Best of our wild blogs: 29 Oct 14

Pink-necked Green-pigeon failed nesting
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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62 Lim Chu Kang farms affected by change in land use

Chng Kheng Leng Channel NewsAsia 28 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: 62 farms in the Lim Chu Kang area will be affected by land use changes, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) confirmed on Tuesday (Oct 28).

The western part of Lim Chu Kang will be needed for military purposes. This tract of land will replace the current training grounds that Mindef is giving up for the development of Tengah New Town, according to an AVA statement.

The affected farms in this area, whose leases or tenancies expire between 2014 and 2021, were informed in September of these developments. The farms whose leases or tenancies expire between 2014 to early 2017 will be given an extension till June 2017. Those whose leases expire after June 2017 can remain till the end of their current leases, said the AVA. Those who wish to continue their farming businesses can then bid for new sites at Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah from next year.

“Given our limited land for farming, the new sites will have a smaller land area compared to the existing sites. This is why we are helping our farmers to raise their productivity and intensify the use of limited farmland through the adoption of technology and automation,” said AVA.

Earlier this month, the authority launched a S$63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund to help the famers invest in new and high-tech farming equipment and systems.

But the affected farms will not receive compensation, "as the leases would have run their course till expiry", said AVA. "We have communicated clearly and as early as we could to the affected farms so that they can make alternative plans ahead of the expiry of their leases.” AVA will also help facilitate the farms in applying for the final extension to Jun 30, 2017.

Farmers we spoke to said they were concerned about whether they would be able to obtain new sites, as competition for these tenders is expected to be fierce. The Government has also increased the percentage of land use for production purposes from 70 per cent to 90 per cent for production purposes. Farmers we spoke to said they had been told that farms at these new locations must meet production quotas, or risk losing the site.

Mr John Hay, Managing Director of Hay Dairies goat farm said if the farm was expected to meet production quotas with the help of high-tech equipment, it would have to invest at least S$4 million to S$5 million.

Those at Jurong Frog Farm also felt that the strict restrictions of land use could limit the exposure of the younger generation to the industry. Said the farm’s manager Ms Chelsea Wan: “It means that we have very little flexibility on how we can try to attract local tourism into this area."

- CNA/xy

Lim Chu Kang farmers in limbo as land leases run out
Farms in Lim Chu Kang waiting for new plots
AW CHENG WEI Straits Times 1 Nov 14;

The future hangs in the balance for farmers in Lim Chu Kang, who will not have their leases renewed as their farms have to make way for army training grounds.

A total of 62 farms, ranging from vegetable plots to frog breeders, will have to move out between 2017 and 2021, after their leases expire.

Despite being told of the decision by the Singapore Land Authority in September, they have yet to get details of exactly where they will move to, and the size of the plots available for tender.

Said Mr Alan Toh, 50, who owns the 4ha Yili Vegetation that produces Chinese cabbage and baby bok choy: "We cannot decide whether to bid on the new land plots or not because we still do not know much at the moment."

However, farms whose leases run out between this year and early 2017 will be given an extension until June 2017 to move. The land has been slated to replace the Defence Ministry's current training grounds, which it is giving up for the development of Tengah New Town, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

Ten farmers The Straits Times spoke to said they had expected to have their leases extended.

Orchid farmer Lim Kah Hin, 54, for instance, built a $500,000 greenhouse last year, and had expected at least two more three-year renewals on his lease, which expires in 2017, because nearby farms had been approved to stay on until 2021 or longer. "I would not have built it if I knew I was going to move," he said of the greenhouse.

Fish farm Apollo Aquaculture Group's chief executive, Mr Eric Ng, 41, has started talks with architects, but is still waiting to hear details of available plot sizes. "We are prepared to move and pump in money at the new place," he said. "But we still do not know the type of land we are going to get."

The planned move has also shaken the confidence of farmers who hope to pass on the family business. Previously, they held the land for 20 years, but now will be given only a 10-year lease after they secure a new site, with the possibility of extending for another decade.

Farm 85 director Tan Koon Hua, 46, said: "I am reluctant to ask my children to take over when I am not sure of the future of my farms." He has three affected vegetable farms totalling 10ha.

The AVA said farmers who demonstrate a good track record with consistently high productivity will be assessed favourably in their bids for new land. It said the new sites in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah will be smaller, and will be available for tender from next year.

To help farmers manage with less space, the AVA has launched a $63 million fund to help them invest in high-tech farming equipment and systems, which should help "raise their productivity and intensify the use of limited farmland".

Still, farmers say they have only a few months to decide if they want to move or leave the business. Mr John Hay, 60, of Hay Dairies, which produces goats' milk, said: "That is not enough time. It is a multi-million-dollar investment."

Added frog farmer Chelsea Wan, 31: "We will move if the return on investment makes sense... but it is hard, with only a 10-year lease."

62 Lim Chu Kang farms to move out
Judith Tan The New Paper AsiaOne 2 Nov 14;

Singapore's frog princess, Chelsea Wan, 30, will soon be kissing her farm goodbye.

Her Jurong Frog Farm (JFF) is one of 62 farms that will have to move out of Lim Chu Kang when their leases expire between this year and 2021.

Another farm affected is Hay Dairies, home to almost 1,000 goats.

The tract of land in the western part of Lim Chu Kang will be converted for the military, replacing the current training grounds that the Defence Ministry is giving up for the development of Tengah New Town, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in a statement yesterday.

The affected farms in the area whose leases or tenancies expire between this year and 2021 were informed last month of the changes.

Those farms whose leases or tenancies expire between this year and early 2017 will be given an extension until June 2017, AVA said. But the farmers will not be getting compensation as the leases will have expired.

"This means that my whole family will have to move out of our home," Ms Wan told The New Paper.

Her father, 62-year-old Wan Bock Thiaw, set up the farm in Jurong in 1981 and moved to the 0.6ha patch in Lim Chu Kang Road in 1997. The lease is due to expire in early 2017.

"I understand the plot of land offered would be much smaller, but I don't know how small or what the lease and payment would be like," Ms Wan said.

In its statement, AVA said that given the limited land for farming, the new sites will have a smaller land area than the existing ones. To help farmers raise productivity and optimise the use of limited farmland, the agency launched a $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund this month.

But Ms Wan said that with the decreased land area, JFF will no longer be able to hold the educational tours or community outreach that "we have been organising for the past few years".

"It means that we will have very little flexibility on how we can try to attract local tourism into this area. We will just have to concentrate more on our food-processing business," she said.

Ms Wan intends to appeal for an extension so JFF can stay at the current place until 2021.

"The four extra years mean a lot. We will have more time to make more concrete plans for the business," she said.

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Singapore has potential to be natural gas trading hub: Panel

Dylan Loh Channel NewsAsia 28 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has the potential to develop into a regional, and perhaps global, natural gas trading hub, given its reputation for stable regulatory framework as well as existing trading and financial infrastructure.

That is the view of the Ministry of Trade and Industry's International Advisory Panel (IAP) on Energy, which advises the Government in preparing for future developments.

The panel's members include Dr Dan Arvizu, director and chief executive of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Dr Choo Kang-Soo, honorary chairman of the Korean Gas Union; Ole Enger, chairman of REC Solar; and Dr Claude Mandil, former executive director at the International Energy Agency.

The panel, which released its recommendations on Tuesday (Oct 28), said Singapore should develop trading mechanisms and standards to facilitate the growing liquefied natural gas (LNG) market.

The IAP noted that the global LNG market would likely double in the next two decades with strong growth in Asia . The panel said there is an emerging need for supply flexibility and market efficiency in gas trading, and believes that if Singapore plays its cards right, it can be a reference point for gas pricing.

It also recommended that Singapore take a long-term view and continue to expand its infrastructure and develop supporting services.

Mr S Iswaran, Second Minister for Trade and Industry and chairman of the panel, said: "We have certain advantages by virtue of our reputation for regulatory standards, our connectivity to the region and also the supporting infrastructure that we have here because we already are a major trading hub for oil, for example. And some of these services, ancillary support services can easily also support the activities for gas."

However, the panel said it will take time for Singapore to develop as a gas hub.

The panel also identified renewable energy as an area where more research and development can be explored. It supported Singapore's efforts to facilitate greater deployment of solar energy, welcoming in particular the decision not to subsidise deployment and the country's commitment to liberalised markets.

Solar energy is at present Singapore's only technically and economically-viable renewable energy source, the panel said. To make solar energy viable, continued research and development is needed to reduce costs and develop attractive financing models.

"So it's all about using, in effect, more renewable energy, developing more efficient energy use and a better development pattern," said Mr Peter Schwartz, Senior Vice President of global relations and strategic planning for "And one particular important area is energy storage. And that's where Singapore is beginning to invest in, and the potential there to change the game is very large."

Innovation will also be key to capitalising on opportunities in the energy sector, and the panel backed Singapore's strategy to direct investments towards developing solutions on both the demand and supply sides. It also encouraged strong collaborations between research institutes and industry players, so that solutions can be delivered from the laboratory to the market.

- CNA/ac

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SG Changi settles motorsports hub debts

IAN DE COTTA Today Online 29 Oct 14;

SINGAPORE — Three years after its contract to build Singapore’s first permanent track was cancelled by the Government, SG Changi has finally drawn a line under an ignominious chapter that began with hope and ended in financial disaster.

Its slate was wiped clean on Oct 21, when it finally paid S$6.9 million owed to piling contractors CS Construction & Geotechnic (CSCG), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of CSC Holdings. Work done to reinstate the 41ha of land near Changi Airport that had 1,000 piles driven into it has also been completed and was returned to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) three weeks ago.

What was left of the S$40 million SG Changi paid for the land on a 30-year lease and returned to the Japanese consortium remains confidential under the terms of their contractual agreement with the country’s sports authorities.

In response to queries from TODAY, Sport Singapore assistant director (communications and engagement division) S Parameswaran said no public money was spent during the entire process.

“Sport Singapore has returned the land to Singapore Land Authority on Oct 9, and has refunded some of SG Changi’s paid-up capital on Oct 21 after deducting the costs of the reinstatement of the land, which includes the holding period of the land and administrative costs related to the Changi Motorsports Hub project,” he said.

“No public subsidies were required for the reinstatement of the land as the Hub was a commercial project originally arranged to be fully funded by SG Changi.”

SG Changi won a bid in March 2009 to build Singapore’s first permanent track at an estimated cost of S$380 million. But construction stopped after only a month in January 2010 when it failed to pay the full amount of S$10 million of an advance payment due to CSCG.

Sport Singapore, trading as Singapore Sports Council then, finally pulled the plug on the project in December 2011 after SG Changi failed to raise funds to continue with construction and subsequently missed key milestones. After waiting for more than four years for accounts to be settled, See Yen Tam, group chief executive officer of CSC Holdings, is relieved the entire episode is over and said they did not levy any interest on the outstanding sum.

“We at least got the principal sum back,” said See. “It was a long wait, but it looks like Christmas came early for us this year. To be fair, I think SG Changi did their best, but they were caught during a time when the economy was not good and had difficulty raising funds.”

He said SG Changi chairman Fuminori Murahashi and director Moto Sakuma kept CSC updated on the progress of their termination agreement with Sport Singapore, which came to a close after they received what was left of the S$40 million they paid for the land.

Said Moto: “We got some money back. I’ve been travelling back and forth between Japan and Singapore to help settle this problem and it is a burden off our shoulders now. We are into other business but have washed our hands of motorsports.”

SG Changi also had to bear the cost of conducting a Request for Information exercise during a seven-month period in the second half of 2012 to gauge whether the project should be re-tendered. It was also billed for work, costing “several hundred thousands of dollars”, to shave off about 2m from each of the 1,000 piles below the surface before the land was given back to the SLA.

Experts told TODAY it would have been a massive job, costing up to S$10 million, to remove all 1,000 piles completely, but there was also the risk many would break in the process, leaving large parts embedded in the soil.

Chua Tong Seng, vice-president of the Association of Consulting Engineers, said that depending on the nature of a project, the land can be redeveloped for other uses. “It is rare to leave the piles in, but they can still be re-used if new projects share the same structure,” he said. “If the footprint is different, engineers will have to work around them.”

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Malaysia: New MoU to tackle haze

New Straits Times 29 Oct 14;

THE Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said yesterday Malaysia and Indonesia are working on a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) to resolve haze issues.

Its deputy minister, Datuk Seri Dr James Dawos Mamit, said the MoU would allow the countries to share experience, expertise and information to tackle the problem.

“The Indonesian Parliament has agreed to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution on Sept 16, 12 years after signing it,” he told Dewan Rakyat.

He said this was following discussions and pressure from Asean members, including Malaysia, for
it to expedite ratifying the agreement.

James was answering a question from Datuk Liang Teck Meng (BN-Simpang Renggam), who wanted to know the outcome of Malaysia and Indonesia’s negotiation in seeking measures to reduce and tackle haze.

James said the fact that Indonesia had agreed to ratify the agreement showed that the republic was committed to solve the problem more effectively.

“It is a positive move and we welcome it.”

James said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel would attend the 10th Conference of Parties to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in Laos tomorrow and would push the Indonesian government to ratify the agreement.

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Malaysia: Logging supervisors charged in Sarawak

ADIB POVERA AND SYLVIA LOOI New Straits Times 29 Oct 14;

SIBU: TWO logging company supervisors detained under Op Tukul for their alleged involvement in corruption and illegal logging activities were charged at the Sessions Court here yesterday.

Lee Hock Liang, 63, who is an assistant camp supervisor, pleaded not guilty to offering a RM10,000 bribe to Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission senior assistant enforcement officer Sendry Ugi at a log pond in Sungai Antu Pala, Kanowit, near here at 2.05pm on April 25.

The bribe was for Sendry to not take action against Lee for allegedly transferring 300 logs from the log pond at Sungai Antu Pala via a tug boat without a permit.

Judge Nixon Kennedy Kembong set RM5,000 bail in one surety and fixed four days for hearing beginning Dec 9.

Earlier in the same court, Law King Chai, 47, was charged with offering RM2,000 to Inspector Mohamad Dzakriya Abdul Kader, who is attached to the Batu Kawa General Operation Force, at a logging area in Kampung Boyan, Jalan Selangau-Mukah, near here on Sept 8.

Law, who is a camp supervisor for another logging company, was alleged to have offered the bribe to Dzakriya as an inducement to not take action against him for an offence under the Sarawak Forestry Ordinance 1958, following his alleged involvement in illegal logging.

Nixon set bail at RM8,000 in one surety. He set the hearing within five days from Dec 15.

MACC prosecuting officer Katherine Nais prosecuted while Lee and Law were unrepresented.

The duo was among 12 individuals, including a district criminal investigation division police chief, who were apprehended during the operation, which was launched four months ago to investigate illegal logging activities in the state.

In Ipoh, Perak Forestry Department director Datuk Roslan Ariffin said efforts taken by the department to stem illegal logging had borne fruit with a significant drop in the activity.

He said illegal logging were rampant in Taiping and Hulu Perak, but they but were now under control.

“With our operations to keep loggers in check, illegal logging has slowed down,” he told the New Straits Times here yesterday.

He did not provide specific details about the drop.

Roslan said the department recorded its latest success with the arrest of three illegal loggers in Taiping on Monday evening.

“The trio, in their 40s, were picked up around Taiping town for encroaching the Changkat Niru Permanent Forest Reserve at Pondok Tanjung in Taiping,” he said, adding that 600ha of the forest reserve had been cleared.

Roslan said the department was building up a case against the three men and papers would be submitted to the legal adviser soon.

State MACC director Datuk Noraziah Abdul Manaf could not be reached for comment.

The New Straits Times front-paged a report on Monday that the Sarawak state government had lost RM45 million to illegal logging activities within just four months between May to August, and that billions of ringgit worth of losses were incurred by federal and state governments because of illegal logging.

BALQIS NASIR New Straits Times 29 Oct 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) believes that illegal logging activities in Sarawak which have so far led to the arrests of 10 people, including a senior district police officer, are carried out by organised syndicates.

Graft-busters from the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya carried out intelligence works for nine months, including setting up fake logging companies and surveillance before zooming in on the syndicates-cum-loggers.

It believes that the syndicates which have been raking millions from the activities, have been active for many years.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (investigations) Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull said investigations into the involvement of syndicates in logging activities in the state is almost complete.

It is believed that thousands of hectares of forest reserves in Sarawak have been cleared by illegal loggers.

Shukri, however, cautioned the state government and Forestry Department to continue monitoring despite the end of Sarawak’s Op Tukul.

Op Tukul is MACC’s most comprehensive operation in recent times, with an all-out crackdown on illegal logging expected to last a few years.

Last week alone, MACC arrested 30 people, — 20 in Johor and 10 in Sarawak.

MACC also frozen 30 bank accounts containing RM18 million, belonging to more than 10 companies suspected of being involved in illegal logging.

Shukri said the authorities and state governments must take charge and carry out their own initiative to address the problem, which had caused losses in billion of ringgit to the federal and state governments.

“If they do not have enough manpowe, they should hire more people.

“And if there are loopholes in the regulations, review them,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Shukri said the MACC would recommend better and effective systems and procedures to the state governments to put a stop to the activities which, if not curbed, would result in massive ecological destruction.

Meanwhile, two suspects were charged in Sibu yesterday under Section 17(a) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009 for offering RM10,000 and RM2,000 of bribes, respectively, to enforcement officers.

They were arrested last Wednesday and Saturday.

Another two are to be charged for allegedly committing a similar offence at the Miri Sessions Court today.

Two logging company workers claim trial to corruption charges
ADIB POVERA New Straits Times 28 Oct 14;

SIBU: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) prosecuted another two individuals detained under Op Tukul at the Sessions Court here today.

In the first case, a 47-year-old camp supervisor of a logging company was charged with offering a RM2,000 bribe to Inspector Mohamad Dzakriya Abdul Kader (CORRECT), who is attached with the Batu Kawa branch General Operation Force, last month.

Law King Chai claimed trial to committing the offence at a logging area in Kampung Boyan, Jalan Selangau Mukah here at 7pm on Sept 8.

According to the charge sheet, the money was an inducement for Dzakriya from taking any actions against the accused for his alleged involvement in illegal logging activities.

Judge Nixon Kennedy Kembong set court bail of RM8,000 with one local surety who had a minimum of three years of employment. He also fixed hearing for five days beginning Dec 15.

In the same court room, an assistant camp supervisor for another logging company also pleaded not guilty to offering RM10,000 bribe to MACC senior assistant enforcement officer Sendry Ugi at a log pond in Sungai Antu Pala, Kanowit near here.

Lee Hock Liang, 63, was accused of committing the offence at 2.05pm on Apr 25.

The bribe was an inducement for Sendry to not take actions against Lee for allegedly transferring 300 timber logs from the log pond at Sungai Antu Pala via a tug boat without a permit.

For this case, Nixon fixed bail at RM5,000 in one surety.

He also fixed Dec 9 and Dec 10 as the hearing date.

Both of the accused were charged under Section 17(b) of the MACC Act 2009, which carries the maximum 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of not less than five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever higher.

MACC prosecuting officer Katherine Nais prosecuted while both of the accused was not represented.

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A year on, typhoon-devastated Philippine city fails to rebuild homes

Manuel Mogato PlanetArk 29 Oct 14;

The mayor of the central Philippine city worst hit by a super typhoon a year ago said on Tuesday fewer than 100 of 14,500 promised permanent homes had been built and that thousands were still living in danger zones.

Typhoon Haiyan wiped out or damaged practically everything in its path as it swept ashore on Nov. 8, 2013, with seven-meter storm surges destroying around 90 percent of the city of Tacloban in Leyte province.

Haiyan killed or left missing close to 8,000 people and displaced as many as four million.

"Building more permanent homes is very slow and takes time. Hopefully, by January next year, the pace will pick up," Mayor Alfred Romualdez, nephew of the Philippines' former first lady, Imelda Marcos, told reporters.

He blamed the lack of suitable land where houses which could withstand 250-kph (155-mph) winds could be built but said he hoped the 14,500 homes would be completed by 2017.

"There are still 3,000 people in danger zones, many in tents and we want them all transferred to transitional shelters by next month," Romualdez said.

"...One year after typhoon Haiyan, we are back but only about 50 percent," he said, saying the recovery effort was slowed down by bureaucracy, shortage of manpower and resources and other delays.

Construction materials, like galvanized iron sheets, were also scarce, he said, forcing people to use fallen coconut trees to build temporary shelters.

Romualdez did not mention graft as a factor in one of Asia's most corrupt countries.

The Philippines came in at 94 out of 175 countries in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index last year.

The Aquino government has a six-year 170 billion pesos ($3.80 billion) master plan to rebuild devastated areas, building about 200,000 homes and providing more sustainable jobs for 2.6 million people who living below the poverty line.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Protection plan 'will not save Great Barrier Reef'

BBC News 28 Oct 14;

Australia's Academy of Science says an Australian government draft plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef will not prevent its decline.

The group said the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan failed to address key pressures on the reef including climate change and coastal development.

Much bolder action was needed, said Academy Fellow Professor Terry Hughes.

"The science is clear, the reef is degraded and its condition is worsening," said Prof Hughes.

"This is a plan that won't restore the reef, it won't even maintain it in its already diminished state," he said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"It is also more than disappointing to see that the biggest threat to the reef - climate change - is virtually ignored in this plan."

Public submissions on the draft plan - an overarching framework for protecting and managing the reef from 2015 to 2050 - closed on Monday.

The plan will eventually be submitted to the World Heritage Centre in late January, for consideration by Unesco's World Heritage Committee mid-next year. Unesco has threatened to place the reef on its List of World Heritage in Danger.

According to scientists, another major threat to the reef's health is continual expansion of coal ports along the Queensland coast.

In a controversial move earlier this year, the Australian government approved a plan to dredge a port at Abbot Point in Queensland, and dump thousands of tonnes of sediment in the sea.

Prof Hughes is one of the authors of a submission by the Academy to the Australian and Queensland governments.

The scientists argue the plan fails to effectively address major factors driving the reef's decline, including climate change, poor water quality, coastal development and fishing.

But a press release from the office of Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the plan was based on the "best available science".

"We have a clear plan and a strong commitment to ensure the reef is healthy and resilient - and we are making strong progress," Mr Hunt said.

"Water quality in the World Heritage area is improving as a result of a partnership between farmers and governments to stop fertilisers, chemicals and sediments running off farming land and into the rivers and creeks along the Queensland coast."

He said the government had also worked hard to eliminate the disposal of capital dredging - to deepen existing facilities - in the reef's Marine Park.

Great Barrier Reef
=Stretches about 2,500 km (1,553 miles) along the eastern Queensland coast, covering an area the size of Great Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined.
=Made up of a network of 3,000 individual reef systems, islands, islets and sandbars
=Home to more than 1,500 different species of fish, 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of mollusc and hundreds of bird species.
=Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the only living thing on earth visible from space.
=A Unesco World Heritage site - Unesco is also considering listing it as endangered.

Great Barrier Reef protection plan 'ignores the threat of climate change'
Scientists warn the government’s strategy is likely to prove ineffectual as ‘unless Australia cuts back on carbon dioxide emissions we won’t have much of a Great Barrier Reef left’
Oliver Milman The Guardian 27 Oct 14;

The Australian government’s multimillion dollar plan to halt the worrying decline of the Great Barrier Reef does nothing to address the leading threat of climate change and is likely to prove largely ineffectual, scientists have warned.

In its formal response to the Reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan, which was drawn up by the Australian and Queensland governments, the Australian Academy of Science states the strategy is “inadequate to achieve the goal of restoring or even maintaining the diminished outstanding universal value of the reef”.

Although a recent government assessment found climate change is the leading threat to a declining reef, the Australian Academy of Science states there is “no adequate recognition” in the 2050 plan of the importance of curbing greenhouse gases.

The academy’s submission is also critical of what it sees as the plan’s lack of specific funded goals to restore the reef’s condition, along with a failure to properly tackle issues such as poor water quality, coastal development and illegal fishing.

“The draft 2050 plan represents business-as-usual in terms of how escalating pressures on the reef are adequately regulated [or not], when much bolder action is required to restore the values of the reef and prevent further degradation,” the submission states.

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and an academy fellow, said the plan was focused on the sustainable development of four “mega ports” adjacent to the reef, rather than conservation of the reef itself.

“There’s no questioning in the report of whether two or three ports would be better than four,” Hughes told Guardian Australia.

Ports such as Abbot Point, near the Queensland town of Bowen, are being expanded to allow for larger exports of fossil fuels.

“There’s nothing in the plan on addressing climate change,” Hughes said. “The science is quite clear that you can’t keep the Great Barrier Reef in good condition if you’re going to develop huge coal reserves. We are already on our way to 2C warming and unless Australia cuts back on carbon dioxide emissions we won’t have much of a Great Barrier Reef left.

“We need a plan to transition away from fossil fuels well before 2050. Australia’s emissions reduction goal is very, very weak by international standards. We have stewardship of one of the world’s premier reef systems and also stewardship of a huge reserve of fossil fuels – it’s a conflict of interest, really.”

Key threats to the reef, aside from climate change, include pollution flowing onto the ecosystem from agriculture, cyclones and a plague of coral-eating starfish. The reef has lost around half its coral cover in the past 30 years.

The Reef 2050 plan sets a target of a 50% reduction in nitrogen and a 60% drop in pesticides flowing onto the reef by 2018. There is also a plan to protect dugongs and turtles. However, there is no new funding mentioned beyond the $40m Reef Trust program announced in the budget.

The plan includes no specific ban on the dumping of dredged seabed spoil into the reef’s waters, which scientists say can smother and badly damage coral and fish. A proposal to dump dredged spoil into the Great Barrier Reef marine park for the Abbot Point project was recently reversed, although a similar dumping plan is in place to facilitate the expansion of other areas, such as the Townsville port.

“The proposed dredging is unprecedented and will swamp the reef,” Hughes said.

“The government has spent around $400m on reducing by about 10% the amount of sediment flowing out onto the reef but this is completely overtaken by the amount of sediment being dumped.

“There are literally hundreds of reports saying mud dumped on your head isn’t good for you. It isn’t really rocket science. The government needs to engage with scientists more than they did when putting together this draft plan.”

Unesco’s world heritage committee will decide next year whether to place the Great Barrier Reef on its “in-danger” list. Unesco has called for port expansion to be limited in order to safeguard the health of the reef.

“There’s no doubt the short-term goal of this report is to keep Unesco happy,” Hughes said. “I’m not sure if that will succeed or not but in terms of this being a plan for the next 35 years, there are missing targets that need to be in there.

“It would be a terrible outcome if the Great Barrier Reef is placed on the in-danger list; it would be very damaging to Australia’s reputation. I haven’t met anyone who wants that to be the case but I wouldn’t be surprised if Unesco went ahead and did it.”

On Monday, Greg Hunt, the federal environment minister, unveiled new guidelines to increase the number of divers able to lethally inject crown-of-thorns starfish, which are munching their way through the reef’s coral.

A spokesman for Hunt said the 2050 reef plan is based on the “best available science to ensure it responds to new and emerging issues”.

“We have a clear plan and a strong commitment to ensure the reef is healthy and resilient – and we are making strong progress,” he said.

“The Great Barrier Reef remains an incredibly diverse and rich marine environment. We know the reef still retains the values for which it was listed as world heritage.

“The Australian and Queensland governments are jointly investing approximately $180m a year in the reef’s health – that’s billions of dollars over the next decade.”

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Global overpopulation would ‘withstand war, disasters and disease’

National Academy of Sciences says even brutal world conflict or lethal pandemic would leave unsustainable human numbers
Mark Tran The Guardian 28 Oct 14;

The pace of population growth is so quick that even draconian restrictions of childbirth, pandemics or a third world war would still leave the world with too many people for the planet to sustain, according to a study.

Rather than reducing the number of people, cutting the consumption of natural resources and enhanced recycling would have a better chance of achieving effective sustainability gains in the next 85 years, said the report published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We were surprised that a five-year WW3 scenario, mimicking the same proportion of people killed in the first and second world wars combined, barely registered a blip on the human population trajectory this century,” said Prof Barry Brook, who co-led the study at the University of Adelaide, in Australia.

The second world war claimed between 50 million and 85 million military and civilian lives, according to different estimates, making it the most lethal conflict, by absolute numbers, in human history. More than 37 million people are thought to have died in the first world war.

Using a computer model based on demographic data from the World Health Organisation and the US Census Bureau, the researchers investigated different population reduction scenarios. They found that under current conditions of fertility, mortality and mother’s average age at first childbirth, global population was likely to grow from 7 billion in 2013 to 10.4 billion by 2100.

Climate change, war, reduced mortality and fertility, and increased maternal age altered this prediction only slightly. A devastating global pandemic that killed 2 billion people was only projected to reduce population size to 8.4 billion, while 6 billion deaths brought it down to 5.1 billion.

“Global population has risen so fast over the past century that roughly 14% of all the human beings that have ever existed are still alive today. That’s a sobering statistic. This is considered unsustainable for a range of reasons, not least being able to feed everyone as well as the impact on the climate and environment,” said co-author Prof Corey Bradshaw, also from the University of Adelaide.

He added: “We examined various scenarios for global human population change to the year 2100 by adjusting fertility and mortality rates to determine the plausible range of population sizes at the end of this century. Even a worldwide one-child policy like China’s, implemented over the coming century, or catastrophic mortality events like global conflict or a disease pandemic, would still likely result in 5-10 billion people by 2100.”

Brook, now at the University of Tasmania, said policymakers needed to discuss population growth more, but warned that the inexorable momentum of the global human population ruled out any demographic quick fixes to our sustainability problems.

“Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term,” he said. “Our great-great-great-great grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not.”

Bradshaw added: “The corollary of these findings is that society’s efforts towards sustainability would be directed more productively towards reducing our impact as much as possible through technological and social innovation.”

With its echoes of Thomas Malthus, who warned of the unsustainability of rapid population growth in the 18th century, the report warned that the current demographic momentum means that there are no easy policies to change the size of the human population substantially over coming decades, short of extreme and rapid reductions in female fertility.

“It will take centuries, and the long-term target remains unclear,” said the report. “However, some reduction could be achieved by mid-century and lead to hundreds of millions fewer people to feed. More immediate results for sustainability would emerge from policies and technologies that reverse rising consumption of natural resources.”

In the absence of catastrophe or large fertility reductions (to fewer than two children per female worldwide), the study said Africa and south Asia are likely to experience the greatest human pressures on future ecosystems.

A report released last week by researchers from Lund University, in Sweden, said the ability to produce food in the Sahel region in Africa is not keeping pace with its growing population, and global warming will only exacerbate the imbalance.

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