The treaty obliges Indonesia, as one of the member states, to actively involve itself in efforts to mitigate air pollution, both nationally and through intensified regional and international cooperation.

The government will intensify law enforcement by implementing “multi-door system”

Indonesia is ready to share data on forest fires with other ASEAN countries

Achmad said that he believed the treaty would benefit the country’s effort in combating forest fires.

“It forces us to intensify our coordination, which is why it is very possible for us to support and help each other [neighboring countries],” he said.

Achmad added that the treaty would also help the law enforcement in the country as well as in neighboring countries.

“Maybe the law enforcers could utilize data from us due to data sharing,” he said.

Achmad cited Indonesia’s Land and Forest Fires Monitoring System (KMS) as one of the possible ways for the unit to implement the treaty.

The treaty also serves as an opportunity for Indonesia to prove itself, according to him.

“What’s important for me is the initiatives implemented in our country. We have to show that we are a country that does not get help, but we have to help [other countries] instead,” Achmad said.

One of the unit’s efforts to combat forest fires is summoning regional police heads in seven provinces which are most prone to forest fires on Friday.

The provinces are Riau, South Sumatra, Jambi, South Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.

National Police detective chief Comr. Gen. Suhardi Alius said that the meeting had decided to develop a system to combat forest fires currently being used by the Riau Police.

“The Riau Police are involved in putting out the fires, pushing the public and the governor [to combat forest fires] and so on,” said Achmad.

Evan Sembiring, Riau deputy director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said law enforcement agencies so far lacked the will to issue proper penalties against environmental criminals.

“We are very disappointed with the district courts, which are a representation of the country’s legal system,” he said, referring to the recent very light punishment for PT ADEI Plantation operating in Riau.

PT ADEI Plantation & Industry, which is a unit of Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhard, was found guilty of violating the 2009 Environmental Protection and Management Law. The Pelalawan District Court in Riau handed down a fine of Rp 1.5 billion (US$125,177). If the fine is not paid, the company’s director, Tan Kei Yoong, will serve five months in jail. The court also ordered ADEI to pay an additional Rp 15.1 billion to repair the environmental damage caused by the forest fires it had caused.

The court also sentenced ADEI general manager Danesuvaran KR Singam to a year in prison and the option of paying Rp 2 billion or serving an additional two months in prison. (ask)

Thick haze forces flights to be axed in Indonesia
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 20 Sep 14

Thick haze forced flights to be delayed, diverted or cancelled altogether at several airports in places such as Jambi and Palembang in Sumatra and Palangkaraya in Kalimantan yesterday, as visibility levels dropped below the 1km threshold for safe landings.

Officials in some affected provinces discussed measures including school closures if conditions worsen and the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) exceeds 200.

In Kandis, Riau province, the PSI hit 435, as the haze reached as far north-west as Banda Aceh and Medan, some 600km away.

But the worst-affected areas were in Kalimantan, where health officials distributed masks and warned residents to stay indoors. Winds travelling westwards from Kalimantan drove the haze to Singapore over the past two days.

Indonesia's national disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) carried out cloud-seeding operations over Central Kalimantan in the past two days, using an air force Hercules aircraft, a spokesman said. The plane had been under maintenance earlier this week, when fires were at their peak.

Nine helicopters were also deployed across several provinces to conduct water-bombing operations to put out fires.

BNPB chief Syamsul Maarif has ordered more intensive cloud seeding and water bombing, especially as fires and the haze may pick up until next month amid drier weather.

Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan wrote to his Indonesian counterpart Balthasar Kambuaya on Thursday to express concern over the haze and reiterate Singapore's offer of assistance to Indonesia to deal with the fires (see box below).

But Jakarta has previously said it would marshal its own resources to put out the fires, and yesterday, BNPB said: "We hope all national resources can collaborate to help regional governments put out forest and plantation fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan."

Meteorologists had some good news for the weekend. Said weather forecaster Dina Ike in Pontianak, West Kalimantan: "There is possible light to moderate rain in the next three days. The rainy season should start in mid-October at the latest."

Environmental activists continued to criticise the government for not doing enough to prevent the fires, an annual occurrence mostly caused by open burning, which is the cheapest way to clear land - but illegal.

"The government is not serious in tackling this," said activist Mukri Priatna from environmental group Walhi. "Getting the culprits is as easy as matching the coordinates of the hot spots with the concession coordinates of plantation companies. It doesn't do this."

But the World Resources Institute was more optimistic, saying in a note yesterday that the Indonesian Parliament's vote to ratify an Asean haze agreement could put more pressure on officials to enforce the country's laws.

It noted that there was greater momentum to crack down on illegal burning, saying: "Recent events show that Indonesia is taking the fires more seriously."

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