Best of our wild blogs: 24 Oct 14

Mandai and Kranji mangroves to be fenced
from wild shores of singapore

Insights on the Circular Economy in Singapore
from AsiaIsGreen

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MEWR responds to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014


SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) has responded to recent findings in the latest World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) report that showed Singapore’s environmental ranking had worsened.

MEWR clarified in its statement issued today that the Living Planet Report 2014 (LPR 2014) “fails to recognize Singapore’s unique circumstances as a small island city-state with no hinterland”, adding that the report also did not give “due recognition to Singapore’s real environmental achievements” such as sustainable development and resource efficiency.

Out of more than 150 countries analysed, the LPR 2014 found Singapore had the seventh-largest ecological footprint - a measure of the population’s demands on natural resources - in the world, up from its 12th spot in the 2012 report.

With limited natural resources, about 70 per cent of Singapore’s footprint comes from carbon emissions, produced within the country as well as indirectly through activities driven by Singapore’s economy in other countries, WWF said. Consuming large amounts of imported food and services also contributes to the amount of carbon emissions produced per capita.

However, MEWR noted there is little Singapore can do over upstream manufacturing and processing of imports overseas, as well as the city-state’s lack of natural hinterland to harness renewable sources of energy.

The ministry also pointed out that the methodology employed by WWF deviated from internationally-accepted carbon accounting methodology of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where emissions embodied in imported goods are attributed to the exporting country instead.

“Given that the methodology in calculating carbon emissions is questionable and also takes no account of Singapore’s size and circumstances (for the reasons given above), the conclusion in the LPR 2014 that Singapore has the seventh largest per capita Ecological Footprint of the 152 countries studied is similarly mistaken,” said MEWR.

Related links

Lion City’s green ranking worsens Laura Elizabeth Philomin Today Online 7 Oct 14;

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Cats of St John's Island

SPH Razor AsiaOne 23 Oct 14;

Away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, St John's Island looks like tranquil place for a quick getaway. Particularly, it is a paradise for cats who laze and lounge in the sun all day.

Just a short boat ride away from the Marina South Pier, the former quarantine area is home to about a hundred stray cats. In fact, the moment you alight at the island's jetty, you'll be greeted by a very special welcome committee.

There are about five to six cat colonies on St John's Island and this is just one of them. Razor is here with about 35 cats at the local mosque on the island, and as you can see, they're very friendly and very used to human contact.

But as cute as they can be, too much of a good thing can become a problem.

A few years ago, the overpopulation problem here was brought to the attention of the SPCA. The food shortage and malnutrition issues which arose from the population boom caused a bigger problem - the cats here were more vulnerable to widespread diseases. So, the SPCA started a mass sterilisation programme in 2011 to keep the population at bay.

Corrine Fong, executive director of SPCA said, "When we first came in 2011, the island was over run by unsterilised cats. The problem of unsterilised cats is that you will see a population boom. Population in itself is not the biggest issue, the biggest issue is the transmission of cat diseases and so forth."

"Then with the population boom, you will have cats who are the stronger ones will survive. The weak ones will have to fight for food scraps. And death may occur due to malnutrition and malnourishment and so forth. What we want to do is to maintain the population so that there is enough food source to go around."

"We came in with the proposition that we will do TNR, which is Trap, Neuter, Release. Day one we will come here and trap all the cats that we can. The will be housed in a makeshift pre-op area, un-fed. Because fed cats will not be able to do well under anaesthesia. Out of the 15 we wanted to trap, we trapped about 10. The only way we recognised the sterilised cats from the unsterilised ones is by the ear tip."

"This morning, second day, the vets came to the island at about 9.30, we started setting up shop at 10 o'clock and surgery's started already."

"The animals will be patched up and put in post-op area and be observed. If everything is well, then tomorrow, we will leave a skeleton crew behind to release the cats. Now the cats will be tagged at the location where they were last caught, so the crew will transport them back to that location, feed them, and then release them back to the spot they were found."

"This being our seventh visit, we know now that the unsterilised ones have been reduced significantly because of the sterilisation programme. And this will definitely be the last visit to the island."

"We've asked the caretakers and the folks at AVA, that if they spot a pregnant cat or kitten to just bring it to us on the mainland. We'll sterilise them, return them to the island, and set them free here."

Mohd Salleh, a resident on St John's Island said, "My neighbour has about 20 cats. There are about 50-60 cats around this area, and more up the hills that I don't know about. Lazarus island has four to five."

"Every month my friend from the welfare organisation gives me one bag of cat food. Other than that I also buy my own."

"I used to spend about 60-70 dollars on cat food, and now I might even have to spend more. because I feed them, and they keep coming to my house. Because they know here got food."

"Although there were a lot of cats before, they are starting to decrease in number. Because if people find the cats pretty, they will come and take them. They'll even take away the cats that hang around my house. They mainly take away kittens."

"Because both islands have a lot of cats, at night some people might come and leave their cats there. That was in the 60s and 70s, but now no more. As fair as I know, I haven't seen any after that."

Corrine added, " On our previous visits, we found several purebred cats like Russian blues and Persians. We don't know where they're from, and the caretakers say they belong to them. But I suspect that they've been some dumpings here on the island. And I would advise breeders and owners to not dump cats on the island."

"No doubt St John's Island is also known as a cat colony, but when you introduce new unsterilised animals to the island, you create a lot of social and hierarchical problems within the colony. Do the right thing, don't dump your cats on the island."

On St John's Island, cats rule. And they are safe to live out the rest of their nine lives.

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Malaysia: Pact on transboundary haze with Indonesia soon

New Straits Times 24 Oct 14;

KUCHING: Malaysia and Indonesia are still discussing how to effectively tackle transboundary haze.

Department of Environment director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan said both countries were in the process of drafting a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to share expertise and data in efforts to tackle the problem.

“The MoU will enable both countries to share experience, information and expertise to find an amicable solution to the issue,” Halimah said after officiating the state-level Malaysian Environment Week and Environmental Quality Regulations Seminar 2014 here yesterday.

She said the MoU would focus on the prevention of open burnings and forest fires.

“We have urged our counterpart in Indonesia to take a more proactive stance. We have yet to be informed on the official date to sign the memorandum, but we hope it can be concluded soon.”

Several areas in Kalimantan, Indonesia, she said, had been identified as hotspots that had led to the recurrent haze, which also affected Sabah and Sarawak.

“Open burnings in the other side of the country have resulted in hot and dry weather in Sabah and Sarawak,” she said.

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Malaysia: Heavy rains bring fear of flood

New Straits Times 23 Oct 14;

JOHOR BARU: THE current rainy season is worrying the residents of Kampung Melayu Kedai Lima in Gelang Patah, here, as the village is flood-prone.

The flood woes have worsened with the proliferation of housing projects in the neighbourhood

They claim rapid development in the surrounding areas had caused their village area to be inundated each time it pours.

They also claim local authorities such as the Johor Baru Central Municipal Council was well aware of the residents’ predicament but had yet to come up with a solution to the problem.

Resident Azmi Badron, 51, said the family had to clean up the home after each flood, when the water would rise to ankle-level.

“It only takes an hour to flood the entire village. Although it is only up to the ankle, the cleaning up and removal of mud and silt are very tiring,” he said.

Azmi said the local council was aware of the problem but had not come up with long term measures to counter it.

Another resident Jesmi Din, 39, said the villagers had to rush each time to keep their belongings dry whenever rainwater started to flow into their homes.

“We have to move our furniture and electrical appliances above ground to prevent them from getting wet,” he said.

Housewife Salmah Atan, 49, said the worst flood happened exactly a year ago, when the water rose up to the knees.

“My car was filled with water and I had to fork out a lot of money to fix the damage,” she said.

Meanwhile, Nusajaya assemblyman Dr Zaini Abu Bakar said he would be speaking with the Johor Baru Central Municipal Council, Johor Drainage and Irrigation Department and Johor Public Works Department to resolve the flood woes.

“The problem is a longstanding one that needs a permanent solution,” he said.

Dr Zaini said he would call for a meeting between all the relevant agencies soon. “I will also ask the local district officer why there had not been any measures taken to mitigate floods in the area,” he said.

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Malaysia: Decline in sailfish numbers ‘worrying’

T.N. ALAGESH New Straits Times 24 Oct 14;

ROMPIN: EVERY year, hundreds of anglers from around the world will flock to Kuala Rompin here to participate in the offshore “catch and release” Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge (RPBIC).

However, the annual event could soon come to an end as sailfish, or scientifically known as “Istiophorus platypterus”, is in danger of extinction due to irresponsible trawler operators.

Known for its sail-like dorsal fin and pointed bill, the species has seen a noticeable decline in the east coast, where it is processed into keropok lekor (soft fish crackers) and fertiliser.

Pahang Tourism Ministry office director Edros Yahya said they had received complaints from anglers and boat operators about commercial fishermen, including foreigners, frequently landing the sailfish.

He said some of the complainants had submitted pictures of sailfish being loaded onto pick-up trucks and of fishermen arranging the dead fish.

“This is worrying as the species could be wiped out from our waters if this continues.

“A drop in sailfish numbers will jeopardise the tourism industry and RPBIC, which is listed as a qualifying round for the International Game Fish Association Offshore World Championship in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.”

Edros said the tourism sector raked in RM10 million annually from sailfish enthusiasts, including those who join the RPBIC .

Although the sailfish is not an endangered species, he hoped that more stringent measures could be taken to protect them.

Rompin member of parliament Tan Sri Jamaludin Jarjis had previously voiced his concern on the matter, while Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim was quoted as saying the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency would station its personnel in Kuala Rompin.

Boat operator Denis Lee said the authorities should step up efforts to protect the sailfish as without them, Kuala Rompin would suffer a drop in visitors and professional anglers. He added that the catch was 50 per cent lower compared with the previous year at the recent RPBIC.

Jason Lee, 45, of Mersing said the government should gazette a sailfish sanctuary or declare the fish a protected species.

According to him, boat operators here had already embarked on a nationwide campaign to save the sailfish.

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Vietnam moves to reduce demand for wildlife products

Vietnam News/Asia News AsiaOne 23 Oct 14;

HANOI - Viet Nam's rich biodiversity has made it a hub for illegal transportation of rare species and stronger efforts are needed to curb wildlife trafficking, experts said at a workshop that opened in Ha Noi on Tuesday.

The three-day workshop, jointly organised by CITES Viet Nam (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the US States Department, aims to find ways to reduce illegal trade in plant and animal products in the country.

Viet Nam's environment was extremely diverse, with 12,000 plant species and 1,600 mammals, birds and reptiles and other animals, making it a hotspot for illegal trade in rare flora and fauna, said Nguyen Ba Ngai, deputy head of the Viet Nam Forestry Administration under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Develoment.

In February this year, the Government ordered ministries and local authorities to step up legal measures as well as awareness campaigns to reduce the demand for wildlife products. It has also created a list of endangered species to be protected, the workshop heard.

Viet Nam has started modifying its penal code to include more severe punishments for wildlife trafficking and related crimes.

"Raising awareness and reducing the demand for wildlife products is an important instrument in the fight to protect wildlife in Viet Nam," Ngai said.

Viet Nam has made some headway in this regard.

For instance, the National Programme on Illegal Rhino Demand Reduction has demand for rhino-based products in Ha Noi by 77 per cent, according to CITES Viet Nam.

Other initiatives include the National Programme on Controlling Illegal Wildlife Trade, the Tiger Conservation Strategy and the National Plan for Elephant Conservation.

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Laos' hydropower dams draw criticisms from neighbours

Panu Wongcha-um Channel NewsAsia 24 Oct 14;

VIENTIANE, Laos: Laos is building a series of hydropower dams as it wants to transform the country into the "battery of Southeast Asia". But this ambition has drawn criticisms from its neighbours due to concerns over the impact on fishing communities and the environment.

Hydropower is a major export for Laos. Two-thirds of electricity generated in the country is sold to its neighbours, mainly to Thailand.

There are plans for a massive expansion of the country's hydropower capacity over the next 15 years, from the current 3,200 megawatts to 12,000 megawatts. The surge will come from the building of more than 30 new dams from now till 2020. Twelve of these will be on the Mekong River.

Hydropower development is an important part of the Lao government's long-term economic strategy. But some dam construction projects have attracted criticisms from abroad. Critics say the building of some hydropower plants in Laos may have negative impact on the environment and affect communities living along the Mekong River, as well as in and outside the country.

Xayaburi dam - Laos' first Mekong River dam - has come under heavy scrutiny. Environmental groups say the dam could deplete fish supply and worsen river's water quality.

Thai farmers and fishermen living downstream from Xayaburi are legally challenging the US$3.5 billion project in a Thai court. The court proceeding has threatened to cut, or at least delay, the funding for the project.

Thai environmental activist Premrudee Daoroung said: "The biggest question is - where the benefit will go to. Will people get cheaper energy? Or do we have to pay for all the costs, including environment and livelihood."

Meanwhile, the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have questioned the construction of Don Sahong dam; the second Mekong River dam located in southern Laos.

Though construction for the dam has yet to start, observers say the planned 260-megawatt hydropower dam could significantly alter the fish migration pattern in Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake.

"Fishery is very important for our children, our grandchildren, and those who make a living in Tonle Sap. It is also important to others living nearby," said Long Sochet, a Cambodian environmental activist.

Aware of these criticisms, the Lao government says it is willing to make adjustments to their dams. But it insists that it will push ahead with the building of all the dams, as planned.

Laos' Vice Minister of Energy and Mines Viraphon Viravong said: "Despite the controversy surrounding the development of large scale dams, including those on the mainstream Mekong River, the Lao government will continue to develop every project within the international sustainability standard."

Laos remains one of the poorest countries in the world, and analysts say the development of its hydropower sector could help boost its economy in the long term. But the controversy remains as these dams will also affect the livelihood of millions and could change the region's ecosystem in years to come.

- CNA/al

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