Best of our wild blogs: 2 Oct 14

Red-breasted Parakeet and Crop milk
from Bird Ecology Study Group

JC Mendoza is “Crazy about crabs” (article in Nat Geo Extreme Explorer)
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Take a survey and have a say in how you want Pulau Ubin to retain its rustic qualities

Melody Zaccheus Straits Times 30 Sep 14;

SINGAPORE - Should Pulau Ubin have more campsites, colour-coded hiking and cycling trails, and more public amenities such as toilets, shelters and footpaths?

A Ministry of National Development survey hopes to get some answers as it gathers public feedback on the island’s future.

The form can be accessed by clicking here:

The ministry’s aim is to find out how it can best preserve the island’s rustic charm, biodiversity and heritage while ensuring that it remains an enjoyable destination for all Singaporeans.

Users can vote for their favourite suggestions from a list of ideas contributed by nature groups, heritage groups, academics, anthropologists, sports enthusiasts and artists, who are part of the Friends of Ubin Network, which the ministry set up earlier this year.

Some of the suggestions include opening up the island’s farms for visits, restoring and rebuilding its kampung houses for overnight stays by visitors; new research facilities for researchers and students; and more cultural activities such as traditional wayang performances and art exhibitions.

The 10.2 sq km island, which is about the size of Changi Airport, is home to 38 elderly residents. Some of its buildings are dilapidated and have fallen into disrepair due to neglect. Its northern coastline is also fast being eroded by tides and currents.

The survey is part of “The Ubin Project”. Launched in March, it brings together members of the public and other relevant stakeholders to discuss how to improve Pulau Ubin’s unique characteristics, while “supporting thoughtful public access and nature-based recreation”.

The survey also has a section to find out how satisfied visitors were with their past experiences on the island. This includes ease of getting around the place and availability of information on the island’s history and biodiversity.

Said a spokesman for the ministry: “Through the respondents’ sharing of experiences and fond memories, we hope to learn more about the special places on the island, and collect more suggestions on how we can preserve the rustic charm and heritage of Pulau Ubin, so that it will continue to be a special place for our future generations.”

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Work on canal to cut risk of flood enters 2nd phase

David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Oct 14;

CONSTRUCTION of the Stamford Diversion Canal, dug to lower flood risk in the Orchard Road shopping belt, will enter its second phase next month.

National water agency PUB said yesterday that work for the second phase, between Grange Road and River Valley Road, will be done by Tiong Seng Contractors at a cost of $107.7 million.

The new 2km-long underground canal is meant to ease the load on the existing Stamford Canal, to help prevent a repeat of the flooding incidents in Orchard Road during heavy rains in 2010 and 2011.

To be ready by 2017, it will run from Tanglin to Kim Seng, connecting the upstream section of Stamford Canal with the Singapore River.

Together with an underground detention tank being built near the Singapore Botanic Gardens, it will divert rainwater from almost 40 per cent of the Stamford catchment area.

In Phase Two, a tunnelling method - not the conventional cut and cover method - will be used for a 1km stretch of Grange Road, to avoid the need for traffic diversions or removal of trees, said PUB's director of catchment and waterways, Mr Ridzuan Ismail.

"In terms of impact to residents and motorists, this (will be) minimised significantly," he said.

PUB has been collecting feedback from residents along Grange Road, he added.

Devices are being installed to monitor the impact of vibrations and noise from the work on surrounding buildings.

Barriers and enclosures will be set up to protect residents from excessive noise.

The PUB said it will also closely monitor the tunnelling works to guard against formation of sinkholes.

"We are very aware of the risks involved in tunnelling...

we will monitor the progress of the work and take necessary precautions," said Mr Hew Kit San, senior principal engineer at PUB.

Other Phase Two works in Hoot Kiam Road, Irwell Bank Road and River Valley Road are expected to cause traffic diversions in the middle of next year.

Work on Phase 1 of the diversion canal started in Tanglin and Kim Seng in July and will cost $50.6 million. Traffic diversions due to this may be put in place in January.

Meanwhile, PUB said it has drainage improvement projects under way or scheduled at 139 locations this year, with 58 already completed. It has scheduled new projects at 17 locations next year, including in Sunset Way, Mountbatten, Marina South, Bukit Timah, and Sungei Pandan Kechil.

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LTA issues tender for satellite-based ERP system; distance-based pricing a possibility

Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 1 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Wednesday (Oct 1) called a tender to develop a next-generation electronic road pricing (ERP) system, based on global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology.

In a press release, LTA said it had conducted an 18-month System Evaluation Test, which concluded in December 2012. The new system will overcome the constraints of physical gantries, which are costly and take up land space, the LTA said. Also, the existing system is almost 20 years old and will become increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain, it added.

The new GNSS-based system will allow for distance-based pricing along congested roads where road pricing is to be implemented. This pricing method is more "equitable" as motorists will be charged proportionate to the distance travelled on congested roads, the authorities said.


Motorists can also look forward to an "interactive and intelligent" On-Board Unit that will replace their In-Vehicle Unit (IU). These units can support a range of value-added services such as real-time traffic information tailored to location and electronic payment for parking, instead of the current paper coupons, LTA said.

According to transport analysts, this may not necessarily lead to an increase in costs for motorists. Said Adjunct Associate Professor Gopinath Menon from Nanyang Technological University's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering: "It depends on how you price the system. For example, when we started the system from paper to the first ERP, it was cheaper during the first few years. So, that is up to LTA to decide."


The authorities are also considering new policies with the satnav system, such as allowing Off-Peak Car (OPC) users to pay only for short periods of usage - rather than the whole day, or permitting the use of OPCs on uncongested roads.

Authorities have also reassured motorists that their privacy will be safeguarded, as any data collected will be made anonymous. Assoc Prof Menon also said privacy should not be an issue. "Whenever you use an electronic equipment, you leave a footprint. Even when you use a handphone, you use an ATM machine. I think this is no worse than any of the other systems."

Observers expect the second generation road pricing system to encourage motorists to be more sensible in their usage of vehicles. This could have an impact on Certificate of Entitlement prices.


"Car usage is the main reason that contributes to traffic congestion. However, car ownership itself is not really having the direct relationship with the traffic congestion," explained Dr Lee Der Horng, professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the National University of Singapore.

“Then, once we have the ERP 2 system, Singapore will be in a perfect position to impose a usage-based charging system, and from there, can control vehicle usage. Personally, I do not rule out the possibility that with the ERP 2 system, the Government may be more lenient in terms of car ownership, because by then, we already have a perfect tool to manage actual car usage in Singapore."

To make the GNSS-based system possible, LTA has shortlisted three consortia to participate in the upcoming tender: NCS and MHI Engine System Asia, ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems) and Watchdata Technologies and Beijing Watchdata System.

The contract to design and develop the system is expected to be awarded in the second half of 2015, and LTA aims to implement the system from around 2020.

- CNA/kk

Distance-based road pricing ‘more equitable’
New framework can also allow authorities to move faster to tackle congestion
Joy Fang Today Online 2 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — The new satellite-based road pricing system could mean the authorities can move more quickly to respond to changes in travel patterns to ease congestion, said transport experts whom TODAY spoke to.

While much would depend on the final proposal chosen by the Government, the experts felt a system that could spell out which roads would cost more to travel on would be fairer and better than the current zone-based system marked by Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries.

Giving motorists more real-time information about which roads are most congested could also help change their driving behaviour, they said.

“You are charging by a distance-based (method) rather than by entry, so it’s a fairer system ... It is also giving more information to motorists, so it’s definitely better than the current system,” said Associate Professor Gopinath Menon, who teaches transportation engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Dr Park Byung Joon, UniSIM’s head of programme for Urban Transport Management, said with the current system, there is no incentive for drivers to avoid congested roads in an ERP zone that they have entered, because they have paid the fare. Imposing charges on individual roads would be a better way of nudging them to switch routes, he said.

However, Assoc Prof Menon pointed out that whether motorists would avoid more heavily used roads would be contingent on how the charges are set and how high they are.

Dr Alexander Erath from the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability said the new system could allow pricing to become “dynamic” and based on real-time information, according to the road congestion level at a particular moment.

In comparison, current ERP rates are reviewed every three months based on the average congestion in a particular zone, he added.

Indeed, a “temporary ERP”, said Dr Park, could be created for only a few days or weeks by programming the system’s software, when special events take place.

Whether the Off-Peak Car (OPC) scheme — in which motorists pay less for Certificates of Entitlement, but pay a flat fee of S$20 a day when they use their vehicles during restricted hours — will still be relevant remains a question.

Dr Erath said OPC drivers could have more flexibility in future. Noting that some roads are not congested during restricted hours, he said OPC drivers could be charged more than non-OPC drivers when they use a congested road, instead of paying the flat fee.

NTU transport economist Walter Theseira said the new system opens up opportunities for application developers to deliver value-added services to the public, such as integrating navigation or notifying people of special deals within their vicinity.

“It might not be something that will come out when the system starts, but I think it’s something that will definitely become a feature in a while,” he said.

Dr Erath added that, ultimately, it was a question of how much flexibility drivers are willing to accept — such as a system in which costs may fluctuate day by day, therefore driving them to adjust their routes on a daily basis.

“That, for me, is still an open question — how far can you go without annoying the motorists too much,” he said.

LTA calls for tender to develop satellite-based ERP system
The decision to build the new ERP system comes after an 18-month system evaluation test showed it is a technologically feasible idea, says the LTA. TODAY file photo
3 firms shortlisted to design second-generation system based on GNSS technology
Joy Fang Today Online 2 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — A new Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system using satellite positioning technology will be put in place by 2020 and could herald a sea change in how motorists are taxed for congestion. Motorists could pay for the distance they travel on congested roads, rather than pay a flat fee once they enter an ERP zone, as with the existing system.

A wide variety of changes could also be thrown up when Singapore deploys the new system based on Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, which uses satellites to pinpoint a user’s geographic location. These range from replacing parking coupons to paying for tolls at checkpoints, and allowing motorists to get real-time traffic information on an interactive computer installed in vehicles, in place of the existing in-vehicle unit.

Announcing yesterday that it has called a tender in which three companies have been shortlisted to develop this second-generation ERP system, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said: “A key advantage of a GNSS-based system is the ability to implement distance-based pricing along the congested roads where road pricing is to be implemented. Distance-based pricing, as opposed to the current gantry-based system, is more equitable, as motorists will be charged proportionate to the distance travelled on these congested roads.”

The decision to build the new ERP system, said the LTA, comes after an 18-month system evaluation test in Woodlands Avenue 12 that concluded in December 2012 showed it is a technologically feasible idea.

The LTA also noted the constraints of the current ERP system, such as the cost of installing the gantries, which take up land space, and that it would become increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain, given that the existing system is almost two decades old.

“With the GNSS-based system, motorists can also look forward to an interactive and intelligent on-board unit in their vehicles that can support a range of value-added services. These include real-time traffic information tailored to their location, as well as electronic payment for parking fees without today’s paper coupons,” the LTA said in its press release.

“Off-peak car users can look forward to new policies that we are considering, which may allow them to pay only for using their vehicles for short periods rather than the whole day or for using them only on uncongested roads.”

In response to TODAY’s queries, an LTA spokesman said the on-board unit could also be used to purchase e-Day licences for Off-Peak Cars and pay for checkpoint tolls.

A range of payment options will be available, from upfront payment through Contactless e-Purse Application (CEPAS)-compliant stored value cards to backend payment using credit and debit cards, a virtual payment account and GIRO, the spokesman added.

Asked about concerns over privacy, the LTA spokesman said it had factored this into the design of the new system.

“We want to reassure all road users that the necessary safeguards will be incorporated, so only data necessary to perform relevant functions will be collected,” he added.

Dr Alexander Erath of the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability said the Government must have a “strict data policy”, which defines the purpose of the data clearly and ensures it is not used for anything else.

Just as Singapore blazed the way in setting up the current ERP system in 1998, no other country is currently deploying a GNSS-based system nationwide — GPS-tracking systems are implemented on a smaller scale, such as by large logistics companies to track their trucks. Germany introduced a GNSS-based road-pricing system in 2005, but it is limited to truck tolls.

Critics of the current ERP system have said it has not been entirely efficient in controlling congestion on priced roads.

Commenting on the possibility that motorists could pay only for the stretch of taxed roads they use under the new system, transport analysts told TODAY it could be a more efficient way to ease congestion as drivers are more likely to change their travel patterns.

Nanyang Technological University transport economist Walter Theseira said the system should ideally be able to learn a motorist’s regular route and calculate how much he could expect to pay that day. It should also suggest alternative routes with different prices and journey times, he added.

Dr Park Byung Joon, head of programme for Urban Transport Management at SIM University, said motorists could pay ERP charges at the end of a month, after the distance clocked has been compiled.

The three consortia shortlisted to participate in the tender are NCS & MHI Engine System Asia, ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems) and Watchdata Technologies & Beijing Watchdata System. The contract is expected to be awarded in the second half of next year and implemented around 2020.

New ERP system to be distance-based
Christopher Tan My Paper AsiaOne 2 Oct 14;

Singapore has called a tender for contractors to build the next-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that it has shortlisted three consortia to take part in the multi-billion-dollar exercise.

They are NCS & MHI Engine System Asia, ST Electronics (InfoComm Systems), and Watchdata Technologies & Beijing Watch- data System.

ST Electronics has roped in computing giant IBM as a sub- contractor for its bid.

The winner will build a satellite-aided, gantry-less system that is capable of charging motorists based not only on the location and time they drive, but also the distance they travel. It works on the same principle as a satellite navigation system.

The Straits Times understands that the three parties will have up to February to submit their bids, and the tender is expected to be awarded in the second half of the year.

Although the authority said it aims to implement the system "from around 2020", industry watchers reckon it will be ready by 2019.

That is the year that Singapore hopes to host the 26th Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress, a prestigious event held annually since 1994. Detroit hosted this year's congress.

The LTA, together with the Intelligent Transportation Society Singapore, has put in a bid for the rights to host the event.

The tender for the next-generation ERP system has been long awaited by the industry, following an 18-month "live" evaluation that was completed in December 2012.

The LTA said the evaluation showed that it is "technologically feasible" to develop a satellite- based ERP system in Singapore.

It said: "This new system will overcome the constraints of physical gantries, which are costly and take up land space. In addition, it is not practical to continue with the current gantry system, which is almost two decades old and will become increasingly expensive and difficult to maintain."

The authority added that distance-based charging is "more equitable" to motorists, who will also enjoy the benefits of a more sophisticated in-vehicle unit that can provide real-time traffic information, coupon-free kerbside parking and flexible charges for the use of off-peak cars.

But motorists had other questions on their minds. "Does this mean that there will be more COEs?" businessman Leslie Chia, 49, wanted to know.

Others are worried about having their movements tracked. But Park Byung Joon, an urban transport management expert at SIM University, said "this is more fear than concern", "because when- ever you use navigation, your mobile phone or an app to call for a cab, your location is known".

Nevertheless, he said, the Government should assure users that their data will not be misused.

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New emissions standard for bikes, scooters kicks in

Laura Philomin Today Online 2 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — A tighter emissions standard for new motorcycles and scooters has kicked in as part of efforts to improve and maintain good air quality, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a statement issued yesterday.

The new emissions standard, starting yesterday, will be raised from the Euro I to Euro III as part of the NEA’s measures to achieve higher air quality targets by 2020 and lower ground-level ozone levels to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

The NEA reiterated that strict enforcement action will be taken against smoke-emitting vehicles, which are usually the result of engine problems, a clogged exhaust system or excessive levels of lubricant oil dispensed into the engine.

Drivers and owners of such vehicles are liable for a fine of up to S$5,000.

Figures provided by the NEA showed that about 1,800 motorcyclists were fined for smoke emission each year, from 2011 to last year.

Between January and August this year, that number dropped about 30 per cent to 824 motorcyclists, compared with the same period a year ago.

When it was announced last year that the emissions standard here would be tightened, motorcycle dealers were worried about compliance.

The new emissions standard means dealers will no longer be able to register their motorcycles below the Euro III standard for Certificate of Entitlements (COEs), and this was their primary concern.

This prompted then president of Singapore Motor Cycle Traders Association (SMCTA) to call for a three-month grace period — a proposal that was rejected.

Smaller motorcycle dealers whom TODAY recently spoke to said they were able to clear most of their pre-Euro III stock.

However, larger motorcycle distributors that ordered their stock in bigger quantities to supply dealers have found clearing their stock to be more challenging.

“We were actually aware of the due date to register bikes that were below the Euro III standard, so we basically stopped stocking brand new bikes below the Euro III standard and we sold off what we had,” said Mr Ang Xiao Chuan, director of Heng Motor Enterprise.

“We gave ourselves a time frame. (For) those that were not saleable, we stopped ordering too many to prevent not being able to sell them in time.”

General manager of Mah Pte Ltd, Mr Eugene Mah, said his company still has a few unregistered motorcycles in stock and he intends to find a way to sell those units to countries that still accept them.

But, Mr Lee Kwan Meng, vice-president of SMCTA, said the time frame given to shift from Euro I to Euro III within a year was insufficient.

In addition to the new emissions standard, Mr Lee, who also works at a Yamaha motorcycle distributor company, said the smaller COE quotas for motorcycles this year has made dealers more cautious in their buying habits and resulted in more unsold motorcycles for distributors.

On whether the NEA intends to help motorcycle traders with their unsold stock, an NEA spokesperson said the agency had consulted the traders since 2012, “so as to give them ample time to make the necessary preparations for the implementation of the Euro III standard”.

Higher emission standard for new motorbikes and scooters
David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Oct 14;

The emission requirement for new motorcycles and scooters has been raised from Euro I to the Euro III standard in an effort to improve Singapore's air quality.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday that adopting this new standard will lower levels of air pollutants such as ozone, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in an effort to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines by 2020.

It reiterated that it is strictly enforcing these standards, and acting against motorcycles that emit smoke.

Figures show that about 1,800 motorcyclists in each of the past three years - and about 800 this year to date - have been sanctioned for emitting smoke.

Most of these incidents were caused by engine problems, clogged exhaust systems or excessive amounts of lubricant oil used.

There were about 144,000 motorcycles on Singapore roads in 2012, according to latest figures.

Drivers and owners of vehicles spotted emitting smoke can be fined up to $5,000.

NEA added that it has been working closely with authorised vehicle inspection centres Vicom, JIC and STA to ensure motorcycles comply with the law.

Emissions from motor vehicles are a major source of urban pollution in Singapore and other cities worldwide.

The nation adopted WHO guidelines on air quality as a target in 2012. It is aiming to meet these targets by 2020 for the air pollutants sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5 and PM10.

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Malaysia: 90-minute downpour causes massive traffic chaos

The Star 2 Oct 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: In another round of torrential downpour yesterday, several parts of the city came to a standstill because of flash floods. The one and a half hour downpour that ended at about 6pm caught many city folk off-guard.

Traffic at Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Ampang came to a complete stop with water rising rapidly, while the pedestrian bridge at the Chan Sow Lin LRT station was closed due to flash floods at Jalan Yaacob Latif.

Motorists were left stranded during the evening rush hour after their vehicles were partially submerged in a parking lot along Jalan Pinang.

The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) operations centre confirmed that the areas were flooded but could not comment on the water levels.

A spokesman at the centre said there were also reports on other affected areas in Jalan Jelatek (near the Setiawangsa LRT station) and Jalan Melayu.

He said a number of trees were uprooted along Jalan Sultan Salahuddin, Jalan Maarof, Jalan Kuantan, Bandar Baru Sentul, the Sungai Besi-bound Jalan Istana Lama and Jalan Pekeliling Lama and this had worsened the congestion.

Kajang badly affected by heavy downpour
The Star 1 Oct 14;

PETALING JAYA: Several areas in the Klang Valley have been severely affected by flash floods and strong winds.

Kajang was worst hit on Monday evening with flood waters inundating several commercial areas in the township.

Shocked business owners and residents in the affected areas were still assessing their losses after the water had subsided.

The Kajang Municipal Council carried a massive clean-up operations in the town area following the incident.

A spokesman from the council said a team of first-responders were on standby round-the-clock to carry out disaster relief work in anticipation of bad weather over these few days.

Selangor MCA state liaison committee secretary Ng Chok Sin said the flash floods was another of Pakatan Rakyat’s lost list of unfulfilled election promises.

Ng urged newly-appointed Mentri Besar Azmin Ali to start working towards fulfilling Pakatan’s election promises.

In Shah Alam, many trees were uprooted due to strong winds. The affected areas include Bukit Jelutong, TTDI Jaya, Shah Alam City Centre, Section 9, Section 8, Section U2 and Section U8.

A response unit from the Shah Alam City Council worked around the clock to clear debris and fallen trees in the affected areas.

The council deployed about 100 personnel from its Park and Recreation Department including tipper trucks to clear debris and fallen branches.

The evening thunderstorm also affected several housing areas in Cheras resulting in flash floods.

Wrath of the rain
choo woon lim, shalini ravindran, AND stuart michael The Star 1 Oct 14;

Wrecking havoc: Kajang town inundated with water after a river burst its banks because of torrential rains late Monday evening.

Wrecking havoc: Kajang town inundated with water after a river burst its banks because of torrential rains late Monday evening.

RESIDENTS of Ampang, Kajang and Shah Alam are counting the cost of the flash floods that affected their businesses and damaged their property.

At first glance, everything seemed to be in order yesterday afternoon at Pasar Besar Kajang in the centre of town.

Upon closer inspection, some workers in the shops, especially those near the river, were seen cleaning their premises — no thanks to a flash flood that occured the day before after a heavy downpour.

Shanti Muniandy, a flower shop trader at the market, said the water overflowed from the banks of the river and rose to half a metre.

“I had just gotten home from work that day and was alerted of the flash floods. I rushed back to salvage what I could,” she said, adding that she still suffered losses amounting to RM400.

Shanti, who has been operating her stall for 19 years, said that floods had become so common that the traders there were afraid whenever it rained heavily.

She said that part of the contributing factor to the flash floods was irresponsible dumping of rubbish.

“There is a rubbish disposal bin meant for traders nearby, but people from outside treat it as a dumpsite as well, causing it to overflow.

“When it floods, all the rubbish is washed down the river,” she said.

“I hope the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) will apply stricter enforcement and issue heavy summonses to deter people from behaving irresponsibly,” she added.

Meanwhile, flower shop owner, Low Hoon Hang, said that overdevelopment in areas upstream was to blame.

Residents of Taman Nirwana in Ampang say a gabion wall that was constructed in a drain at Jalan 43 has compounded flood woes here.

“When there are new housing or commercial projects, ex-mining ponds are filled with land. This causes those areas to become higher and when it rains, the large volume of water floods low-lying areas like Kajang, creating a bad basin effect, said Low who is also Taman Bukit Mewah Residents’ Association chairman.

“MPKj should monitor these developments to ensure it does not impact the overall environment,” he said.

Meanwhile, a shoe trader, who only wanted to be known as Lee, said that most double-storey shops near the market have been renovated to be a few inches higher than the ground around them.

He spent RM40,000 on the renovations.

In yesterday's downpour it was reported that water had overflowed into residents' homes in Taman Nirwana in Ampang.

Water had overflowed into residents' homes in Taman Nirwana.

“I have been operating here for over 20 years and it is not easy to just move,” he said, adding that he could not insure his business as Kajang was a known area for floods.

“It comes to a point where we just accept it and live with it,” he said, while adding that MPKj should come up with more comprehensive solutions to mitigate floods.

MPKj public relations head Kamarul Izlan Sulaiman said that they sent a clean-up crew immediately after the flash floods on Monday and everything was cleared within a few hours.

“Our team from the Landscape, Urban Development Department as well as Pantas crew (quick reaction team) were on the scene and cleared the area by washing away mud with high-powered water guns. They also cleared fallen branches and other rubbish clogging the drains,” he said.

On plans in place to mitigate further floods, Izlan said they were discussing with the Irrigation and Drainage Department on upgrading works for the river.
Flood in Kajang ( SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 )
The water levels in the centre of Kajang town rose to half a metre.

“We will be working with other agencies to come up with a long-term solution,” he said, adding that for the moment, MPKj will conduct regular cleaning of drains to ensure no blockages occur.

In Shah Alam, the debris caused by thunderstorms which uprooted trees, blocked road access and damaged rooftops was cleared efficiently by authorities and contractors.

The heavy rain that lasted only for less than an hour had strong winds which destroyed the roofs of some factories nearby Bukit Jelutong Business and Technology Centre in Shah Alam.

Motorists who normally left their vehicles at parking bays shaded by trees saw branches and uprooted trees falling on their vehicles.

Cars parked at Jalan Astaka M U8/M parking lots at Bukit Jelutong Business and Technology Centre has a trees and branches fallen on it after the thunderstorm yesterday.
Uprooted trees and broken branches damaged cars parked at the Bukit Jelutong Business and Technology Centre.

Major roads like Persiaran Astaka were partially blocked by fallen trees.

The areas affected by the thunderstorms here were Bukit Jelutong, TTDI Jaya, Shah Alam City Centre, Section 9, Section 8, Section U2 and Section U8.

Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) deputy corporate communications director Shahrin Ahmad said MBSA had its disaster team called the Action Team on standby to make their rounds and to handle relief work.

The MBSA Action Team acted on complaints on fallen trees, blocked access to roads and even fallen branches made to the 24-hour council hotline for disasters at 03-5510 5811.

“Besides this, the action team went on their rounds to check the affected areas.

“The team also liaised with the Meteorological Department on the weather forecast before the cleaning work was carried out.

“Then, the council sent shredder trucks and open tipper lorries to the affected areas to collect branches and debris on the road.

“About 100 staff members from Park and Recreation Department, Social Waste Management Department and MBSA contractors helped in clearing the branches.

“Most of the debris that blocked access to roads was cleared within two hours,’’ he said.

Shahrin added that the Action Team has three shifts — Shift One (8am to 4pm), Shift Two (4pm to midnight) and Shift Three (midnight to 8am).

“Each shift has seven members in the team on standby.

“When there are not enough staff members to handle disasters, we would call in the staff from the Enforcement Department and other relevant departments to carry out cleaning and disaster relief work,’’ Shahrin said.

Meanwhile, some 16 houses in Taman Nirwana, Ampang were inundated as water levels in the drains overflowed.

Residents complained of water overflowing into their homes up to one foot high.

In some areas here, it was reported that water had risen to more than three feet in less than an hour.

Taman Nirwana Residents’ Association adviser M. Thomas said the current drainage system could not support the growing number of neighbourhoods.

“For example, a monsoon drain meant for three neighbourhoods, now has to support up to seven.

“So, whenever there is a downpour, these drains overflow and our homes are flooded,” he said, adding that the last flash flood occurred in May this year.

Thomas added that the problem was compounded after a gabion wall was constructed in a drain at Jalan 43 in Taman Nirwana.

“The wall was built some 10 days ago by Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) and they did not even inform the association on the matter.

“Because of the volume of water, the backflow caused water to rise and enter our homes,” he said, adding that a nearby playground was also submerged during the flash flood.

Jalan 45 resident Albert Lee, 58, said he was lucky this time around as the water stopped short of entering his home.

“Unfortunately, some of my neighbours were not as lucky.

“Their furniture and other valuables were damaged as water flowed into their homes.

“As most of them were at work, they were shocked to come home to see their belongings damaged by the flood,” he said.

Commenting on the issue, MPAJ acting president Abdul Hamid Abdul Hussain said the flash flood was unusual as it was worse than usual.

“We had 80mm of rain yesterday and because of this, the drains could not cope with the volume of water and the hardest hit was Taman Nirwana.

“Although we have done a series of five upgrading projects over the past eight years, costing some RM1mil, the problem still persists.

“We even conducted a desilting exercise in August.

“We may look into appointing a consultant to do an overall study of the area and advise us on how best to solve this issue.

“We may also look at widening the existing retention pond or deepening the drains,” he said.

Shah Alam, Kajang battered by heavy storm
Eunice Au and Firdaous Fadzil New Straits Times 29 Sep 14;

SHAH ALAM: A TWO-HOUR downpour and strong winds wreaked havoc in several areas in Shah Alam and Kajang yesterday, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

No casualties were reported.

Selangor Fire and Rescue operations assistant director Mohd Sani Harul said it took hours for firemen to remove the debris, including cutting trees obstructing roads at the Bukit Jelutong industrial area.

“During the two hours of rain and strong winds, we received six emergency calls about fallen trees and cars trapped under the trees.

“However, there were no injuries or casualties. It took our firemen about an hour to clear the debris,” he said yesterday.

No major traffic congestion was reported to have been caused by fallen trees.

Bank executive Nur Sakinah Ahmad Zaki, 26, said she saw an advertising billboard come crashing down onto her colleagues’ cars.

“We suddenly heard a loud bang from outside the building (where we worked). We saw a billboard fall, hitting two of my colleagues’ cars,” she said, adding that she also saw several windows shattered from the strong force of the wind.

“My office is in front of a machinery warehouse. The wind was so strong that even the excavators and cranes were moving with the wind. Even the roof of the warehouse was ripped apart.”

Factory worker I. Raja, 26, sustained minor injuries when a roof tile at his workplace flew and hit his hand.

Meanwhile, Sekolah Kebangsaan Bukit Jelutong suffered losses of about RM100,000 when the storm damaged several of its buildings, including some classrooms and the school canteen.

The storm also caused power outages in Jalan 8/2, Section 8 and Bukit Jelutong, here.

In Kajang, the downpour caused Sungai Jeluh in Hulu Langat to overflow.

A Selangor Drainage and Irrigation Department spokesman said at least 50 shops in the area were damaged by the flash floods.

“The water, however, subsided after 30 minutes,” he said, adding that several areas in Taman Pandan Indah and Taman Pandan Jaya in Pandan were also affected. Additional reporting by Zafira Anwar

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Indonesia: Wind Sets Savanna Ablaze as Mount Merbabu Wildfires Shut Down Trails

Ari Susanto Jakarta Globe 2 Oct 14;

The upper slopes of Mount Merbabu in this file photo. (JG Photo/Ari Susanto)

Boyolali, Central Java. Fire burning dry forest in Mount Merbabu since last weekend has spread from western to eastern slopes, as police and Mount Merbabu National Park Agency, or BTNGM, officials sent firefighters Tuesday to the wildfires from escalating further out of control.

Flames appeared on the slopes near the villages of Kalipasang in Semarang district and Wekas in Magelang district, where hot spots were first identified a week ago. Dry brush and grass, hot winds, difficult access and shortage of water have made the fire difficult to control. The blaze has scorched an area, mostly savanna, as far away as Ampel, Boyolali, about 17 kilometers from Salatiga, Central Java.

“We have sent officers to help firefighters in the upper slopes along with forest rangers, as we identified that the fire is growing to our district. We prevented the fire from approaching villagers’ houses on the slope,” Ampel Police Chief Adj. Comr Marjoko said.

The BTNGM closed all hiking paths in Tekelan, Cuntel, Wekas and Selo indefinitely on Tuesday. Tourists and hikers are advised to change their destination to neighboring mountains such as Merapi, Sumbing, Sindoro and Lawu.

BTNGM conservation coordinator Kurnia Adi Wirawan said the park agency could not guarantee the safety of hiking paths, since the fire was difficult to control. Currently, search and rescue teams have focused on fighting fires in remote spots unreachable by firefighters, to provide egress to trapped hikers.

“We shut hiking paths since we cannot guarantee that the four passageways are safe from fire,” Kurnia said.

“At this moment, it is too dangerous for tourists to hike, as the wind can blow and enlarge fires so suddenly that it can trap them.”

The flames are glowing at 2,900 meters above sea level, mostly in secluded areas where access is challenging. The BTNGM also called on villagers living on the slopes to join firefighting efforts, since they are more familiar the area.

The national park includes 5,725 hectares forest around Mount Merbabu straddling Magelang, Semarang and Boyolali districts. It is home to endangered species including the Javan hawk-eagle and the Javan leopard

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Indonesia: Schools, flights off as haze thickens

Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 1 Oct 14;

The Jambi administration has closed childhood education program (PAUD) centers and kindergartens, as haze from forest fires blanketing the city continues to worsen.

Jambi regional secretary Daru Pratomo said the parents of kindergarten and PAUD pupils had been told not to send their children to school on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Based on instructions from Jambi Deputy Mayor Abdullah Sani, we have decided to give kindergarten and PAUD students a vacation. We have instructed the Education Agency to implement the order,” said Daru on Tuesday.

He added that it was probable that the administration would also close elementary schools if the haze worsened.

Jambi’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) head of data, Kurnia Ningsih, said that as of Tuesday, 25 separate fires had been detected across Jambi province: 17 in Sarolangun district, three in Muaro Jambi, two in Batanghari and one each in Merangin, East Tanjungjabung and West Tanjungjabung.

“The haze is mostly from South Sumatra province, to the southeast of Jambi. However, Jambi is still in the dry season, which could be contributing to the haze,” said Kurnia.

Yussvinoza, head of the pollution control division at the Jambi Environment Agency (BLHD), said the air pollution standards index (ISPU) level in Jambi City was recorded at a level of 115 on Tuesday.

“Air pollution in Jambi has been categorized as hazardous to health,” said Yussvinoza.

Elsewhere, dense haze has also covered Riau Islands province and Central Kalimantan province, causing wide-scale disruption to flights.

In Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta failed to land at Tjilik Riwut Airport on Tuesday due to haze.

“Visibility for landing was not of a high enough standard, so the flight was rerouted to the Syamsuddin Noor International Airport in South Kalimantan,” Yunus, the Garuda Indonesia branch manager in Palangkaraya, said as quoted by Antara news portal.

Central Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Mochtar said the haze originated from forest and peatland fires, and was exacerbated by smoke from fire extinguishing efforts in razed areas.

In North Barito regency, Central Kalimantan, Susi Air airlines canceled all flights to and from Beringin Muara Teweh Airport on Tuesday.

“Flights from three cities in Kalimantan to Beringin Muara Teweh Airport had to be canceled today because there was dense haze from morning until afternoon,” said airport employee Asmadi.

Antara also reported that in Sampit, East Kotawaringin regency, also in Central Kalimantan, the haze restricted visibility to 30 meters, causing havoc to people’s daily lives.

“I was late to school because the haze was so dense, I was afraid to ride my motorcycle fast. Luckily, lessons were postponed until 8 a.m.,” said Ayu, a student at a vocational school in Sampit.

East Kotawaringin regency Communications and Informatics Office head Fadlian Noor urged motorists, including angkot (public minivan) drivers, to be extra careful.

Fadlian added that visibility on the Mentaya River was also very limited, the dense haze having blurred the view across the river, necessitating extra caution on the part of boat pilots.

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Indonesia makes first arrests of manta ray traders

Three traders arrested for dealing in whole manta rays and their gills, in first detentions since legal protections
AFP 1 Oct 14;

Indonesia has detained three traders for attempting to illegally sell manta rays, the first such arrests since the world’s biggest archipelago introduced legislation protecting the huge winged fish, conservationists said.

In February, the biggest manta ray sanctuary on Earth was established in Indonesia in a bid to put a stop to the creatures being hunted for use in traditional medicine, and attract more tourists.

Manta rays are now protected within the millions of square kilometres of ocean surrounding Southeast Asia’s biggest nation, with fishing and export of the creatures banned.

US-based group the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates a wildlife crimes unit in Indonesia, said that three manta ray traders were arrested in August and September on the main island of Java.

The arrests send a “clear message that Indonesia is serious about protecting its natural heritage against illegal wildlife traders,” Joe Walston, the society’s vice president for field conservation said in a statement released this week.

Indonesia’s Marine Affairs Minister Sharif C. Sutardjo hailed the arrests, and was cited as saying: “Illegal trading of protected species threatens the sustainability of marine and fisheries resources in Indonesia.”

The first arrest on 22 August involved a trader in Surabaya city in the east of Java attempting to sell a shipment that included manta ray gills, which are sought after in China for their use in traditional medicine.

A second trader was arrested in Sidoarjo, near Surabaya, on 1 September, while the third was detained on 26 September in Indramayu in west Java, attempting to sell an entire manta ray.

Trafficking manta rays, whose numbers in Indonesia have fallen sharply in recent years, is punishable by a maximum fine of $25,000, the conservation group said.

The rays have wingspans up to 25 feet (7.5 metres), which they flap to propel themselves through the water, and are a favourite sight for foreign tourists, many of whom come to Indonesia to dive.

Protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies both species of manta ray - the oceanic and reef varieties - as vulnerable.

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Ditch U.N. temperature target for global warming, study says

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 2 Oct 14;

The world's environment ministers agreed in 2010 to cap a rise in average surface temperatures at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times as the yardstick to avoid more floods, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.

"Politically and scientifically, the 2 degree C goal is wrong-headed," David Victor and Charles Kennel, both professors at the University of California in San Diego, wrote in the Nature article entitled "Ditch the 2C Warming Goal".

Among objections, they said the goal was "effectively unachievable" because of rising greenhouse gas emissions, led in recent years by China's strong economic growth.

And they said the target was out of line with recent trends. Temperatures have risen about 0.85 degree Celsius (1.5F) since about 1900 but have been virtually flat since about 1998 despite higher emissions from factories, power plants and cars.

They said that blood pressure, heart rate or body mass were all vital signs of health for a person, not just temperature. "A similar strategy is now needed for the planet," they wrote.

The study urged a shift to other yardsticks to gauge the planet's health, such as concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or changes in the heat content of the oceans.

Some other scientists said the 2C target was still the best goal to guide U.N. talks on a deal to limit climate change, due to be agreed by governments in late 2015 at a summit in Paris.

HOT 1998

"Their arguments don't hold water," said Stefan Rahmstorf, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

He said that a shift to tracking carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, for instance, would not help because no one knows exactly how far rising carbon concentrations affect temperatures.

And he said that 1998 was an exceptionally hot year, warmed by a powerful El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean. The period since then was not typical of long-term trends.

A German group of experts, Climate Analytics, also defended the 2C goal. "Whilst no one is in doubt about the difficulty of limiting warming below 2 degrees C, it is incorrect to claim that achieving this goal is infeasible," they wrote.

The U.N.'s panel of climate experts said in March that it was still possible to keep temperatures below 2C at a moderate annual cost of about 0.06 percent of economic output.

The panel says it is at least 95 percent probable that man-made greenhouse gas emissions, rather than natural swings in the climate system, are the main cause of global warming since 1950.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; editing by Susan Thomas)

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