Best of our wild blogs: 18-19 Oct 14

Ubin Symposium: “Honouring the Past, Treasuring the Present, Shaping the Future”
from wild shores of singapore

Vibrio in our waters, so avoid exposure of broken skin to seawater
from Otterman speaks

Exciting visit to Sisters’ Island Marine Park
from My Nature Experiences

Life History of the Malay Baron
from Butterflies of Singapore

Night Walk At Venus Drive (17 Oct 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Waterhen preening and sunning
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Prices of fish sold at Jurong Fish Port slashed by at least 70%

Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: The price of some fish has fallen by almost 70 per cent at Jurong Fish Port over the past few days.

While the fish are said to be fresh, they can only be sold at lower prices as they are not full-grown fish. These fish were saved from dying in the recent spate of low oxygen levels at the Lim Chu Kang fisheries, possibly due to the warm weather.

The fish like pomfret, milkfish and black mullet, were kept fresh in ice and sent for sale.

About 300 to 350 kilogrammes of silver pomfrets are sold on a daily basis. However, on Tuesday (Oct 14), almost 3,500 kilogrammes of silver pomfrets were on sale.

According to some suppliers, silver pomfrets are usually sold for S$7 per kilogramme, but due to the excess supply in the past few days, they are now selling at between 50 cents and S$2 - for the first time this year.

- CNA/xk

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Pulau Ubin offers more than a nature trek, say experts at symposium

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 18 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: Pulau Ubin is known for its rustic charm, rich biodiversity and greenery, but nature and heritage experts at a discussion said the island has more to offer.

The experts were speaking at the first Pulau Ubin Symposium, which was organised by the Ministry of National Development (MND) to raise awareness of the heritage and biodiversity of the island. About 150 members of the public, including those from nature groups, turned up at the session on Saturday (Oct 18).

Participants at the symposium said the island, which is frequented by cyclists and nature lovers, offers more than just a nature trek. Some of the ideas raised to preserve and enhance Pulau Ubin include having a heritage trail for its temples and shrines, a history tour of the island's granite quarries and a home stay at one of the old village houses.

The symposium is part of the larger Ubin Project, an on-going initiative which was started in March by MND to collect the public’s views on how to maintain and improve the island. But some participants are concerned about how such plans will affect the island. "What frightens me most is the attempt to try to be everything to everyone. We don't want a monster like Sentosa,” said a volunteer at Chek Jawa.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said: "If you don't step in sensitively, intervene gently, it will be an empty island. It will be a green island, of course - for those of us who love nature, happy to see forests re-generating, covering what used to be farms, what used to be quarry sites. But it is more than just that. Ubin is a lot more.

“There is a lifestyle, there is a history, there is an existing community, and values with which people used to interact with each other that is so invaluable and ephemeral, that can be lost if we are not careful. So we don't want it to be an empty island, we don't want it to be a museum, we don't want it to be just a nature area. It is so much more."

Mr Lee said he met the island's residents recently, and the issue of continuity and succession was also raised by them. He said the islanders have also requested for more amenities such as food and beverage outlets and medical facilities. “Visitors come on certain days, they find nothing to eat, they go back early and the islanders lose the business. And the islanders themselves, sometimes they have nothing to eat as well. So they have asked, can we have more small cafes, or kopitiams on the island," Mr Lee said.

- CNA/nd

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The catch that wiggled its way to Facebook fame

Danson Cheong The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Oct 14;

Angler Ramlan Saim (right) was settling down at one of his usual fishing spots off Pulau Ubin late last month when he reeled in a bunch of seaweed.

At least, he thought that was what it was. But the tangled mess started wiggling about and it seemed the assistant project manager had caught a strange octopus-like creature with more than 100 arms.

"I know that area has a lot of seaweed, so I thought that was what I had hooked," he told The Straits Times. "But then when I put it in the boat, it started to move like an alien."

Mr Ramlan, 53, released the creature but not before taking a video of it which he posted on Facebook.

It went on to capture global attention, attracting more than eight million views and almost 130,000 shares.

Like Mr Ramlan, many Facebook users - some as far away as Germany and the United States - expressed their shock at the catch, calling it "gross" and "creepy".

It has since been identified as a basket star - a distant relative of the starfish. According to Wild Singapore, only one species of basket star - Euryale aspersa - is listed in local waters. The creature has five arms, each split into more dexterous "branchlets".

British newspapers The Daily Express, Daily Mail and Metro had quoted a Mr Ong Han Boon, 54, as claiming he had caught the basket star off Sentosa. But the photo accompanying many of the stories in fact showed Mr Ramlan's post.

Mr Ramlan has since clarified that it was he who hooked the bizarre catch, adding that only reporters from The Straits Times had contacted him.

He is not bothered that Mr Ong was credited. "He must have been one of the people that shared the video, and they thought he was the fisherman that caught it," said Mr Ramlan, who was surprised at the attention his video has received.

"All of a sudden, I had a lot of friend requests from foreigners. I thought I was getting spammed."

Mr Ramlan said the basket star was the only catch of his fishing trip that Sept 27.

He added: "My wife is the lucky one - she caught a baby grouper that day."

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Oil spill exercise held to test response capabilities

Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: A multi-agency joint oil spill exercise to test Singapore's readiness to respond effectively to oil spills at sea was held on Friday (Oct 17) morning, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) announced in a media release. The exercise, code-named JOSE 2014, was held from 9am to 1.30pm.

The exercise involved a scenario where a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), named "Blue Moon", was discharging her oil at Shell Bukom Single-Buoy Mooring (SBM) when one of the sub-sea hoses located at the mooring ruptured. About 6,000 tonnes of light crude oil was spilled into the sea. The Master of the VLCC immediately reported the incident to MPA and requested for assistance, according to the release.

The spill response teams then deployed equipment such as oil containment booms around the VLCC and the SBM to prevent further escape of the oil, as well as the recovery of oil by specialised skimmers. MPA also deployed 16 anti-pollution craft and an aircraft fitted with an aerial dispersant spraying system to combat the spill, the release stated.

About 180 personnel from 19 agencies participated in the exercise. These include:

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA)
Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA)
Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)
Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)
National Environment Agency (NEA)
National Parks Board (NParks)
Police Coast Guard (PCG)
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)
Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC)
Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF)
Singapore Police Force (SPF)
Ministry of Transport (MOT)
Shell Eastern Petroleum (Pte) Ltd. (SEPPL)
Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL)
Singapore Oil Spill Response Centre (SOSRC)
Singapore Petroleum Company Limited (Pulau Sebarok)
Singapore Salvage Engineers Pte Ltd (SSE)
Tankstore (Pulau Busing Terminal)
Vopak Terminals Singapore Pte Ltd (Pulau Sebarok)

Mr Andrew Tan, Chief Executive, MPA said, “As the world's top bunkering port and a major oil refining centre, it is important for Singapore to remain vigilant and prepared in the event of a marine pollution incident."

The exercise was held in conjunction with the 18th Singapore International Bunkering Conference and Exhibition (SIBCON) hosted by MPA, the release said.

- CNA/dl

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Singapore may release sterile mozzies to combat dengue

Salma Khalik The Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE - If the males shoot blanks, female mosquitoes will not be able to create new dengue-spreaders.

That is why Singapore could be releasing millions of sterile male mosquitoes here, if field studies are successful, say experts who have backed the plan.

The special mosquitoes have been genetically modified to contain a form of bacteria that makes them incapable of fertilising eggs. They also cannot spread dengue and are harmless to people.

These special mosquitoes will compete with virile males for mates and hopefully decimate the Aedes mosquito population, which this year alone has landed thousands of people in hospital, killing three.

The National Environment Agency, which tasked a panel with studying the use of the Wolbachia bacteria to fight dengue, yesterday said it will review the details of its recommendations.

It will also continue working with experts and stakeholders to develop the framework for the safe and effective adoption of the technology. The bacteria is found in many insects but not the dengue- spreading Aedes mosquito.

Panel member Ary Hoffmann, from the departments of zoology and genetics at Australia's University of Melbourne, explained that female mosquitoes breeding with the sterile males will lay eggs that will not hatch, thus reducing the mosquito population.

Dengue, which is endemic in the region, has infected more than 16,000 people in Singapore this year. Roughly one in five patients diagnosed with the disease ends up in hospital, adding to the bed crunch.

Work on genetically modifying the Aedes mosquito has been going on for almost a decade, with five countries - Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil and Colombia - doing field tests.

Another panel member, epidemiologist Duane Gubler from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, said that releasing the new mosquitoes would not harm people or the environment.

Professor Hoffmann estimates that Singapore has between 250,000 and 500,000 male Aedes mosquitoes. For the plan to be effective, five times those numbers of sterile males will have to be released - and more than once.

But he noted that the country could concentrate on dengue hot spots rather than flooding the whole country at one go.

Professor Gubler stressed that the Wolbachia bacteria is not a magic bullet. Other methods such as removing water that allows breeding must continue, he said.

Fight dengue with mozzies carrying Wolbachia, say experts
Today Online 18 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — A panel of experts has recommended that Singapore conduct studies involving the release of male Aedes mosquitoes carrying the Wolbachia bacteria into the field, to combat the dengue problem.

The aim is to get these Wolbachia-carrying males to mate with female Aedes mosquitoes, causing them to produce eggs that do not hatch and, ultimately, clamp down on the Aedes population and dengue transmission.

In June, the NEA appointed experts from Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States to form a Dengue Expert Advisory Panel, to look into the use of biological control methods to limit the spread of dengue.

While the use of the bacteria has been tested in the laboratory by the NEA’s Environmental Health Institute, it has not been tested in the field. The NEA stated yesterday that the panel concluded that the proposed approach holds promise, and field trials are needed to prove its feasibility and effectiveness.

“Wolbachia-carrying Aedes has been released in several places, such as Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam, with no negative impact on public health and ecology. This is consistent with our knowledge and assessment. Wolbachia provides a safe strategy, because the bacteria are naturally present in a large fraction of insects,” said Professor Ary Hoffmann, an expert on Wolbachia-insect interaction from the University of Melbourne in Australia. Male mosquitoes also do not bite or transmit disease.

The NEA said it would review the recommendations and continue working with experts and stakeholders to develop the framework for the safe and effective adoption of Wolbachia technology. It also noted that the panel said the implementation of new tools should not preclude continuation of the ongoing surveillance and mosquito control efforts.

Professor Duane Gubler, chairman of the Dengue Expert Advisory Panel, and founding director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, added: “The approach with Wolbachia-carrying Aedes males will likely be most effective when used in combination with other methods of control such as the current community-based removal of potential breeding habitats and a vaccine when available.”

Singapore is in the middle of a dengue epidemic, with 16,263 dengue cases this year so far. More than 22,000 cases were reported last year.

Jurong West on dengue alert after 12 new cases in two weeks
Channel NewsAsia 29 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: In just the past two weeks, 12 new dengue cases have been reported at Jurong West Street 52 and Corporation Road.

This brings the total number of cases there to 36 - making it the biggest dengue cluster.

As of last Friday (Oct 17), 26 cases were reported at Jurong West Street 52, of which 14 came from Block 518. Ten more cases were reported at Corporation Road.

Some residents suspect that an abandoned police station in the vicinity could have become a mosquito breeding ground. "There are a lot of weeds growing in the drain next to the carpark and I believe it's waterlogged but we have no way of getting in to take a look. So, I hope the relevant authorities will come and clear it," said a resident.

Residents also expressed their concern over the rise in the number of cases.

- CNA/ec

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Malaysia: Eye on the coastline

Stuart Danker New Straits Times 18 Oct 14;

MNS volunteers paddle thousands of kilometres in aid of coastal conservation, writes Stuart Danker

FANCY a 2,000km road trip? Driving alone? It’s a daunting prospect. Now, imagine doing the whole trip around the peninsula — not in a car — but with a kayak.

This is exactly what is happening with the Malaysian Nature Society’s (MNS) project called Paddle for Nature, a programme that highlights our natural wonders and the threats facing these beautiful sights. Paddle for Nature aims to show the initiatives undertaken to address these threats.

The highlighted route will begin from Tumpat, Kelantan, and will outline the peninsula all the way to Langkawi, Kedah as the final stop.

MNS volunteers are currently paddling their way around the peninsula in relays, and should be reaching Tioman Island this weekend, picking up useful data along the way. “We are using geotagged photographs to document the coastline and record what is happening in these areas over time.

“Besides that, we are logging sea surface temperatures in collaboration with researchers from Universiti Malaya,” says MNS marine conservation manager Faedzul Rahman.

One sobering bit of “data” is that the coast is littered with trash, pooling in areas such as beaches and mangroves. And speaking of mangroves, development is taking a toll on an ecosystem that is highly beneficial to coastal societies.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the mangrove is a nurturing ground for many fish and birds. It also acts as a buffer to any harsh waves that may threaten coastal settlements and filter trash from being swept into the open sea. All these benefits are slowly receding, along with the mangroves.

After the data-collection, the paddlers will come ashore and compare notes with the ground crew. The ground crew play an equally important role as the paddlers. Where the paddler brings in first-hand data from the seas, the ground crew ensures the latter has everything needed. The ground crew constantly checks on the paddlers’ safety as well.

There’s also the responsibility of being an information gateway between what’s happening and the public. The ground crew updates the websites and blogs about MNS’ progress, and even engages with stakeholders and sponsors. This is to coordinate the events held by the latter parties with the community, such as tree planting and environmental education activities. The current list of supporters includes the Ministry of Natural Resources, external agencies and companies, and the public.

Despite everything going mainly as planned, awareness projects tend to face the usual hurdle of getting adequate funding. “While the weather had put us a little behind schedule, there was a time we had to prolong the journey due to a lack of funds. We are glad to be back on track but we still need more funds, and the more we receive, the more conservation work can be done,” Faedzul says.


Balu Perumal, the head of conservation at MNS, says that we are taking our coastline for granted. He says that it would be beneficial for us to remember that we are a maritime nation. “The definition of a maritime population means to live 100 km off the coastline, and most of us live well within that range. For instance, I live in Cameron Highlands, and am still able to eat fresh seafood that has been caught the day before. This means that while we are currently relying on land resources such as tin, palm oil, and rubber, we also need to remember about the economic prospects of sea resources, such as petroleum and fishes,” he points out.

Balu says that part of the conservation efforts looks into the economic overview of the country but what’s more alarming is the risk of losing our maritime biodiversity. “This is something that the older generation will remember. People used to flock to Terengganu to view leatherback turtles. It was a great way of promoting tourism. Imagine watching turtles the size of Volkswagen beetles on the beach!”

He laments that those days are over as the turtles have begun to shun Terengganu’s coast. He attributes this to the turtles’ preference for darkness while laying their eggs to avoid predators. Light pollution as a result of development is among the factors that are driving turtles away.

Keeping the seas clean is another challenge. “We need to educate the public to keep the seas clean because we have a lot to lose. Many watch National Geographic and think that beauty is only available outside Malaysia. We actually have very beautiful areas, and when it comes to corals, we have one of the richest coral beds in the world in terms of species count. We’re the number one destination for coral diving,” he says.

Adding to the richness of our coast are the shallow waters. Balu explains that the places where the sunlight is able to penetrate make for the most productive of seas. Couple that with the fact that these areas are often used as shipping lanes and MNS’s plight shifts more into a global concern as opposed to merely environmental.

“It goes back to our responsibilities. Besides not littering, we also need to keep an eye on the changes in our coastal features due to development, with the conversion of mangrove forests into resorts as an example. In the end, I hope that we don’t throw all this beauty away, because if we do, nobody will want to come to Malaysia.”


The main point that MNS wants to drive home is that while individual action makes a difference, the most important thing is for everybody to unite towards a better environment.

“Like its tagline, Paddle For Nature is about connecting people, technology and the environment for a better future,” says Faedzul.

We do not need to take to the seas to help out the cause but we’d do well to volunteer our time and effort. It’s the least we can do as a maritime nation.

Malaysia Nature Society Information

Targeted funding support: RM500 per kilometre (corporate) / RM10 per kilometre (individual)


Details at

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Malaysia: ‘Erratic weather is normal’

ILI LIYANA MOKHTAR New Straits Times 19 Oct 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: PENINSULAR Malaysia continued to experience erratic and volatile weather yesterday, with storms lashing the west coast and flash floods and landslides occurring in the federal capital here.

It was the same in Sabah and Sarawak, with one waterspout spotted in Bintulu.

There was an alleged sighting of a waterspout in Penang, too.

However, Meteorological Department officials dismissed a video of the phenomenon as fake.

The video, whether genuine or otherwise, is indicative of the weather, with waterspouts occurring regularly.

However, Malaysians had been assured that they did not have to worry.

National Weather Centre senior meteorological officer Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said the recent “tornadoes” in Taman Sri Kota, Kedah, on Tueday and off the coast of Bintulu yesterday, were common during the intermonsoon season.

“These occurrences are normal because of the formation of cumulonimbus clouds, which are common in our country.

“There is a possibility of it happening again.

“During the intermonsoon season, the atmosphere is unstable, making it susceptible to the formation of convective clouds, such as the towering cumulus and cumulonimbus,” he said yesterday.

Hisham explained that the “tornadoes” that were recently spotted were common in tropical and subtropical areas.

“It happens on a smaller scale here, and they lack the intensity of those that occur, for example, in the United States.

“Because of the differences in the formation process, the ones here are weaker and smaller. It is unlikely that we will be experiencing anything that is powerful or intense.”

These waterspouts, which are basically small rotating columns of air over water, are weaker than landspouts.

However, stronger versions had occurred in the past.

While landspouts share the same development process of waterspouts, they are slightly different as they are a rotating column of air that is in contact with the surface and a cumuliform cloud.

According to the Meteorological Department, the size of the “tornado” spotted in Kedah was between 20cm and 50m, with a sustained wind of 150kph.

“The tornado incident with heavy rains that occurred in Pendang, Kedah, was caused by the formation and movement of small storm clouds, but with high intensity because of the instability of the atmosphere supported by the high humidity and wind convergence at low levels.”

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Malaysia: Locals’ awareness of protected species ‘very low’

Kristy Inus New Straits Times 19 Oct 14;

KOTA KINABALU: THE World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Malaysia is saddened over the capture of a whale shark earlier this week in Kota Marudu, Kudat, which has shown that the level of awareness about protected and endangered species among local communities is low and worrying.

The organisation said that local communities need to realise the importance of safeguarding the lives of such endangered underwater species, which has a vital role to play in maintaining the overall health of the marine ecosystem.

The independent conservation organisation said this in a statement following reports of the capture of a whale shark, which was then chopped into pieces and sold to a fertiliser factory, by villagers in Kota Marudu on Wednesday.

The villagers had claimed that the shark was already dead when they caught it, before towing it to shore in Kampung Teritipan there.

“We are disappointed over the news of the captured whale shark and how it was handled after that (chopped up and sold).

“Whale sharks (Rhicodon typus) have been on the Department of Fisheries’ endangered species list since 1999, which bans harassment, capture, killing and transportation of this species.

“However, the level of awareness on its protected status is still very low, as evidenced by the recent incident,” said WWF-Malaysia.

The organisation also added that following allegations that pieces of the whale shark’s meat were sold to a factory, prosecution should be pursued by the relevant authorities.

“Government authorities need to collaborate and work more closely with local communities, the private sectors and other non-governmental organisations to raise awareness about endangered and protected species, such as the whale shark,” it said.

In Tawau, a whale shark was caught and stuck in a tangled fishing net on early Friday morning at Kampung Pukat Tanjung Batu here.

However, villagers managed to untangle the net and free the two-tonne fish by releasing it back to the sea about 4pm the same day.

Juvenile whale shark killed while another freed
stephanie lee The Star 19 Oct 14;

Joint effort: Villagers helping the whale shark to swim to open waters after freeing it from the fishing net.

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife advocates are outraged over reports that a juvenile whale shark had been captured and killed at Marudu Bay, about 130km from here. They want stern action against the killers.

However, in Tawau, another whale shark that was caught by a fisherman, was released unharmed.

The culprits should be prosecuted for killing an endangered species, said World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma.

He said it was a great disappointment when news of the incident spread after someone tipped off the authorities about the matter.

It was reported that fishing enthusiasts captured the juvenile whale shark off Marudu Bay on Wednesday night and towed it to Kampung Teritipan, where it was chopped into pieces and loaded onto a lorry that headed for a fish meal fertiliser factory in Tuaran the next day.

Villagers kept the large pectoral, dorsal and tail fins worth hundreds of ringgit in the market as shark fins.

The whale shark (Rhicodon typus) – the biggest fish in the world – is facing extinction and such action is seen as a blatant, open violation of Malaysian and international laws.

“The fish has been on the Fisheries Department’s endangered species list since 1999 (under Control of Endangered Species of Fish Regulations), which bans harassment, capture, killing and transportation of this species,” Dr Dionysius said.

“If it is true the meat was sent to a fish meal factory, then prosecution should be pursued by the relevant authorities.”

The capture is banned under a schedule in the Fisheries Act 1985, together with species in the dugong, whale, dolphin, giant clams and sawfish groups.

In the other case, a fisherman managed to free another whale shark trapped in his net on Friday morning.

Mustapha M, 50, was fishing in waters 15km off Tawau when he felt a tug on his boat.

“I turned around and saw a large spotted fish measuring about several metres in length. It looked like a whale, so I decided to return nearer to the coast to ask for help as I was not sure what it was,” he said.

Mustapha said he also sought help as he was afraid the fish might turn aggressive.

After reaching the village, Mustapha contacted district fishery enforcement officer Irwan Arjana Awang as he gathered some villagers to help release the 4m-long fish.

“We eventually found out that it was a whale shark and were glad that the villagers have released it,” said Arjana, adding that the fish was not injured and managed to swim to open waters once the net was cut.

He said it was normal for whales and whale sharks to be found there as the sea was deep.

“However, they are generally harmless creatures,” he added.

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Indonesia: The Giant Sea Wall and national disaster-risk reduction

Dicky Pelupessy Jakarta Post 18 Oct 14;

Initiated during the governorship of Fauzi Bowo, the construction of Jakarta’s Giant Sea Wall is getting under way. The project is part of the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD) Master Plan that aims to enhance flood prevention and foster the urban development of Jakarta.

This is a mega-project and giant on every scale. It will involve the construction of a 32-kilometer sea wall spanning the distance from the city of Tangerang in the west of Jakarta to Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok Port.

The sea wall will consist of 17 artificial islets in the form of the iconic Garuda, Indonesia’s national symbol, and will include a number of large lagoons. The overall construction will cost Rp 600 trillion (US$49 billion) and is expected to be complete by 2030.

For the past week Indonesians have been exposed to the controversy surrounding the launch of the project. The ground-breaking ceremony was held on Oct. 9 and led by Coordinating Economic Minister Chairul Tanjung amid criticism from environmental groups and the admission by the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) chief Kuntoro Mangkusubroto that he had never seen its integrated study.

The impression was therefore created that the government of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had rushed to launch the project before the end of his term.

On the one hand, the launch of the project is part of the legacy the Yudhoyono administration leaves to the incoming Joko “Jokowi” Widodo administration. On the other hand, it coincides with the fact that October is celebrated as disaster-risk reduction month, referring to the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on Oct. 13. As an element of disaster-risk reduction, the project needs to be critically examined.

The project aims to protect Jakarta against floods and to boost the metropolitan development of Jakarta. Thus, if it is to be of practical use in reducing the risks of flooding in Jakarta, it is imperative that it tackles the causal factors of flooding in Jakarta.

It is quite clear that these factors are not merely land subsidence and sea-level rises. Apart from natural phenomena (such as monsoon rains) that can trigger flooding, the root causes of flooding in Jakarta — among many other things — are the deteriorating condition of the 13 rivers that dissect Jakarta and the Jakarta Bay area, poor land management and excessive groundwater extraction.

The Giant Sea Wall is, of course, a countermeasure that Jakarta needs to deal with the factors that Jakarta is prone to.

However, it is evident that protecting Jakarta from flooding needs not only measures taken offshore by constructing the sea wall but more importantly measures taken onshore (e.g. improving the condition of rivers, controlling and enforcing the law on groundwater extraction etc.).

On top of everything else, the construction of the Giant Sea Wall will be integrated with the new development of residential and business areas, transportation networks and amenities on its surface. This could potentially create distractions from the wall’s main function.

The goal of disaster-risk reduction effort is to reduce the susceptibility to disaster and potential losses in lives and the disruptions to the socio-economic and environmental assets of communities that follow the occurrence of a disaster. In itself, the Giant Sea Wall is a disaster-mitigation measure, thus, any future development on the surface of the sea wall should certainly not obstruct its flood-prevention functions.

As soon as he is inaugurated as president on Monday, Jokowi will inherit the Giant Sea Wall project from Yudhoyono. It is highly likely that the project can be better situated and managed by the new government. It needs to be situated on the basis that disaster-risk reduction is a nationwide agenda.

According to the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas), 62 percent of districts/cities in Indonesia are in the disaster-prone category. From 2004 to 2014 disasters in Indonesia caused losses worth Rp 162 trillion and drew down another Rp 102 trillion to fund relief efforts.

At Rp 600 trillion, the budget for the Jakarta Giant Sea Wall clearly outweighs the cost inflicted by disasters in the country in the last decade. Therefore it is not only Jakarta that needs such a disaster-mitigation measure, but also other disaster-prone regions.

Jakarta, unquestionably, is the capital and its economy and businesses are of vital importance to the whole country. Jakarta and its businesses and people must be protected, but so must other cities and regions in Indonesia.

It is fortunate that Jokowi’s vice president, Jusuf Kalla has quite extensive exposure and experience in dealing with disasters. Kalla was head of the National Disaster Management Coordination Board (Bakornas PB) up until the establishment of National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) in 2008, and currently has been head of the Indonesian Red Cross since 2009.

Therefore, we can expect that he will well understand the idea of preventing losses and saving lives.

It is hoped that Kalla will instill in the new government a greater interest and sensitivity toward national disaster-risk reduction beyond the Giant Sea Wall. Time will tell.


The writer is former vice chair of the Indonesian National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction

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Governments still behind on commitments to avert biodiversity crisis

IUCN 17 Oct 14;

Pyeongchang, Republic of South Korea, 17 October 2014 – Despite increasing recognition of the biodiversity crisis and its impacts on human well-being, the scale of the government response is far from commensurate with the magnitude of the calamity, says IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, at the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 12), closing today in South Korea.

“This year’s biodiversity talks ended with a renewed sense of urgency if we want to meet the 2020 biodiversity targets,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre.”Many creative and interesting responses to the biodiversity crisis have been showcased, highlighting how nature can provide solutions to so many of society’s challenges. However, we will need to see a massive scaling up of the good work underway in the remaining years of this UN Decade for Biodiversity in order to have an impact.”

The results of the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 (GBO-4) released at the opening of the meeting on 6 October showed that countries need to respond by strengthening biodiversity conservation measures and accelerating implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, to bring about an improvement in the status of biodiversity.

The Plan, which includes a set of 20 biodiversity targets to be met by 2020, was agreed by most of the world’s governments at the UN biodiversity summit in Nagoya in 2010. It represents the only global unified agenda to tackle ongoing biodiversity loss. This year’s meeting showed that the response from governments has been ‘business as usual’ and many countries are still far from fulfilling the ambitions of that plan, according to IUCN.

The Conference also recognized the critical link between the loss of habitat and the emergence of infectious diseases such as Ebola, which is plaguing many parts of the planet, pledging to do more to make such links clear to the wider world.

“Biodiversity loss is linked to so many of society’s ills, including increased frequency of natural disasters, climate change and food insecurity,” says Jane Smart, IUCN Global Director, Biodiversity Conservation Group. “It is imperative that governments place biodiversity conservation far higher up the political agenda and convert the fine words and pledges made at this meeting into tangible action for the sake of life on earth.”

The meeting saw the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing, which will result in the enhancement of both monetary and non-monetary benefits to providers and users of genetic resources worldwide. It will also encourage further conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Countries were urged to effectively “mainstream” biodiversity into other sectors, national development policies and planning processes, and to reiterate commitments for a substantial increase in funding for the implementation of the Strategic Plan. Parties promised to double total biodiversity-related funding or at least maintain current levels until 2020.

WWF Statement on the Convention on Biological Diversity COP-12
WWF 18 Oct 14;

On 17 October 2014 the Convention on Biological Diversity concluded its 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In response, the WWF CBD delegation issued the following statement:

WWF welcomes the outcomes of CBD COP-12. Important steps were taken to advance the mechanisms for identification and protection of biodiversity. Governments of the world unanimously called for the new development agenda to integrate biodiversity into universal sustainable development goals in the Gangwon Declaration, the high level ministerial statement.

However, at a time when the world has seen the loss of more than half of the planet’s wildlife populations, countries are neither moving fast enough nor doing enough to prevent further decline. Governments must supercharge efforts to fulfill their promise to strengthen protections for nature by 2020. In 2010, parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a strategic plan and the Aichi targets, a set of 20 goals aimed at stemming species and habitat loss by 2020. WWF’s Living Planet Report confirms the urgency with which the world must act to safeguard our natural treasures:

Species populations worldwide have declined 52 percent since 1970;
The there is a 76 % decline in freshwater species a 39% decline in marine species and nearly 40% decline in terrestrial species;
Global freshwater demand is projected to exceed current supply by more than 40% by 2030;
We need 1.5 planets to meet the demands we make on the planet each year.

Protecting biodiversity is of paramount importance to ensuring a sustainable future for all. Biodiversity and ecosystem services guarantee human health, well-being and social stability, and provide the foundation of prosperity, including jobs, food, water, and healthy soils. Forest ecosystems alone contribute US$ 720 billion to the global economy. And wetlands provide us with clean water, while oceans give us sustenance.

Each of us, no matter where we live or how we make a living, has a stake in ensuring governments succeed in taking urgent and impactful action. To that end, WWF’s delegation at CBD COP-12 was sought after for their technical and policy expertise on many issues, including marine and coastal biodiversity, implementation of national action plans, sustainable development goals and integration of conservation, ecosystem conservation and restoration, and impacts of climate change. The following summary provides details on progress made during CBD COP-12 and WWF’s reaction to key steps taken.

Global Biodiversity Outlook Report
The fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO4) sent a strong message, one echoed by WWF’s 2014 Living Planet Report, that some progress has been made but business as usual will not achieve the Aichi targets by 2020. The COP urges Parties to take comprehensive and urgent measures necessary to ensure the full implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and corresponding national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs).

National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans
The COP urged Parties that have not yet done so, to review and update and revise their national biodiversity strategies and action plans in line with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, to adopt indicators at the national level no later than October 2015, and to submit their fifth national reports. The COP also called for the provision of support for revising, updating and implementing updated NBSAPs and capacity-building.

The level of ambition was far from meeting the needs that arise from the information provided in GBO4 and the results of the High Level Panel on resources needed for the Aichi targets. However, commitment made by developed countries to doubling international financial flows for biodiversity offers hope. In most countries, domestic resources form the substantial part of biodiversity funding. It is a positive first step that all Parties agreed to mobilize domestic financial resources from all sources to reduce the gap on financing their respective NBSAPs. It is also encouraging that Parties increased efforts on capacity building for mobilizing resources. The decision also includes milestones for eliminating or phasing out incentives, including subsidies that are harmful for biodiversity, which WWF believes is important for reducing the pressure on biodiversity and its associated costs.

Marine and Coastal Biodiversity
With regards to “Marine and Coastal Biodiversity,” WWF sincerely congratulates Parties on the acknowledgement of more than 150 “ecologically or biologically significant marine areas” in different parts of our world’s oceans—in areas within as well as beyond the jurisdiction of coastal states.

In light of the increasing human impacts on our oceans, it is critical that Parties now develop appropriate approaches and measures for these areas to ensure that the biodiversity and ecosystem services contained therein are sustainably maintained, as already agreed under the Achi Targets.

Finally, as the evidence for impacts of sound on marine life now is overwhelming, WWF welcomes the progress that was made with Parties agreeing on a number of relevant and required measures that need to be taken to minimize and mitigate impacts of anthropogenic underwater noise and on priority actions to protect coral reefs and associated ecosystems.

Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration
WWF welcomes the outcome of the COP-12 on Agenda Item 26, Ecosystem Conservation and Restoration. WWF particularly welcomes the acknowledgment of the need to develop a monitoring system for ecosystem degradation and restoration (paragraph 4.g), as well as the inclusion of the marine sphere in the development of spatial planning approaches for the reduction of habitat loss and the promotion of restoration (paragraph 4.a). Furthermore, WWF welcomes the recognition of the crucial role of indigenous and local communities in the conservation and management of biodiversity, and of the importance of protecting and restoring coastal wetlands as crucial for biodiversity, ecosystem services, livelihoods, climate change and disaster risks reduction (paragraph 6). However, WWF believes that more efforts should be made for ensuring sufficient financing and including the protection and restoration of ecosystems in national and sub-national development programs and public policies.

The COP recognized the contribution of private protected areas, in addition to public and indigenous and local community managed areas, in the conservation of biodiversity, and encourages the private sector to continue its efforts to protect and sustainably manage ecosystems for the conservation of biodiversity.

Biodiversity and Climate Change
The COP expressed concern about the findings and conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fifth Assessment Report, and urges Parties, other governments, relevant organizations and stakeholders to take steps to address all biodiversity-related impacts of climate change highlighted in the report and to further strengthen synergies with relevant work under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

WWF encourages Parties other governments to promote and implement ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, and to integrate these into their national policies and programmes in the context of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015, endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 60/195, and the revised Framework to be adopted at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. WWF also welcomes the references to the Warsaw Framework for REDD+, and those to indigenous and local communities and traditional knowledge (preambular paragraph 4).

Nagoya Protocol
The Nagoya Protocol, a treaty expected to ensure greater access to genetic resources and a mandatory fair sharing of the benefits that could be derived from those resources, entered into force on 12 October, almost four years after it was adopted on 29th October 2010. WWF applauds this progress and encourages further inclusion of representatives of indigenous and local communities.

Indigenous Knowledge Preservation and Recognition
The final resolution on use of the terminology “indigenous peoples and local communities” (Article 8J) in future decisions and secondary documents of the COP comes with caveats and will not have a bearing on any past decisions or change the meaning of the Text of the Convention. Nevertheless, WWF welcomes this decision as it has been a long-standing demand of Indigenous and Local Communities (ILCs) and also a recommendation of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The COP encouraged parties and ILCs to consider how indigenous and local communities might effectively participate in the development, collection and analysis of data, including through Community-Based Monitoring, and further explore how ILCs’ Community-Based Monitoring and Information Systems can contribute to monitoring of Aichi Target indicators. The plan of action on customary sustainable use of biological diversity was also endorsed and there is a request for support for ILCs to develop community plans and protocols to document, map, and register their community conservation areas.

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