Best of our wild blogs: 4 Nov 14

Speak up for Pulau Ubin
from wild shores of singapore

Highlights of Love MacRitchie Walks by Toddycats, Season 3
from Toddycats!

Bats in my porch: 19. Does the male help look after the pup?
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Territorial Black-winged Kites
from Singapore Bird Group

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Wanted: More modern facilities for Ubin

Melody Zaccheus The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Nov 14;

One of the remaining houses on Pulau Ubin (left) and the boardwalk at the Chek Jawa wetlands (right). While half of the 500 people surveyed said they wanted more modern conveniences on the island, heritage experts and nature enthusiasts want to preserve its untouched charm.

AT LEAST half of 500 people surveyed say they want the rustic island of Pulau Ubin to take on some features of modern, mainland Singapore.

They said they would like to see more public facilities, including shelters, footpaths and toilets; attractions such as cycling trails and boardwalks; and the restoration of the island's kampung houses for overnight stays.

Their opinions were captured in an ongoing online survey, launched on Sept 8 by the Ministry of National Development (MND). This is part of efforts to gather ideas on how to preserve the rustic charm and heritage of Ubin, while enhancing public access sensitively.

The poll aside, some of Ubin's 38 residents have also told MND what they wished to see on the island. The wishlist included improved mobile network coverage; more street lights, a better waste disposal system and wider roads. Some had also asked for ATM machines, said an MND spokesman.

Mr Patrick Chan, 27, a commercial executive who did the survey, agreed with some suggestions. He said: "More signs and route markers will also be helpful to us 'mainlanders' who aren't as familiar with these 'country' roads."

But the suggestions worry heritage experts and nature enthusiasts, who said these have lost sight of the goal of retaining Ubin's laidback character.

Purists such as heritage blogger and naval architect Jerome Lim, who prefers leaving most of the island untouched, said: "Ubin should not be turned into yet another built-up and man-made place like Changi Village, packed with the modern conveniences of everyday life. We shouldn't be changing the destination into a kampung theme park to cater to hordes of people who may overrun the place."

Both Dr Chua Ai Lin, president of the Singapore Heritage Society, and Ms Ria Tan, who runs a popular wildlife site, said Ubin is already brimming with things to do.

For instance, Ms Tan said many are not aware of the "good spectrum of built trails, natural trails and untouched nature" across the island.

Meanwhile, Dr Chua said better communication is needed so that Singaporeans know what is already available there.

For instance, information on the island's heritage needs to be integrated into visitor information websites and collaterals provided by MND and NParks - the island's manager.

She pointed out that the National Heritage Board also has detailed write-ups on its website about the 10.2 sq km island, including stories about its early inhabitants and granite mining days.

An Ubin resident, Madam Kamariah Abdullah, 54, who owns a century-old Malay kampung home there, hopes that electricity can run through the island so she can keep food in her refrigerator fresh. Islanders currently rely on solar and biodiesel energy.

But she called the rest of the suggestions "ridiculous".

Said Madam Kamariah: "Singapore has enough big roads and ATM machines. It shouldn't be about residents' convenience alone but about preserving the natural environment for the long term.

"There is no fun at all if Ubin becomes as perfect as Singapore is. Bigger, flatter paths would take away the challenge of the bumpy and wild terrain. We must experience it like our ancestors did."

Punchlines, Straits Times, 4 Nov 2014, A23

Related links
Do the online survey here

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Haze creeps into unhealthy range as Sumatra hot spots spike

Today Online 4 Nov 14;
SINGAPORE — Haze readings, which edged into the unhealthy range yesterday afternoon and continued climbing into the night, are expected to be in the high end of the moderate range or low end of the unhealthy range today.

At 3pm yesterday, the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index breached the unhealthy mark and readings edged up steadily to hit 127 by 9pm, before receding slightly to 126 at 10pm. Any reading over 100 up to 200 is considered unhealthy.

The PM2.5 — tiny particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter — levels were also elevated in most regions, with one-hour concentrations ranging from 59 to 82 micrograms per cubic metre at 5pm, said the National Environment Agency (NEA). A 24-hour PM2.5 reading of between 56 and 150 is considered unhealthy.

In an update posted on its website at 5pm yesterday, the NEA said the haziness was smoke blown in by prevailing southerly winds from Sumatra, whose southern part has experienced drier weather, leading to a “sharp increase” in the number of hot spots there. A total of 205 hot spots were detected in Sumatra yesterday, it added.

Last Tuesday, the NEA had said the threat of serious haze appeared to have been averted for the rest of the year, with the onset of the Inter-Monsoon season over the past week signalling the end of the traditional dry period in the region. The Inter-Monsoon period normally lasts from October to November, and is characterised by more rainfall and light winds that are variable in direction.

382 hotspots detected in southern Sumatra: NEA
Channel NewsAsia 3 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: A total of 382 hotspots with "visible smoke plumes and haze" were detected in southern Sumatra on Monday (Nov 3), the National Environment Agency said. The 3-hour PSI hit a high of 116, in the Unhealthy range, at about 10am, before gradually improving due to a change in wind direction.

At 9pm, the 24-hour PSI was 90 to 105, at the lower end of the Unhealthy range, while the 3-hour PSI was 70, in the Moderate range.

For Tuesday (Nov 4), NEA forecasts prevailing winds to blow mainly from the southeast. As a result, Singapore may experience "occasional haze", the agency said. The 24-hour PSI is expected to be in the high end of the Moderate range, and may enter the low end of the Unhealthy range if the winds turn unfavourable, the NEA said.

- CNA/dl

Haze expected to persist for rest of today: NEA
Today Online 3 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — Yesterday’s (Nov 2) hazy conditions are expected to persist for the rest of today, owing to smoke haze from southern Sumatra, blown in by the prevailing southerly winds, the National Environment Agencey (NEA) said.

Yesterday, the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index breached the unhealthy mark at 3pm and readings edged up steadily to hit 127 by 9pm, before receding slightly to 126 at 10pm.

As of 7pm today, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) stands in the 92-108 range. Any reading over 100 up to 200 is considered unhealthy.

The NEA said the 24-hr PSI for Singapore is expected to remain in the high-end of the Moderate range and the low-end of the Unhealthy range.

The NEA also advises that prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion should be reduced for healthy persons, the elderly, pregnant women and children, as well as those with chronic lung or heart disease.

No air-con for B2, C-class wards despite the haze: Gan Kim Yong
Channel NewsAsia 4 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The B2 and C class wards in local hospitals are designed for natural ventilation, taking into account affordability and infection control considerations, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Parliament on Monday (Nov 3).

He was responding to a question by NMP K Karthikeyan on whether Ministry of Health (MOH) will consider providing air-conditioning for hospital wards of these classes as a way to protect patients from the haze and external noise.

However, Mr Gan added that MOH takes additional measures when the environmental conditions warrant it.

"For example, when the haze intensified last year, MOH provided funding to healthcare institutions to purchase air purifiers and portable air coolers for use in naturally ventilated wards. This equipment can be used during a sustained severe haze, should it occur again," he said.

"In addition to this, we are also looking at incorporating additional filter systems in the naturally ventilated patient wards for new healthcare facilities."

- CNA/kk

S’pore may have occasional haze today
Today Online 4 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — The island may experience occasional haze today, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) likely to be in the high end of the moderate range.

It may enter the low end of the unhealthy range should the winds turn unfavourable, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on its website last evening.

Hazy conditions, which affected Singapore on Sunday, persisted yesterday morning, with the 24-hour PSI entering the unhealthy range in some parts of the island at 3am.

At 2pm yesterday, the 24-hour PSI was 102 to 119, within the unhealthy range. However, the situation gradually improved due to a change in the prevailing wind direction to southeasterly. At 7pm, the 24-hour PSI was 92 to 108, in the moderate to unhealthy range, the NEA said.

The haziness was due to smoke haze from southern Sumatra, blown in by the prevailing southerly winds.

A total of 382 hot spots with visible smoke plumes and haze were detected there yesterday.

The NEA said last week that the threat of serious haze appeared to have been averted for the rest of the year, with the onset of the Inter-Monsoon season signalling the end of the traditional dry period in the region.

PSI goes into unhealthy range, could persist today
Melody Zaccheus The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Nov 14;

AFTER staying in the clear for several days, the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) soared steadily from 86 at 1pm to hit 127 at 9pm yesterday.

Hazy conditions are expected to persist today with air quality, as measured by the 24-hour PSI, being in the almost or slightly unhealthy range, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in an update yesterday. PSI is considered unhealthy when it enters the range of 101 to 200.
The levels of PM2.5, which are small, toxic particles, were "elevated" in most parts of the Republic, NEA noted.

The Meteorological Service Singapore had said last week that it was expecting the situation to improve with more rain and less haze as the south-west monsoon season has ended.

NEA said yesterday's condition was due to smoke haze from Sumatra blown in by prevailing southerly winds.

The agency detected 205 hot spots in Sumatra last Saturday. It said drier weather in south Sumatra over the past two days had led to a spike in hot spots.

So far, the highest three-hour PSI this year was 153 on Oct 6.

As the PSI climbed, some Singaporeans took to social media to lament missed opportunities for picnics and runs.

With the holidays around the corner, housewife Stephanie Soh, 47, who has three daughters, said she hopes the haze will dissipate.

Her 10-year-old daughter will be having her last exam paper today and is hoping to get out of the house for some time in the sun.

The other two, aged 16 and 18, are in the midst of exams. They mostly stay indoors, with the air-conditioner cranked up.

Said Mrs Soh: "We experience dry throat and our eyes tear sometimes.

My youngest has requested to go to the park and Universal Studios so we hope the situation improves."

Still, the haze is expected to dissipate with the onset of the rainy season during the north-east monsoon early next month, according to the Meteorological Service Singapore's forecast last week.

NEA recommends that when the index hits the unhealthy band, healthy people should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, while the elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise such activities.

Those with chronic lung or heart diseases should avoid such activities completely.

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Singapore needs 'national commitment' to cycling: MP Irene Ng

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 3 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The Republic needs a national commitment to cycling, as well as a comprehensive approach in order to catch up with other cycling cities. MP for Tampines GRC Irene Ng said this on Monday (Nov 3) after she filed an adjournment motion in Parliament.

Ms Ng said bicycles now account for about one per cent of trips in Singapore. She said that there is scope to expand this, proposing to increase this to five per cent by 2020.

However, it would require many barriers to be overcome, including improvements needed in infrastructure, legislation and education, said Ms Ng.

In terms of infrastructure, Ms Ng said that a good urban cycling network must consist of measures such as cycling-friendly junctions and streets that are designed to slow down speed of motorists, as well as a coherent policy on shared paths and footpaths.

She said this is because, even if Singapore builds segregated cycle paths with limited space in the country, cyclists will at some point have to go on shared roads and footpaths.


Responding to Ms Ng, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Assoc Prof Faishal Ibrahim said the Land Transport Authority has constructed off-road, dedicated cycling path networks in seven Housing Development Board (HDB) towns since 2010.

Prof Faishal said the aim is to build cycling path networks in every HDB town by 2030. He added that the Government will look at possibly bringing forward the completion date of these networks. He also said the building of bicycle parking facilities will be ramped up.

Prof Faishal said the Government is committed to making cycling an integral part of living and mobility and will update the national cycling plan even more comprehensively.

- CNA/ek

Singapore needs integrated cycling framework, says MP
SIAU MING EN Today Online 4 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — Planning for a national cycling framework should not be done in insolation, said Member of Parliament (Tampines GRC) Irene Ng in Parliament yesterday (Nov 3), as the Republic tries to keep pace with more people adopting cycling as their mode of transport.

Speaking during an adjournment motion, she noted the “image problem” faced by cyclists among pedestrians and motorists, who believe that cyclists should not be riding on the roads or footpaths.

“The whole set-up, as it is, pits cyclists and pedestrians and cars against one another. If the situation is allowed to persist, the negative attitudes of motorists and pedestrians towards cyclists would harden. This would sour the ground for any government plan to promote cycling as a sustainable mode of transport,” Ms Ng said.

Planning for cycling cannot be addressed in isolation, she noted. While there have been separate initiatives for cycling, she said it is hard to make real headway unless cycling policies are integrated with transportation, town-planning, road safety, education and enforcement policies, for instance.

Calling for an integrated cycling framework and greater coordination between agencies, Ms Ng also drew examples from some of the issues that surfaced in Tampines — Singapore’s first cycling town.

While cyclists are banned from cycling on footpaths under the Road Traffic Act, Tampines is the only town that is exempted from the ban. Instead, it has a code that requires cyclists to keep left, give way to pedestrians at all times, obey traffic laws and signs, among other things.

But enforcing the cycling rules in Tampines had not been easy, given the lack of clarity and coordination among agencies, said Ms Ng. For example, it was unclear which agency should take action against reckless cycling on shared paths. As a result, the town council hired the auxiliary police to enforce the rules.

Last month, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan wrote on his blog that the Government wants cycling to go beyond the realm of recreation and become a “viable transport option” for short trips.

In his response yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim noted the authorities’ progress on making Singapore more bicycle-friendly, such as having built close to 14,000 bicycle parking lots at all MRT stations.

Acknowledging that the rules and norms of cycling are “not entirely clear to the average person” today, Associate Professor Faishal said clear and consistent rules and norms for cycling conduct and behaviour would have to be built.

“Indeed, we need to start thinking about sharing space between pedestrians and cyclists, if we are to move ahead on cycling. Some degree of accommodation from various stakeholders, including cyclists, will be necessary,” he added.

While dedicated cycling paths and more signalised bicycle crossings will be built, the possibility of sharing footpaths and signalised crossings between pedestrians and cyclists has to be studied carefully, noted Prof Faishal.

Members of the public and various stakeholders will be consulted in the coming months to see if a clear and consistent set of cycling rules and norms can be agreed upon, he added.

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Cycling nation? We have some way to go

Danson Cheong The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE - There are few things that can beat the bike ride home from the office.

Riding down near empty roads at night with the cool breeze tickling the nape of your neck, it feels a bit like that first taste of freedom as a kid - when, teetering and tottering on a too-big bike, you turn the corner of the void deck to find a world out of the reach and sight of your parents.

It doesn't matter what kind of rider you are - whether a lycra-clad spandex superhero (that's me), grocery-shopping auntie or just an office worker trying to squeeze in a workout on the way to the office - bikes are a real joy.

Which is why it was great news when National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on his blog last month that the Government wanted to make cycling a viable transport option for short trips.

Finally, I thought, has Singapore's bike revolution begun?

It looks that way. The Land Transport Authority's National Cycling Plan will have a cycling network of 700km ready by 2030, which will include both park connectors and cycling paths in Housing Board towns.

In future, Singaporeans will be able to ride on dedicated bike paths away from traffic to get around the neighbourhood and nearby towns.


There are already about 250km of park connectors under the National Parks Board, with more to be built.

I started riding seven years ago and, since then, cycling has come a long way.

The roads have surely become safer, with police statistics showing the number of cyclist fatalities decreasing even as more people have taken to riding. Last year, 14 cyclists died, more than a third lower than the 22 killed in 2007.

The number injured in accidents also fell by about 8.7 per cent from 391 in 2012 to 357 last year.

But bicycles account for only 1 per cent of trips here, according to the Active Mobility for Creating Healthy Places study released last month.

There are many reasons for this - the hot weather and lack of safe bicycle parking to name two - but safety remains the biggest bugbear.

Personally, it is the driver who speeds up and swerves in to overtake, often passing by with only inches to spare, who really grinds my gears.

That said, there are jerks on both sides and plenty of cyclists run afoul of the rules too.

Just two weeks ago, I saw a cyclist run a traffic light along Loyang Avenue, where there have been cyclist deaths. I told him calmly that he should not have done that, only to have him retort: "I don't care what you think."

These bad eggs give all cyclists a bad name. I asked former national cyclist Kenneth Tan how he deals with riders like those and the 48-year-old, who runs bike shop Cycleworx along Upper Thomson Road, said: "If he wants to kill himself, just let him do that."

That may seem a little extreme, but the point is, being on a bicycle does not mean you get to use the road or footpath with impunity.

Such cyclists deserve to be booked and many have been. In September, The Straits Times reported that the number of summonses issued to cyclists by the Traffic Police has been increasing.

Last year, 1,455 summonses were issued for offences such as riding on footpaths and rash riding. That beats the 1,290 summonses issued in 2012 and 1,238 in 2011.

Two town councils - Tampines and East Coast - have also been issuing fines to reckless riders.

One of the greatest challenges is changing mindsets towards cycling, from those of policymakers to regular Singaporeans, said Dr Hee Limin, director of the Centre for Liveable Cities and co-leader of the Active Mobility report.

"We need to change the paradigm of our city from one that has served us well - with efficient roads using motor vehicles," she said.

To do this, fines and education are only part of the solution. Good cycling infrastructure has to be built to encourage more people to take to two wheels - after all, there is safety in numbers.

Dr Paul Barter, an adjunct associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and a rider himself, said: "Mindsets will follow infrastructure. (Positive) attitudes towards cycling will come later."

Perhaps there is more we can do here.

In 2012, I spent half a year in Rotterdam and, in true Dutch fashion, did everything from training, commuting and running daily errands on two wheels. Bikes were a mainstay on the roads and motorists knew that. It was as near perfect a cycling paradise as could be.

It was the little things that made the difference, like the smooth corners on the fietspad - Dutch for bike path - and dedicated traffic signals for bikes. A cycling city is the sum of all these working parts.
Singapore could easily incorporate ideas like this into its cycling network.

It's not a question any more - more cycling is definitely on the horizon.

The benefits are undeniable. It's cheaper, good for our health and the environment and, perhaps most importantly, more space-efficient than driving.

At the moment, Singapore uses 12 per cent of its land for roads - almost as much as for housing - and we cannot go on building more. The Singapore motorist drives some 1,800km per year, thrice more than New York City drivers, Dr Hee points out.

It's a mind-boggling figure, considering how tiny a nation this is.

So what will the Singapore of the future look like?

Possibly a lot like Tampines - Singapore's first cycling town, the only estate in Singapore where cycling on the footpaths is not illegal, and my home for more than 20 years.

Maybe then, Singapore will join the league of bike capitals in the world, to be rattled off in the same breath as cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Portland.

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Indonesian new minister vows to crack down upon illegal fishing

Andi Abdussalam Antara 3 Nov 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has vowed to step up efforts to curb illegal fishing in Indonesian waters, which has caused losses worth trillions of rupiah to the state and disadvantaged traditional fishermen.

The minister stated that foreign vessels have continued to conduct illegal fishing activities in Indonesian maritime territories such as in the waters of Maluku, Sumatra, and the Indian Ocean. She expressed regret on the rampant illegal fishing practices occurring in Indonesian waters and called on Indonesian fishing businesses to become more self-reliant.

"Do you not want to become independent in your own waters? Why should any foreigner take advantage of it (Indonesias sea resources)," she noted on Sunday.

She had previously pledged to take action against those involved in illegal fishing practices in Indonesian waters. The minister expressed her commitment to crack down upon illegal fishing activities as it harmed the interests and reduced the income of the state.

In a bid to fight this menace and to eliminate instruments disadvantaging the nation, the minister plans to amend regulations in the marine and fisheries sector, among several others.

"I want to revise many ministerial regulations. The president has allowed us to go ahead with the amendments. All can be revised to make it better," Susi Pudjiastuti remarked after a meeting with President Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, last Friday.

She explained that the regulations to undergo revision included the one concerning the loading and unloading of ships at sea, along with changes in the tariff charged for permits given to ships for conducting fishing in Indonesian waters.

The Peoples Coalition for Fishery Justice (Kiara) had earlier urged the marine and fishery minister to revise several regulations that were hindering the development of the marine and fisheries sector.

"Revise the policy that allows foreigners to take control of the coastal areas and small islands," Coalition secretary general Abdul Halim pointed out.

Halim sought for the revision of Ministerial Regulation Number 26 of 2013 on Sea Fishing in order to make it more beneficial for the local fishermen.

In this regard, the minister revealed that President Jokowi had urged her to continue carrying out improvements in the marine affairs and fisheries sector, so that it can reap benefits for the people and reduce losses incurred by the state.

The state has suffered losses from poaching, the abuse of licenses, and policies that benefit large fishing trawlers such as the fuel subsidy offered to vessels with a capacity of over 30 deadweight tonnage.

Besides that, the government is also imposing a moratorium on issuing fishing licenses for large trawlers. She said her ministry would impose a moratorium on the issuance of licenses for large fishing trawlers in 2014.

"I want a moratorium on licenses issued for big fishing trawlers until the end of 2014," she stated at a meeting earlier with members of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"The plan of the minister for marine affairs and fisheries to impose a moratorium must be followed up with efforts to eliminate illegal fishing in the countrys waters," Riza Damanik, the advisory board chairman of the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen Association (KNTI), noted on Sunday.

According to Kiara, the state lost Rp101 trillion to illegal fishing activities between January and August 2014, during which a total of 1.6 million tons were illegally fished from Indonesian waters.

Most of the foreign fishing boats that poached in Indonesian waters came from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, according to Selamet Daroyni of Kiara.

Riza Damanik explained that the crackdown on illegal fishing in Indonesian waters could be carried out by checking the licenses of fishing boats that were previously owned by foreigners.

He said that although they have obtained a license from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, some of the former foreign ships are still being operated by foreign crew.

The other step to curtail illegal fishing in Indonesia waters is to review the deadweight tonnage of the ships to see whether the tonnage complies with that declared in the license.

"From here, under-reported tonnage, the volume of fish caught, and fuel leakage could be recorded," he pointed out.

The government is also planning to lift fuel subsidy for large fishing trawlers with deadweight of over 30 Gross Tonnage (GT).

"It is obvious that the state suffers about Rp11 trillion worth losses," Minister Susi Pudjiastuti remarked.

She explained that the figure was derived from the calculation of 5,329 ships with deadweight of over 30 GT, which had procured licenses from the marine affairs and fisheries ministry.

It is believed that the government spent some Rp11.5 trillion in subsidy on the fishery industry, while its non-tax revenues from the ships was only some Rp300 billion.

Therefore, according to the minister, revenues and spending on the subsidy for them were not balanced.

She said she had passed an instruction to revise the fuel subsidy regulation on fishing vessels to restore the balance. The state should have much larger revenue in the form of taxes from the fishing vessels that use subsidized fuel in Indonesia.

However, the policy of lifting fuel oil subsidy should not be imposed on ships with deadweight of less than 30 GT as small fishermen, who are often marginalized, so far, use ships with a tonnage size below 30 GT.

"The government may not eliminate fuel subsidy for small fishermen," Riza Damanik reported on Sunday.

He noted that his side supported the governments plan to lift the subsidy for large fishing trawlers with a deadweight tonnage of over 30 GT. Yet, he did not agree with it if the subsidy for ships below 30 GT, which were often used by small or traditional fishermen, was also abolished.

In the meantime, Secretary General of Kiara Abdul Halim has urged the government to improve the welfare of fishermen.

"Efforts to improve their prosperity must be maximized," he noted.

He pointed that there is bound to be increased optimism if the Coordinating Minister for Maritime affairs Indroyono Susilo and the Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti worked for the welfare of the fishermen.

Abdul Halim expressed hope that the two ministers will not be swayed by foreign interests. Over the past decade, the interests of the nation had often been overlooked in favor of foreign parties.

"Our main concern is that if the officials fail to differentiate between the interests of the nation and their personal interests, and more importantly, the interests of foreigners," Abdul Halim added.

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Indonesia: For REDD+ Chief, a Chance to Catch Up on Pledges

‘Great’ SBY: Senior official seethes at how long it took the previous president, notorious for his indecisiveness, to name board members for the agency in charge of administering $1 billion in deforestation-slowing programs

By Adelia Anjani Putri Jakarta Globe 4 Nov 14;

Yogyakarta. When Indonesia signed a $1 billion deal with Norway in 2010 on a program to halt deforestation, then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono set up a task force to oversee the program’s initiatives for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD+.

Since then, the task force has become the main national institution to handle all REDD+ related affairs in an attempt slow the world-leading rate at which Indonesia is losing its forests.

The Jakarta Globe’s Adelia Anjani Putri spoke with Heru Prasetyo, chairman of the REDD+ Management Agency, or BP REDD+, to discuss the programs under his office’s supervision and public awareness of forestry issues, during a recent UN-sponsored workshop on REDD+ in Yogyakarta.

Tell us about the formation of the REDD+ Management Agency.

After the letter of intent was signed between the Indonesian and Norwegian governments on May 26, 2010, the government immediately formed a task force. While waiting for the presidential decree for the management agency’s formation, all preparation was delegated to the coordinating minister for the economy, Hatta Rajasa; the National Development Planning Agency [Bappenas]; and the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight [UKP4]. The UKP4 worked on the agency’s structure, strategy and budget to later give to Bappenas. The Forestry Ministry then chose a pilot province.

To realize the pilot program, Bappenas had to conduct an audit of the Forestry Ministry, which resulted in an analysis of the ministry’s problems in managing forest fires and land protection — inevitably sparking the ministry’s anger. The ministry then did its own analysis and strategy.

Meanwhile, the presidential order was issued in September 2010 and Norway was asking where to send the funds.

The now-legal task force compiled the strategies drawn up by Bappenas and the Forestry Ministry and turned them into one comprehensive plan. The strategy was completed in mid-2012 and proposed to President Yudhoyono by the end of the year. After eight months of asking for approval from the relevant ministries, he finally approved the agency’s structure and strategy by issuing another presidential regulation in August 2013.

The process was delayed for months as President Yudhoyono took three months to decide who would be the agency’s chief. The agency was officially launched in January 2014. I proposed four names to the president to be my deputies, and again he only officially approved the names by the end of May. It took almost a year from the agency formation to decide the board. That shows how “great” our government was.

The ministries also had their own egos, making it difficult for them to work together on a new approach. The condition was also worsened by the conflicting regulations issued by each ministry.

Given those problems, how do you see the merger of the forestry and environment ministries by President Joko Widodo, and how will that affect REDD+ projects?

Notwithstanding the merger, there will always be difficulties when it comes to the implementation. The merger will help simplify the process in the field but it might create an internal conflict inside the ministry. I think as long as they have a good spirit and intention, the whole process can be done much faster.

The challenge now lies in the leader’s ability to combine the two ministries. It requires a clear direction and a firm leader with the right attitude and ability. The success of Siti Nurbaya [as minister] will be seen in her ability to handle the merger well, and it won’t be easy.

BP REDD+ is ready to provide assistance and consultation based on previous efforts of making several institutions work together and cases done before.

What is public awareness like toward the REDD+ program? Do people know about it? Do the relevant public officials at least know about it?

Some know about the project and admit it, some choose to not admit that they don’t know about it. I think when it comes to related officials in the previous cabinet — the Forestry Ministry, the State Land Agency [BPN], the Environment Ministry, Bappenas, etcetera — they had to have known about the REDD+ project because we came and talked to them. Our previous task force handling the program even consisted of people from those institutions.

However, whether the program becomes an important issue and a priority is another thing. Lately we found that maybe the officials don’t know much about REDD+ as a whole thing but rather from its projects and plans, i.e. the handling of forest fires, the protection of indigenous peoples.

The actors involved in the program know about REDD+ but the not all of those who are in charge of making the policies aware about it. The main reason is that they know that following the REDD+ plan means that they cannot go through with their business-as-usual program, which is seen by them as more important. There’s a reluctance from them to support REDD+.

Does the REDD+ approach elicit a reaction that it’s merely a trick by developed countries to throw cash to developing countries and let them deal with the climate change problem?

People can always come up with reasons when it comes to avoiding the need to change their habits, including the false sense of nationalism in this case. Even in developed countries there are people who think that climate change is a myth. This is not a matter of developing or developed countries, it’s a universal problem that forces everyone to change, and change is never simple and easy to accept.

In developing countries, for instance, people reject the idea of climate change not because they feel that the idea is imposed by other countries but rather because accepting it means that they have to do something about it, including changing their lifestyle — something that even their own governments can’t even tell them to do.

Developing countries blame their developed counterparts for their wasteful lifestyles in worsening climate change, and thus become reluctant to improve the condition. On the other hand, the developed countries see that the developing ones aren’t willing to do their best in battling climate change and decide to slow down their funding assistance for forestry programs. The vicious cycle continues as the developing countries decline to save their environment as there is no assistance coming and they can’t afford to undermine their economic growth.

Beside the policy change, does REDD+ have grass-root programs to directly touch the people?

We do. Starting from our pilot province, Central Kalimantan, we’ve set up a green village and green school program. We’ve also trained people to change their ways of planting. We’ve done some activities, even though those activities don’t always reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions directly, but we are preparing the people to change their lifestyle to reduce emissions.

Do the programs administered by BP REDD+ have sound legal footing?

As you know, REDD+ comprises complex matters. It needs a law on indigenous land ownership; funding unbounded to bureaucracy; and a worldwide accepted carbon-counting system. All these require their own legal basis, but that’s not REDD+ because the issues stand by themselves. We need legality for each of the elements to later integrate them in a comprehensive program. It would be really useful if the comprehensive program has its own law; but even if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter as the issues already have their own legality.

The letter of intent initially stated the program would be done in 2013, but now BP REDD+ says it’s been delayed to 2020. What happened?

Those who signed the LOI — from the Forestry Ministry, the presidential adviser on climate change — didn’t know the exact conditions in the field.

For indigenous people and land, for instance, they have a different standing. The Forestry Ministry initially thought that the issue was non-existent and every problem could be solved with a top-down approach. Many things, including the effects of political reform and regional autonomy, weren’t considered when they signed the agreement. That’s how we see it.

For Norway, which stands removed from the situation on the ground here, the faster [emissions can be reduced], the better. It’s good that Norway chose this hands-off approach.

We at BP REDD+ conducted field trips to see the situation. Who would’ve known that the Dayak people wanted the government not to stop [oil palm planter] Sinar Mas’s move to buy their land from them? I went to Badau in West Kalimantan and met the tribal chiefs. Nine out of 10 wanted the central government to stay away from the plan. I met the one chief who rejected the idea and found out that Sinar Mas promised to buy the land for only Rp 250,000 [$20.60] per hectare and let them work in the plantation for Rp 25,000 a month plus a commission from the harvest. He blamed the government for not giving them a decent living. He instead chose to guard his territory so his descendants can still be master of an area full of trees.

It’s sad to see the poor trading their land just so they can fulfill their basic needs. That’s the kind of thing we can only find through thorough field trips and interviews. Norway didn’t know about it, and neither did the ministry people.

The LOI stated that the program would be done by 2013. We came to the signees and show them the reality and problems of forest restoration, revitalization and forestry policy changes. We now have a deal on how to handle the problems and the time needed to do so.

Q: How do you see the new government’s commitment to environmentally responsible development?

Let’s wait. We also have to influence them. There are three possibilities: accept it, reject it, or stay unaware of the importance of environmentally responsible development. That’s why we need to influence them so the positive goal can be chosen. Knowledge and understanding are the keys to get their support. Proper information is needed to get desirable policies.

We’ve met with the new ministers before they were sworn in as many of them worked for the government before and I know them personally. We’re not starting from scratch. We’ve approached and informed them, even though they haven’t made the programs.

Can Indonesia achieve a balance between environmental stewardship and economic growth?

It’s hard, but it’s doable. The first thing we have to do is to admit that it is indeed hard. People may see it as a trade-off, but only on a short-term view basis. It will be painful, especially for those involved in the extractives industry, to stop doing what they’re doing now and try to replace it with a better alternative. That’s where the government comes in with subsidies and aid.

A green economy requires the idea to be well received and then applied; the wider public must join the movement. We need to cut the fuel subsidy, use renewable energy, take a non-deforestation approach. We’ve started to go in that direction, so I would say that Indonesia has started to nurture a green economy. Yes, we can do it, but it’s not going to be easy.

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Indonesia: 'Great Garuda' wall to save Jakarta from rising sea level

Thomas Latschan/an DW 3 Nov 14;

A plan to build a billion-dollar dam to stop Indonesia's capital Jakarta from sinking into the sea has been launched. The project will take 30 years to complete, and create housing and jobs for almost a million people.

The Garuda is a powerful, mythical creature, and the emblem of the Republic of Indonesia. It originally comes from an Indian myth, in which the creature – half-man, half-eagle - steals an elixir from the gods that promises immortality. The Jakarta metropolis is now trying to ensure its own future, by building the "Great Garuda" – a 35-kilometer-long protective wall in the shape of its namesake. The wall is placed on the country's coastline a few kilometers out to sea, designed to protect Indonesia's capital from the rising sea level.

Sinking metropolis, rising sea

The situation for the bustling metropolis is alarming. Built on a former swamp, Jakarta is serviced by drains largely left over from the Dutch colonial area. There is virtually no functioning waste disposal system, and clean water is in constant demand. So much groundwater is pumped into the city that the soil level sinks by about seven centimeters per year – in some districts this doubles to 14 centimeters. Meanwhile, ongoing climate change is seeing sea levels rise around the world. "This combination means that in 10 to 15 years large parts of Indonesia will be underwater," says Victor Coenen, team leader with Dutch construction company Witteveen + Bos' Jakarta office, who is the main contractor on the construction of the wall. At least half a million people will be directly affected by the wall's construction.

Now, in a joint initiative between the Indonesian and Dutch governments, a rescue plan has been formulated – one that will radically change the entire city's coastline. Behind the gigantic protective wall several lagoons will be built, acting as catchments for the thirteen rivers that flow into the Java Sea, while hopefully also helping to stop the annual flooding of parts of the capital during the rainy season. "All these rivers are so dirty we thought we should try tackle this problem at the same time," Coenen told DW. So that the lagoons don't also become polluted, sewage and water treatment plants, as well as garbage disposal infrastructure, will be built throughout the city. In addition, the dam is equipped with large pumping stations, helping to provide drinking water for the city's residents.

Integrated into the cityscape

During the project's implementation, both governments will rely on the expertise of several Dutch construction companies who already have experience with similar projects along the Dutch coast – though not on a scale like this. "Various components of this plan have already been implemented elsewhere in the world," says Coenen, referring, for instance, to the 30 kilometer-long Afsluitdijk, which has separated the IJssel River from the North Sea in his homeland since the 1930s. "What has not been done," the engineer continued, "is to completely integrate such a mammoth dam into a cityscape. There we are definitely entering uncharted territory."

Furthermore, behind the dam, on several artificially- created islands, a whole new neighborhood will rise, with housing for around 300,000 people and 600,000 new jobs. For this to happen the current coastline will have to be extended seven kilometers out into the sea. "This housing is desperately needed for a rapidly expanding Jakarta," says Coenen. "At the same time, the wall will have to be integrated into the new coastline. The difficulty lies in running the wall through the city, so that's it not easily recognisable."

A mammoth task

The "Great Garuda" wall in Jakarta is truly a mammoth project. It will cost up to 40 million US-dollars to construct, and is estimated to take around 35 years to complete. "It will be one of the three largest dams ever built in the world," says Victor Coenen. But he is confident the purely technical side at least will not be too problematic. "Many construction companies can handle a project like this. They have already proven they can do it."

More difficult is the financing, and the management of the project, which the Indonesian government is looking after. "If you just build a dam, that's no problem. Just sign a contract with a building contractor, you pay, and he delivers," said Coenen. "But if you are essentially building an entire new city, then there are so many contractors that it can be almost impossible to keep all the finances under control" – especially in a country like Indonesia, where rampant corruption remains a major problem.
"Large projects always involve large risks," said Coenen. But Jakarta is running out of time, and the engineer believes in the success of the project, even if he will not be in office when it is completed. By 2030 the dam will be standing, "but only in the middle of the century," said Coenen, "will the entire project be completed." This means it could take another 40 years for Garuda to lay his protective wings around Indonesia's capital.

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Climate change fight affordable, cut emissions to zero by 2100: U.N.

Author: Alister Doyle PlanetArk 3 nov 14;

Governments can keep climate change in check at manageable costs but will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2100 to limit risks of irreversible damage, a U.N. report said on Sunday.

The 40-page synthesis, summing up 5,000 pages of work by 800 scientists already published since September 2013, said global warming was now causing more heat extremes, downpours, acidifying the oceans and pushing up sea levels.

"Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act, time is not on our side," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in presenting the report in Copenhagen that is meant to guide global climate policy-making.

With fast action, climate change could be kept in check at manageable costs, he said, referring to a U.N. goal of limiting average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times. Temperatures are already up 0.85 C (1.4F).

The study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), approved by more than 120 governments, will be the main handbook for negotiators of a U.N. deal to combat global warming due at a summit in Paris in December 2015.

To get a good chance of staying below 2C, the report's scenarios show that world emissions would have to fall by between 40 and 70 percent by 2050 from current levels and to "near zero or below in 2100".

Below zero would require extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - for instance by planting forests that soak up carbon as they grow or by burying emissions from power plants that burn wood or other biomass.


To cut emissions, the report points to options including energy efficiency, renewable energies from wind to solar power, nuclear energy or coal-fired power plants where carbon dioxide is stripped from the exhaust fumes and buried underground.

But carbon capture and storage (CCS) is expensive and little tested. Last month, Canada's Saskatchewan Power opened the world's first big CCS unit at a coal-fired power plant after a C$1.35 billion ($1.21 billion) retrofit.

"With CCS it's entirely possible that fossil fuels can be used on a large scale," IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said. In most scenarios, the report says "fossil fuel power generation without CCS is phased out almost entirely by 2100".

Without extra efforts to cut emissions, "warming by the end of the 21st century will bring high risks of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally," the IPCC said.

"Irreversible" could mean, for instance, a runaway melt of Greenland's vast ice sheets that could swamp coastal regions and cities or disruptions to monsoons vital for growing food.

"The cost of inaction will be horrendously higher than the cost of action," Pachauri said.

Deep cuts in emissions would reduce global growth in consumption of goods and services, the economic yardstick used by the IPCC, by just 0.06 percentage point a year below annual projected growth of 1.6 to 3.0 percent, it said.

So far, major emitters are far from curbs on emissions on a scale outlined by the IPCC. China, the United States and the European Union are top emitters.

John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, said the report was "yet another wake-up call to the global community that we must act together swiftly and aggressively in order to stem climate change."

"We must safeguard the world for future generations by striking a new climate deal in Paris next year," British Secretary of State for Climate and Energy Ed Davey said.

Environmental groups welcomed the report, including its focus on zero emissions. "This is no longer about dividing up the pie. You need to get to zero. At some stage there is no pie left for anyone," said Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace.

The report also says that it is at least 95 percent sure that manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, rather than natural variations in the climate, are the main cause of warming since 1950, up from 90 percent in a previous assessment in 2007.

(editing by Ralph Boulton)

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