Best of our wild blogs: 17 Oct 14

Lots of dead farm fishes washed up at Lim Chu Kang
from wild shores of singapore

Bats in my porch: 18. Adult females and their pups
from Bird Ecology Study Group

A precious resident -The Greater Painted Snipe
from Singapore Bird Group

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Waters around coastal fish farms closely monitored: AVA

Channel NewsAsia 16 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: Fish farmers at Lim Chu Kang received an alert from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) last Friday (Oct 10), notifying them of impending low dissolved oxygen levels in the waters around the farms.

AVA said such alerts are part of a system aimed at ensuring close monitoring of waters around coastal fish farms. Responding to media queries on recent reports of mass fish deaths at farms in the Lim Chu Kang area, AVA said that it has installed continuous online water quality monitoring systems at some coastal fish farms.

The real-time data received will help AVA assess water quality conditions at the farming areas and also alert it to impending poor water conditions. The early alerts, in the form of phone calls and SMSes, are also sent out to fish farms so that farmers can take the necessary precautions to safeguard their fish stocks, said AVA. Farmers are also encouraged to notify AVA when they observe unusual fish or water conditions.

AVA said the low dissolved oxygen levels at Lim Chu Kang could have been caused by several factors, including the relatively dry warm weather and tidal conditions. It has also received reports about the fish mortality in some farms in Lim Chu Kang, and these farms have turned on their aeration systems to mitigate the low dissolved oxygen level situation.

The affected farms have also conducted an emergency harvest of the fish to reduce their losses. AVA said it has also deployed oxygen cylinders and aerators to supplement the farms' aeration systems.

AVA will continue to work closely with the farmers to help tackle challenges, address issues and boost farm capability and production. AVA also said that it conducts regular visits to the fish farms to monitor and advise farmers on good farm management practices.

These include on-site guidance on fish disease and parasite preventive measures, animal husbandry, fish nutrition, as well as fish culture protocols like optimal stocking densities to prevent overcrowding. These practices are expected to help to improve fish survival and in turn boost farm production, said AVA.

- CNA/xy

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Fish and (micro)chips: S'pore to launch Asia's first tracking system for fish

Channel NewsAsia 16 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: From February next year, some fish farmers in Singapore will be introducing microchipping for their fish. The aim is to improve competitiveness and ensure the quality of the fish sold to consumers.

Fish will be microchipped once they reach 100 grammes. With the microchip, buyers can find out the origins of the fish and its health conditions using an online system.

Once launched, this will be Asia's first tracking system for fish that are meant for consumption. There are plans to extend this to about 120 fish farms in Singapore within the next three years.

"Once the chip is in, the farmers shall not implement any drugs or any medication to the fish. If the fish is sick, either they die or we do medical treatment. When we do medical treatment, this group of fish will not go into the market," said Mr Phillip Lim, ex-chairman of the Singapore Marine Aquaculture Cooperative.

- CNA/xy

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Scheme sets out to cut carbon footprint of construction materials

Siau Ming En Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: The Green Mark scheme, which evaluates whether buildings are environmentally sustainable, will soon consider the basic carbon footprint during the import of key components and systems of buildings, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee on Thursday (Oct 16).

While the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), which administers the scheme, is still studying how this can be done, it will most likely affect construction materials, such as green concrete, recycled concrete aggregates and steel.

Mr Lee, who was speaking at the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) Environment Sustainability Conference held at the Singapore Expo, noted that building sustainable green buildings goes beyond resource-efficient building designs and also includes the use of environmentally-responsible construction material and methods.

More details of the scheme will be released next September.


At the conference, SCAL’s president Ho Nyok Yong also urged the smaller B1 and B2 contractors – those who can bid for government projects that cost up to S$42 million and S$14 million, respectively – to obtain their certification under the Green and Gracious Builder Scheme.

First introduced by the BCA as a voluntary scheme in 2009 to encourage firms to adopt green and gracious practices – such as minimising noise, danger and inconvenience to residents living near construction sites – it has become mandatory for bigger contractors to obtain this particular certification since last year.

Of the 143 bigger A1 and A2 contractors – those who can bid for government projects at any cost and up to S$90 million, respectively – 84 have been certified, while another 41 recently submitted their applications to be certified under the scheme.

The deadline to obtain the certification for this group of contractors is Jan 1. On the other hand, only a handful of B1 and B2 contractors have obtained the certification, said Dr Ho in his speech.

BCA figures showed that of 250 of these contractors, only 15 have been certified, while another 13 recently submitted their applications.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the BCA noted that as the Jan 1, 2016 deadline for certification of the smaller contractors is more than a year away, some may be planning to submit their applications closer to the deadline.

Given how these contractors have to work with fewer resources and manpower, obtaining the certification may not be their most immediate priority, added Dr Ho.

While construction firm Conint, which belongs to the B1 category, is one of the 15 that have been certified, its senior project manager Edwin Loo told TODAY that the initial outlay may be quite high, making it challenging for some companies to obtain certification.

He said the contractors would have to invest in new technology and green products, among other things, and it will take some time before they start seeing returns on those investments. They will also need to hire trained personnel for green technologies.

Mr Loo also felt that bigger contractors were more keen on green technology for the sake of their image, while the mid-tier firms do not view green technology as an immediate priority for their business.


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Indonesia: South Sumatra gives up on haze despite help

Ansyor Idrus, The Jakarta Post 16 Oct 14;

The South Sumatra administration seems to be losing hope as all its efforts to resolve the haze emitted from its land have been fruitless.

“The only hope is asking Allah for rain,” South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin told reporters in Palembang on Wednesday.

Alex admitted that his administration was overwhelmed and had given up trying to extinguish fires on 7,000 hectares of peatland in nearby Ogan Komering Ilir regency, which were producing the haze that had blanketed Palembang.

He said it would need rain for seven consecutive days to douse the fires in the peatland.

Thousands of residents performed shalat istisqa (Islamic prayer to ask for rain) on Tuesday in a desperate effort to tackle the haze. Hours after the prayer, light rain reportedly fell in several areas in the city, slightly reducing the density of the fog.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has deployed nine helicopters to extinguish a number of forest fire points on peatland across the country.

“The choppers have been deployed to water bomb hot spots which are difficult to reach for the Manggala Agni fire-fighting unit,” said BNPB chief spokesman Sutopo Purwo in Jakarta on Wednesday.

He added four helicopters had been deployed to South Sumatra, three to Central Kalimantan and one each to Riau and West Kalimantan.

BNPB has also conducted cloud seeding to create artificial rain to minimize the number of hot spots.

“We have carried out several measures, including weather modification, direct fire fighting and water bombing from aircraft,” said Sutopo.

He added that to overcome the forest and peatland fires, the BNPB and the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) had seeded clouds in Kalimantan on Sept. 18 and in South Sumatra on Sept. 21 from an Air Force Hercules aircraft.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) had also deployed 2,200 personnel, backed by 1,050 police personnel, to assist the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) and Manggala Agni to fight the fires in September.

Meanwhile the Bengkulu Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) forecaster, Diah Novita Astuti, said on Wednesday the haze covering the city for the past three days was still categorized as safe for people’s health.

However, she added, members of the public had been urged to remain vigilant by wearing masks if they wished to be outdoors.

Diah said in general the weather in the next three days would be cloudy followed by light rain.

“Light rain is possible, especially in the west of Bengkulu province. Currently, visibility in Bengkulu city stands at 1,500 meters as the haze is being carried by wind from the east,” she added.

Diah said the haze had originated from South Sumatra because no hot spots had been found in Bengkulu.

“It’s normal for Bengkulu to receive haze from other areas,” she added. The haze in Bengkulu city is affecting visibility and respiration.

“I have sensed the presence of the haze for the past five days. I have given my children masks to wear when they go to school,” said Bengkulu city resident Usman.

Riau’s Forests Rife With Danger: Rangers
Eyewitness: The Jakarta Globe discovers plenty of evidence of arson and illegal logging in Riau province's Rimbang Baling Reserve
Basten Gokkon Jakarta Globe 17 Oct 14;

A helicopter drop water on burning peatland as firefighters from the Arara Abadi Sinarmas Forestry company extinguish the fire in Siak, Riau province on June 24, 2013. (EPA Photo/Reno Alam)

Pekanbaru. Sprawling over 136,000 hectares in Riau province, the Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve is home to some of the richest biodiversity in Indonesia, specifically endangered Sumatran tigers.

Rimbang Baling, which is a part of the Barisan mountain range — the mid-point of the tropical rainforest world heritage site of Sumatra, was set as a wildlife reserve by gubernatorial decree in June 1982.

The wildlife reserve’s tropical forest is estimated to be home to 170 species of birds and 50 mammals.

“For tigers, Rimbang Baling serves as a source site and critical linkage for tiger movement in the northern and southern Sumatra,” Sunarto, a species specialist at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, said during a trek in the wildlife reserve with a number of journalists.

“Many rivers, which snake all the way to the residences, also come from there,” he added.

“If the source had to become extinct, not long before you realize it, [biodiversity in Sumatra] would be gone.”

There may be just 200 to 300 Sumatran tigers — one-third of which are estimated to be in Riau’s forests — on Sumatra island, according to WWF Indonesia estimates.

Tigers are among the animals at the top of the food chain. As a result, disruptions to these big cats poses a threat to the larger ecosystem, of which humans are a part.

Exponential threats

The ecosystem at Rimbang Baling is seeing exponentially increasing threats from forest encroachment and land conversion activities by companies whose operations drive wildlife from the reserve’s borders.

Rows of acacia trees — typically used in the process of making wood pulp for paper production — and palm trees now stand tall at the outskirts of the wildlife reserve. Some are even are illegally planted within the conservation area.

When the Jakarta Globe, accompanied by WWF Indonesia and Riau’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency [BKSDA] visited Rimbang Baling on Monday, this reporter witnessed palm tree planting activity going on just 20 minutes after the group passed the Rimbang Baling Reserve’s entrance.

“We have just started [planting the palm trees] today,” Sunaryo, one of the eight workers present at the site, said during an intense interrogation by Bintang Hutajulu, who heads the local BKSDA’s conservation division.

Sunaryo admitted that he was paid to do the planting by a man by the name of Aziz, a local businessman who lives near the wildlife reserve.

“The area was already cleared out since a week ago by different workers,” Sunaryo said, gesturing to the surrounding area that appeared to have been felled and cleared by heavy equipment.

Bintang said officers at Riau’s conservation agency — after securing evidence in the form of several small palm trees intended for planting — would investigate the case. He also admonished the workers to stop any further activity.

The BKSDA also took the investigating party to an area in the Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve that had been cleared by slash-and-burn activities.

Arson has been the main cause of smoke that has engulfed Riau and wafted over Singapore and Malaysia in recent months.

The profit-motivated fires not only threaten wildlife but also the health of people in Sumatra and neighboring nations.

The smoke engulfing the region prompted authorities to temporarily close the Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport at Pekanbaru, the provincial capital, on Sunday.

“The arrival schedules have been delayed as currently the visibility is only 500 meters,” Baiquni Sudrajat, a spokesman for the international airport, said on Sunday. He added that visibility should be at least 1,500 meters for safety reasons.

Lack of resources

Johnny Lagawurin, who heads Riau’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency, said that monitoring at Rimbang Baling had been “very weak,” since even the biggest wildlife reserve in Sumatra only has three rangers officially hired by the Forestry Ministry.

These rangers have the duty to protect the forest and wildlife from illegal encroachment and poachers.

“We’ve been asking help from the people who live around the area to give us information, should they come across illegal activities happening in the wildlife reserve,” he said.

Johnny said the agency’s budget — used to purchase equipment, build more posts at Rimbang Baling, hire more trained rangers and presumably pay informants — has been the main challenge in the local conservation agency’s enforcement mission for many years.

Johnny added that forest rangers also require proper training to improve the quality of monitoring and protection of the wildlife reserve.

“Optimum monitoring requires a lot of funding; it also takes a while to train the rangers in forest protection,” Johnny said.

Forest rangers are the frontline protection force for the country’s threatened nature and wildlife.

But rangers themselves need protection, since their lives are in danger when they venture deep in the forest to do monitoring activities, according to Johnny.

“Dangers come not only from the wild animals, but also from poachers,” he said.

Syamsu, who has been a forest ranger for the Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve since 2005, admitted that he had received threats from poachers during his tenure as a ranger.

“I was told by a friend of mine who lives nearby Rimbang Baling, that [the poachers] would kill me if they see me,” Syamsu said, adding that these threats once made him reluctant to visit the wildlife reserve for almost a year.

“But then I realized that every job has its own risks and [death threats] are a part of my job,” he says.

Hopes for the new government

Conservationists have called on the incoming government, businesses and local communities to work together in conserving the habitats of wildlife across the archipelago’s 17,000 islands.

“Within five years, the new government must be able to protect the existing habitat for the wildlife,” WWF-Indonesia forest program director Anwar Purwoto said on Tuesday.

Anwar added that the new government will need to allocate more funds to help regional conservation agencies provide more rangers and facilities to monitor and protect wildlife reserves.

He added that companies are brushing off concerns about the threat their operations in concession areas pose to the health of wildlife and the knock-on effects that this has on the health of ecosystems — not only in conservation areas, but in concessions as well.

Part of the solution, Anwar said, is to mandate that companies must increase security patrols.

“We believe involving key stakeholders, including local communities, local government and corporations is the way to boost the protection needed for the wildlife reserve,” Anwar said.

He also praised the outgoing administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for signing, after more than a decade of delay, a multilateral agreement on transboundary haze.

Last month, the House of Representatives ratified the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which acknowledges a role for Indonesia’s neighbors in taking active measures to tackle the problem.

Parties to the agreement, signed in 2002, are required to cooperate on measures to mitigate transboundary haze pollution, as well as to respond promptly to “a request for relevant information sought by a state or states that are or may be affected” by such pollution in order to minimize the impacts.

The second part in particular has been a sensitive issue for Indonesia, the last member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to ratify the agreement, despite being the principal source of haze from forest fires in the region.

“With the new agreement, we can also expect it to eventually help protect the wildlife habitat,” Anwar said.

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Indonesia: Mangrove forests continue to decline every year

Antara 16 Oct 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The mangrove forest areas in Indonesia continue to decline every year as the result of coastal reclamation and land conversion for other uses, noted a non-governmental organization.

"In 1982, Indonesias mangrove forests covered 3.2 million hectares, of which 1.7 million hectares have been cleared for other purposes until the year 2014," Peoples Coalition for Fisheries Justice (Kiara) Secretary General Abdul Halim remarked here on Thursday.

Initiated by the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi), Kiara is a non-profit organization to protect and defend the fishermen and people living in coastal regions and small islands.

Abdul noted that in the past, Indonesias mangrove forests spanned 3.2 million hectares, or 22 percent of the worlds total area of mangrove forests with a high level of biodiversity.

"But, the unrestricted development of fish ponds for aquaculture along the coastal areas has led to the disappearance of millions of hectares of mangrove forests," Abdul emphasized.

He pointed out that the other causes include the expansion of palm oil plantations by clearing mangroves and deprivation of coastal areas for the fish processing industry and reclamation.

"Mangrove fruits can actually be processed into food, beverage, taffy, and soap to improve the lives of coastal area dwellers, but many of its forest areas have been destroyed for other purposes," Abdul remarked.

Referring to the data collected by Kiara so far, he stated that as many as 30 districts or municipalities are currently reclaiming coastal areas, which will lead to the destruction of mangrove forests and will eventually deprive the coastal area dwellers of their living space.

According to the data, Abdul stated that based on the functions and benefits of mangroves, the disappearance of mangrove forests could cause potential losses amounting to around Rp30 trillion per year.

"Therefore, the government should spend at least Rp60 trillion to revitalize mangrove forests across the country," he added.(*)

Yudhoyono`s call for mangrove protection goes unheard
Antara 16 Oct 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - President Yudhoyonos repeated calls for protecting mangroves in Indonesia seem to have fallen on deaf ears as their destruction continues without restraint.

On various occasions, President Yudhoyono have repeatedly called for the protection of 3.2 million hectares of the national mangrove forests that play a crucial role in preventing coastal abrasion and act as buffer against tsunamis.

One such appeal was made by the president at a mangrove-planting event, "Save the Mangroves, Save the Earth", in Telaga Waja, Tanjung Benoa, on the Indonesian island resort of Bali in June 2013.

"Let us conserve our mangrove forests. Our land is vast, reaching 130 million hectares, while the mangroves cover 3.2 million hectares," Yudhoyono had said at the event.

The president had urged his countrymen to plant, cultivate, and take care of the mangroves so that they grow well and protect the environment.

But his calls went unheard as mangrove forest areas in the country continued to decline every year because of coastal reclamation and land conversion for various purposes, noted a non-governmental organization.

"In 1982, Indonesias mangrove forests covered 3.2 million hectares, of which 1.7 million hectares continued to be cleared for different purposes until 2014," Secretary General of Peoples Coalition for Fisheries Justice (Kiara) Abdul Halim remarked here on Thursday.

Initiated by the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi), Kiara is a non-profit organization working for the cause of fishermen and those living along coastal regions and small islands.

Abdul noted that in the past, Indonesias mangrove forests spanned 3.2 million hectares, or 22 percent of the worlds total area of mangrove forests, with a large source of biodiversity.

"But, the unrestricted development of fish ponds for aquaculture along the coastal areas has led to the disappearance of millions of hectares of mangrove forests," Abdul emphasized.

The other factors that have led to the depletion of mangrove forests include the expansion of palm oil plantations by clearing mangroves, the deprivation of coastal areas for fish processing industry, and reclamation.

According to a new report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), mangroves are destroyed three to five times faster than the average rate of forests loss, thereby causing emissions that can cost billions of dollars annually.

"Mangroves are also threatened by climate change, which can result in a further loss of 10 to 15 percent by 2100," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric was quoted as saying by the UNEP recently.

Mangroves are found in 123 countries and more than 100 million people worldwide live within 10 kilometers of large mangrove forests, allowing them access to fisheries, clean water, and protection from erosion and extreme weather events, among other benefits.

The UNEP report says that despite the mounting evidence that supports the benefits of mangroves, they remain one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet.

Referring to the data collected by Kiara so far, Abdul Halim stated that as many as 30 districts or municipalities are currently reclaiming coastal areas, which will lead to the destruction of mangrove forests and will eventually deprive the coastal area dwellers of their living space.

Referring to the data, Abdul remarked that considering the functions and benefits of mangroves, the disappearance of mangrove forests could cause potential losses amounting to some Rp30 trillion per year.

"Therefore, the government should spend at least Rp60 trillion to revitalize mangrove forests across the country," he added.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,504 islands with a total coastline of 95,181 kilometers, is extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels, storm surges or intense tropical storms linked to global warming.

So, the Kupang city administration in East Nusa Tenggara province will gradually rehabilitate the mangrove forests along the beach in the coastal city.

Kupang Mayor Jonas Salean said last Thursday that mangrove forests were damaged over the past ten years due to the absence of any government protection.

"With help from other city officials, we planted 520 mangrove seedlings in the Oesapa beach on the occasion of the habitat day commemoration," Jonas said, adding that the city administration planned to preserve the mangrove forests and protect the ecosystem.

The characteristics of Kupang development, which is based more on services and trade, have necessitated the opening of the beach area for hotel and restaurant projects in a bid to promote the tourism industry here.

"The project will certainly affect the existence of the mangrove forest, but the project owners are required to restore the condition to protect the ecosystem," he revealed.

Meanwhile, deputy for beach protection of WWF Indonesia for East Nusa Tenggara Zakarias Atapada has urged the government to continue its efforts to protect the environment.

"The development of the tourism industry must not damage the environment," Zakaria stressed.

He remarked that the development of the tourism industry in Kupang has encroached the beaches, destroying the mangrove forests and damaging the ecosystem.

In Bangka-Belitung (Babel) province, some 70 percent of the total 122,000 hectares of mangrove forests were damaged by tin mining activities, said the head of the local forestry agency, Sukandar.

"Mining activities along coastal regions also damage mangrove forests," he stated in the provincial city of Pangkalpinang.

Floods and erosion can hit Babel any time because of the damage to its mangrove forests, and that can affect the livelihood of the local fishing community.

Sukandar noted that the mangrove forest damage occurred in every district of the province and they needed to be restored and preserved.

The management of the mangrove ecosystem as a renewable resource and watersheds from upstream to downstream should be an integral part of the spatial planning of provinces, districts, and cities.

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