Malaysia: Terengganu oil palm farmers hit by jumbo problem

The Star 13 Oct 14;

KEMAMAN: More than 10 oil palm farmers in Kampung Darat Air Putih here claimed to have suffered losses of between RM3,000 and RM20,000 after wild elephants ravaged their farms.

They claimed the destruction on the 30ha land started in July and had worsened lately.

One of them, Mohd Rudzi Abdul Razak, 32, said his hope of reaping the fruits of 100 trees he planted three years ago were dashed.

“I am so sad. I have put so much effort only to find my trees destroyed,” he said.

Mohd Rudzi said it was believed at least three elephants were involved based on the footprints that were found near the area.

Another farmer, Mohd Yusof Sulong, 52, lamented that 70 of his trees which were already bearing fruit were also destroyed.

State Perhilitan director Yusoff Shariff said the department would take action swiftly.

“We will either catch the elephants and relocate them or chase them far into the jungle,” he said. — Bernama

Read more!

Best of our wild blogs: 13 Oct 14

Volunteer divers invited to join the Mega Marine Survey
from the Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Fun field workshop with volunteer guides at the Sisters Islands Marine Park! from wild shores of singapore

Pulau Hantu (11 October 2014)
from Psychedelic Nature

Wood Y’Owl Believe It?
from Winging It

Sat 18 Oct’14 / Deepavali Wed 22 Oct’14 Guided walks
from a.t.Bukit Brown. Heritage. Habitat. History.

A Quiet Morning at USR
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Long-tailed Parakeet in comfort behaviour
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Black Faunus (Faunus ater) @ West Coast Park
from Monday Morgue

Read more!

Hazy conditions likely to persist

Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: The hazy conditions that affected Singapore on Saturday (11 Oct) are likely to persist, even though thundery showers are expected on Sunday afternoon (12 Oct).

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said this is due to smoke haze from the surrounding region blown in by the prevailing winds.

Air quality hovered in the "unhealthy" range overnight - at 105 at 1am, and at 108 at 2am and 3am on Sunday. It started slipping to the "moderate" range at 6am, with a reading of 99.

NEA said the overall 24-hour PSI for Singapore is expected to fluctuate between the high end of the "moderate" range and the low end of the "unhealthy" range.

Those who are likely to fall ill due to the haze should reduce or avoid outdoor activities and physical exertion, said NEA.

- CNA/xq

Hazy skies expected sporadically today
Joy Fang Today Online 13 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — While the smoggy conditions that persisted overnight from Saturday eased yesterday morning, hazy skies are still expected sporadically today, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in its advisory yesterday evening.

Prevailing winds are forecast to be light and variable in direction today, which could blow in haze from the region from time to time, it said. The overall 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) is expected to remain in the high end of the moderate range and the low end of the unhealthy range today, with thundery showers projected in the afternoon.

PSI readings between 50 and 100 fall under the moderate air quality band. Anything above that up to 200 is considered unhealthy air quality.

At 7pm, the one-hour concentrations of PM2.5 air pollutants — tiny particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter — were 28 to 42 ug/m3.

For the most of yesterday, air quality hovered in or close to the unhealthy range. A change in the prevailing wind direction and showers over parts of Singapore in the late afternoon saw the 24-hour PSI dip just into the moderate range of 86 to 99 as at 7pm.

Between 9am and 10am, however, that reading was as high as 92 to 105. The last time the 24-hour PSI persisted in the moderate to unhealthy range was on Oct 7, when it hit a high of 107-125 at 9am.

Given the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, the NEA said healthy people should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. Joy Fang

Haze improves, air quality in moderate range
Joy Fang Today Online 12 Oct 14;

The hazy conditions that persisted overnight yesterday (Oct 11) has eased today due to a change in the prevailing wind direction and showers over parts of Singapore in the late afternoon, and the National Environment Agency (NEA) expects conditions to improve tonight and tomorrow.

At 6pm today, the 1-hr concentrations of PM2.5 were 27 - 58 ug/m3, and the 24-hr PSI was 86 -100, in the moderate range.

NEA said prevailing winds are forecast to be light and variable in direction tonight and tomorrow. However as there is smoke haze from the region still around Singapore, hazy conditions can still be expected from time to time. Thundery showers are also expected tomorrow in the afternoon, it added.

The overall 24-hr Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) for Singapore is expected to be in the high-end of the moderate range and the low-end of the unhealthy range.

Read more!

Malaysia: Johor Fishermen Foundation Being Set Up To Care For State's Fishermen

Mohd Haikal Mohd Isa Bernama 12 Oct 14;

JOHOR BAHARU, Oct 12 (Bernama) -- The welfare and future of fishermen in Johor's coastal areas, adversely affected by the rapid development taking place, will be taken care of through the Johor Fishermen Foundation, now in the final stage of its establishment.

South Johor Fishermen's Association chairman, Azli Mohamad Aziz said the association had suggested that the state government contribute a start-up fund of RM10 million to the foundation.

"The idea of setting up the foundation came from Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin who wants the welfare and future of the state's fishermen be safeguarded.

"Through the start-up fund, the Johor Fishermen Foundation plans to venture into various kinds of business to derive profits which will then be channelled back to the fishermen involved," he told BERNAMA, in Johor Baharu.

Azli said the foundation would focus on looking after the plight of fishermen affected by the rapid development in Iskandar Malaysia, including the Forest City coastal land reclamation project in Gelang Patah.

The foundation will also assist coastal fishermen affected by the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project in Pengerang.

It is understood that the State Economic Development Unit is acting as the secretariat for the foundation's organising committee.

Of late, fisherman in Gelang Patah have voiced concern over the effects of the Forest City reclamation project in the Johor Straits on their livelihood.

The project will create four man-made islands and although the land reclamation works have now been stopped temporarily, the effects have already been felt by the fishermen who complained about poor fish catch.

The Forest City project with a gross development value of RM600 billion over a period of 30 years, is a joint venture between the state government's subsidiary company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) and real estate developer from China, Country Garden.

The RAPID project in Pengerang is spearheaded by Petronas, which is committed to making Pengerang an oil and gas hub in the Asian region.

Azli said the Johor Fishermen Foundation planned to venture into oil palm cultivation together with the Johor Fishermen's Association (JOSFA), and into other industries.

He said the foundation would be using JOSFA's successful business model in its effort to improve the fishermen's economy which was affected by the rapid development taking place.

"We fishermen do not reject development in Johor, but at the same time we don't want to be sidelined or marginalised. Our welfare and future need to be safeguarded too," he said.


Read more!

Indonesia: Firms blamed for fires

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 13 Oct 14;

Poor compliance by companies and local administrations is the major cause of the rampant forest fires in Riau, a government-sanctioned audit team has revealed.

Bambang Hero Saharjo, who headed the team, said that of the 17 companies investigated in the audit, none passed the compliance test, which measured the companies’ level of compliance with environmental regulations.

“Not a single one fulfilled its own promises, whether they are companies operating plantations or in industrial forests,” he said.

The audit was conducted between July 1 and Aug. 25 by a team consisting of the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4), the REDD+ Management Agency, the Forestry Ministry and the Riau Police.

Riau is the first province to be audited by the team, as 93.6 percent of the 12,541 hot spots recorded between Jan. 2 and March 13 were located in the province.

Last year, slash-and-burn fires on plantations in Riau and some parts of Kalimantan triggered severe haze that blanketed Singapore and some parts of Malaysia. In response to the subsequent diplomatic uproar, President Susilo Bambang Yudho-
yono apologized to the neighboring countries.

Forest fires remain endemic to Riau as the authorities struggle to contain the problem after it reemerged on several plantations in August.

UKP4 head Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said the 17 companies investigated, identified only by their initials, comprised 12 forestry companies and five palm-oil companies. “Of the five plantation companies, none of them fell into the category of ‘compliant’.”

The five companies were PT JJP in Rokan Ilir regency, PT MEG and PT TFDI in Siak regency and PT SAM and PT BNS in Indragiri Hilir regency; they scored between 18.5 percent and 48 percent for compliance to their 97 responsibilities.

“Only one of them [PT BNS] had a pretty high level of compliance, approaching 50 percent. But even that did not fall into the ‘compliant’ category,” Bambang said.

Things were even worse among the forestry companies, which produce wood and non-wood products such as sago.

The audit found that one firm PT SRL Block III, only complied with 7.22 percent of its 122 obligations. Another 10 companies: PT SPM, PT RRL, PT SPA, PT SRL Block I, II, IV, PT DRT, PT RUJ, PT AA, PT SSL, PT NSP and PT SG had a compliance level of 26.19 to 47.54 percent.

The last company, PT SRL Block V, meanwhile, had the highest compliance rating among forestry companies, at 52.38 percent.

The audit also investigated the performance of the regional administration in Riau in managing agro-forestry companies and environmental hazards in the province.

The administrations of Indragiri Hilir regency, Dumai city, Rokan Hilir regency, and Meranti Islands regency were found to have poor regulatory systems.

Some of the irregularities shown by the audit were due to the fact that all of the audited companies were operating in peatland, which is known to be extremely flammable.

Some of the companies also submitted bogus environmental impact analyses (Amdal) in order to exploit peatland of depths of more than 3 meters.

Presidential Decree No.32/1990 on protected-area management states that peatland can only be exploited if its depth is less than 3 meters.

The audit also found that the majority of the audited firms failed to secure their sites located in protected areas for various reasons, such as a lack of access or the fact that the land was being occupied by local residents.

“For example, a firm in Rokan Hilir is located on land where the whole area is occupied by local people, so there are no operations by the company,” the audit said. “In that area, burning occurs openly around the access to the concession area.”

UKP4 law-enforcement deputy Mas Achmad Santosa said that the unit would deploy a team to Riau to follow up on the audit. “We will allow a certain period of time for them to fix their problems.”

Should the companies fail to improve their compliance ratings, sanctions will be imposed by the government depending on the level of failure.

The next audit will be conducted in Central Kalimantan, another province suffering from endemic forest fires.

Riau air quality "unhealthy" as haze obscures skies
Antara 12 Oct 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The air quality around Riau Province reached a "very unhealthy" level on Sunday as haze from forest fires covered its surrounding.

Head of Data and Information Center of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the Provinces Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU) reached 240 at 7 am local time indicating a very unhealthy level.

The poor air quality was detected in some region of Riau Province such as Rumbai (251), Minas (176), Duri Camp. (136), Duri field (114), Dumai (148), Bangko (127), Libo (399) and Petapahan (136).

The higher the ISPU reading, the higher he level of air pollution and the bigger the health concern is.

An ISPU reading between 0-50 represents a good air quality, while the index between 51-100 shows a medium quality.

When the ISPU reading is above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy, between 200-299 very unhealthy and more than 300 is hazardous.

"The hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan are endless despite continuous effort of forest fire fighting from land, air and the law enforcement," Sutopo said.

According to the Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency, based on The Terra and Aqua satellite observation on Sunday at 05.00 am local time, there were 153 hotspots detected in the Sumatran region, most of them in South Sumatra with 144 hotspots and the rest were in Riau (3), Jambi (3), Riau Islands (2) and Aceh (1).

However, the number of hotspots may still rise as the Modis satellite will be passing over Sumatra Island at 04.00 pm, Nugroho said.

"The wind direction generally flows from Southeast and West to Northwest with the speed of 05-50 knot meaning it (haze) will not spread to Singapore," Nugroho said.

The Modis Satellite on Saturday at 04.00 pm still also detected significant number of hotspots in Kalimantan, Nugroho said, most of them were in Central Kalimantan (220); West Kalimantan (26), South Kalimantan (61) and East Kalimantan (50).

(Reporting by A.E.S.Wicaksono/T.A059/H-YH)

Medan covered by haze since Sunday morning
Antara 12 Oct 14;

Medan, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, has been covered by haze since early Sunday morning although it was not thick enough to disrupt public activities.

The head of data and information section of the regional office of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Hendra Suwarta, said he believed the smoke that emerged Sunday morning did not come from North Sumatra because no fires had been detected there.

He said the smoke probable came from South Sumatra and Riau provinces where a number of hotspots had been detected.

He said that wind from southwest was currently flowing to North Sumatra providing a chance for the province to receive smoke from South Sumatra and Riau.

He said capital city Medan meanwhile was also cloudy to potentially cause rain.

He said the smoke did not cause too much problem because it had quickly vanished due to a high intensity of light and heavy rains.

"It is not too problematic But if the smoke continues to come Medan will again be covered by haze," he said.

The head of data and information center of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said based on Terra and Aqua satellite monitoring at 5am Sunday a total of 153 hotspots had been found in Sumatra.

Most of the hotspots were seen in South Sumatra reaching 144 while the others were monitored in Riau (3), Jambi (3), Riau Islands (2) and Aceh (1).

reporting by irwan arfa

(H-YH/b003/B003) .

Read more!