Why is dolphin not in the pink of health?

DANIEL NG PENG KEAT Today Online 4 Nov 14;

It is sad that one of the pink Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins at Underwater World Singapore is suffering from skin cancer. (“UWS rebuts wildlife group’s report on health, treatment of dolphins”; Oct 28)

While the cancer is non-contagious, it is less clear how malignant it is and what the prognosis is. One may also ask if adequate care had been undertaken before venturing to have these marine mammals at UWS.

Online resources indicate that in their natural habitat, these dolphins typically swim in coastal waters at an average depth of 20m and feed close to the ocean floor. These natural conditions and practices are unlikely to be mimicked successfully in captivity. Coupled with shows and training sessions taking place under the sun, could the environment have increased their risk of developing skin cancer?

Biologically, pink dolphins already appear vulnerable to damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun since they have little to no pigmentation, in contrast to their grey counterparts.

This risk of skin cancer might have been mitigated if the dolphins swam in deeper water as in their natural habitat, since water acts as a natural block to harmful UV radiation.

The UWS and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority should learn from this unfortunate episode and take substantial steps towards greater stewardship over these endangered creatures by enhancing their work, living and after-care conditions.

See also
Dolphin Project Vet: Pink dolphin's skin cancer 'very advanced'

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Billion-dollar contract awarded as Changi starts expansion works

Karamjit Kaur The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Nov 14;

It will cost more than a billion dollars to clear the land and strengthen the soil before Changi Airport's Terminal 5 (T5) and third runway can be built, underlining the scale and complexity of a project to boost Changi's competitiveness.

A $1.1 billion contract - believed to be the largest so far for the airport project - has been awarded to a team comprising Japanese construction firm Penta-Ocean, which specialises in marine works and land reclamation, and Singapore's Koon Construction and Transport.

A spokesman for the Transport Ministry told The Straits Times that the works to be carried out "are complex in nature and in more than 70 phases across more than 1,000ha" - just slightly smaller than the airport's current premises.

The works will be carried out over the next few years, she said.

T5, which will be built on reclaimed land, will be Changi's biggest. To be completed in the middle of the next decade, T5 will be able to process up to 50 million passengers a year - more than T2 and T3 put together.

The project - the biggest airport works since the move from Paya Lebar Airport to Changi in 1981 - aims to cement Changi Airport's position as the region's premier airport and hub.

From 66 million now, Changi will be able to handle up to 85 million passengers by 2018, when T4 is ready and T1 is expanded. By the time T5 starts operating, Changi's annual capacity will hit 135 million passengers.

Besides a new mega terminal, a third runway is also planned.

An existing landing strip at the site, currently used for military flights, will be strengthened and lengthened, after which it will be linked to the existing two runways via 40km of taxiways.

There are also plans to build aircraft maintenance and repair facilities, as well as hotels and offices, at the new site.

To integrate the operations of the existing airport and future terminal, work has already started on a new road to replace Changi Coast Road, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said.

In anticipation of higher traffic in the future, work is also being done to expand Tanah Merah Coast Road, a spokesman said.

This will also ensure smooth traffic flow during the construction phase, when trucks and other heavy vehicles travel to and from the site, he said.

The two road contracts - worth a total of about $81 million - were awarded in April, LTA said, and works are expected to be done by the middle of 2017.

So far, the works have not led to any complaints from members, said Mr Kok Min Yee, general manager of Tanah Merah Country Club in the area. If traffic is affected, he said the club would "certainly take it up" with LTA.

$1.1b to prep land for T5 and runway
Karamjit Kaur MyPaper AsiaOne 3 Nov 14;

It will cost more than a billion dollars to clear the land and strengthen the soil before Changi Airport's Terminal 5 and third runway can be built, underlining the scale and complexity of a project to boost Changi's competitiveness.

A $1.1 billion contract - believed to be the largest so far for the airport project - has been awarded to a team comprising Japanese construction firm Penta-Ocean, which specialises in marine works and land reclamation, and Singapore's Koon Construction and Transport.

A spokesman for the Transport Ministry told The Straits Times that the works to be carried out "are complex in nature and in more than 70 phases across more than 1,000ha" - just slightly smaller than the airport's current premises.

The works will be carried out over the next few years, she said.

T5, which will be built on reclaimed land, will be Changi's biggest. To be completed in the middle of the next decade, T5 will be able to process up to 50 million passengers a year - more than T2 and T3 put together.

The project - the biggest airport works since the move from Paya Lebar Airport to Changi in 1981 - aims to cement Changi Airport's position as the region's premier airport and hub.

From 66 million passengers now, Changi will be able to handle up to 85 million by 2018, when T4 is ready and T1 is expanded. By the time T5 starts operating, Changi's annual capacity will hit 135 million passengers.

Besides a new mega terminal, a third runway is also planned.

An existing landing strip at the site, currently used for military flights, will be strengthened and lengthened, after which it will be linked to the existing two runways via 40km of taxiways.

There are also plans to build aircraft maintenance and repair facilities, as well as hotels and offices, at the new site.

To integrate the operations of the existing airport and future terminal, work has already started on a new road to replace Changi Coast Road, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said.

In anticipation of higher traffic in the future, work is also being done to expand Tanah Merah Coast Road, a spokesman said.

This will also ensure smooth traffic flow during the construction phase, when trucks and other heavy vehicles travel to and from the site, he said.

The two road contracts - worth a total of about $81 million - were awarded in April, LTA said, and the works are expected to be done by the middle of 2017.

Kok Min Yee, general manager of Tanah Merah Country Club said: "So far, the works have not led to any complaints from members."

If traffic is affected, the club would "certainly take it up" with LTA, he said.

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Energy and chemicals sector to get productivity boost: Tharman

LEE YEN NEE Today Online 4 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE – The Government is working with Process Construction and Maintenance (PCM) players to improve productivity in this industry that supports the growth of the key energy and chemicals sector, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam said today (Nov 4).

Speaking at the opening of a new plant by German specialty chemicals company Evonik, the minister said six work groups have been set up to develop “practical and doable steps to take productivity forward”.

“The PCM sector has grown in random with our chemicals industry, and has developed a strong track record in building and delivering world-class plants, suck as Evonik’s methionine facility - on cost and safely,” Mr Tharman said.

“But this is a continuing journey for PCM players. We will continue to have tight limits on the supply of both land and labour. The PCM sector, like the rest of the economy, will have to upgrade management practices, mechanism and redesign processes, and invest in workers’ skills.”

Among the initiatives that will be undertaken is the launch of an aggregated data sharing portal to reduce overlaps in project scheduling among companies, which will help to smooth demand for manpower and allow companies to better plan their projects.

There are also plans to cater land for a PCM dormitory near Jurong Island to reduce traveling time for workers to get to their work sites.

S$807m chemical production complex opens on Jurong Island
Dylan Loh Channel NewsAsia 4 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: Specialty chemicals firm Evonik on Tuesday (Nov 4) opened its €500 million (S$807 million) production complex on Singapore's Jurong Island - the German company's largest investment in a single chemical project.

The company's first methionine plant in Asia will make the amino acid used as an ingredient in animal feed. The complex has an annual capacity of 150,000 metric tonnes, bringing Evonik's methionine production ability worldwide to 580,000 metric tonnes. It will also boost supply security for the firm's customers in Asia, due to strong consumption patterns for meat, eggs and milk in Asia.

Before the launch of the Singapore plant, methionine was typically shipped from the west, which took about two to three weeks.


Asia accounts for 20 per cent of Evonik's sales, which totalled S$48.4 billion in 2013. As a major specialty chemicals player, it wants to raise its sales to 30 per cent by 2020 - a target which complements Singapore's plans for the industry.

"We are focused on growing our specialty chemicals sector," said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who officially opened the complex on Tuesday.

He added: "It is a sector that is going to do well, because Asia is transforming, and no matter how you look at this transformation in Asia, it involves almost invisibly, the use of specialty chemicals - the materials that are part and parcel of everyday living, particularly middle-class living."


Two hundred jobs will be created for skilled workers at the new plant. Evonik Industries' chairman of the Executive Board, Klaus Engel, said that "80 to 90 per cent will be locals".

He noted: "We have started with more expatriates, and that is usual in such a project, but we will reduce the number of expats over time."

Singapore has attracted more than S$2 billion of fixed asset investments within the specialty chemicals sector in the past two years. Over this period, more than 1,000 skilled jobs were created, most of which were filled by Singaporeans.


Evonik said Singapore's business-friendly and stable environment, coupled with its excellent logistics infrastructure, were among the reasons why it chose to site the investment in the country.

The building of the Evonik plant is a boost to the Process Construction and Maintenance sector, which delivers infrastructure for energy and chemicals firms. The Process Construction and Maintenance sector has been collaborating with the Government to introduce initiatives to raise productivity, which include building a dormitory near Jurong Island to reduce travelling time for workers so that they can focus on productivity efforts.

A data sharing portal is also in the pipeline to reduce overlaps in project scheduling among companies.

- CNA/av/ek

Sembcorp opens new electricity and steam plant
Melissa Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Nov 14;
Sembcorp Industries opened a $635 million co-generation plant on Jurong Island on Friday, its second in Singapore.

The plant, which began operating at the start of last month, generates electricity for the national grid and produces steam for industrial companies on Jurong Island, Sembcorp said in a press release.

The company also opened a new technology and innovation centre near the plant, which it said was for Sembcorp researchers and engineers to develop and test new technologies.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said at the opening ceremony on Jurong Island that Sembcorp's new plant "will further boost the capacity and reliability of Singapore's power and steam supply".

"It is important for the public and private sectors to continue to work together to ensure that the energy sector keeps pace with our growing needs," said Mr Iswaran, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry.

Mr Tang Kin Fei, group president and chief executive of Sembcorp, said at the ceremony that the plant, called Sembcorp Cogen @ Banyan, is a gas-fired co-generation plant that can supply 400MW of power and 200 tonnes per hour of process steam.

This facility increases Sembcorp's installed power capacity in Singapore by 50 per cent to 1,215MW, he added.

Mr Tang said the new technology and innovation centre would have a system that allows the firm to manage its energy and water facilities in 50 locations around the world from Singapore.

"It will put Sembcorp at the forefront of using predictive analytics in the operation of utility plants."

Mr Iswaran said that Sembcorp and the local energy market regulator would launch a $10 million partnership to encourage the commercialisation of energy research.

More details of Sembcorp's partnership with the Energy Market Authority will be released later, he said.

Sembcorp shares gained seven cents to close at $4.87 yesterday.

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Proposed animal welfare Bill strikes balance between diverse views: Yeo Guat Kwang

Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The Animal and Birds (Amendment) Bill, which aims to strengthen animal welfare legislation in Singapore, was read for the second time in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 4). Yeo Guat Kwang, who chairs the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, spelt out details of the Private Member's Bill after consultations with various stakeholders.

He said that the recommendations put forth by the committee sought to strike a balance between diverse views on animal welfare, to ensure a harmonious living environment for animals, animal lovers and those who may not be comfortable with animals.

Mr Yeo said there is a need to strengthen the legislation as society becomes increasingly aware and concerned about animal welfare issues. The number of animal welfare cases has been rising, with a total of over 1,000 cases received annually.

The Bill also serves to strengthen existing legislation which makes it difficult to take action without strong evidence of cruelty and witnesses who are willing to come forward to testify in court.

A new Section 41C has also been proposed to place legal responsibility on owners and persons in charge of animals to provide proper care for them. The proposed definition of a person in charge will include a person who has the animal in that person's possession, custody or control, or under that person's care or supervision, whether permanently or on a temporary basis.

The definition of owners would include persons in charge. These include pet owners, as well as those working with animals and handling animals in the course of their work - for instance, pet industry workers.

The duty of care would also extend to include those who do not own the animals but care for them in a shelter or in their homes, such as those looking after the pets of family members or friends. The Bill also requires employees of animal-related businesses to be properly trained and not just staff in pet shops.

An increase in penalties was also proposed - with the maximum penalties of S$20,000 for non-cruelty offences and S$30,000 for cruelty offences and a possible jail term of up to two or three years. Another recommendation is giving enhanced powers to enforcement officers to conduct investigations and gather evidence.

Members of the House will debate the Bill on Wednesday.

- CNA/xy

More teeth for law to protect animals
Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Nov 14;

PET-RELATED businesses must ensure their staff are trained to handle animals, while pet owners have been put on notice that they cannot neglect their animals. Owners must ensure their pets are provided with enough suitable food and water, and are not treated or confined in a way that would cause them pain.

These are among the requirements spelt out in changes to the existing animal welfare law that Parliament approved yesterday.

The changes to the Animals and Birds Act, which won support from all six MPs who spoke on it, include enhanced penalties.

For instance, business owners who do not provide training for staff who handle animals can be fined up to $5,000, face a maximum jail term of six months, or both. They can also be banned from doing business for up to a year.

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC), who lent his support to the changes, said: "The amendments are timely and I am sure the updated legislation, backed by rigorous enforcement, will enable us to be better stewards and custodians of our fellow creatures."

Overall, the amendments make those in charge of animals - such as pet owners, shelters, fosterers and stores - more accountable for the welfare of animals.

As Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC) put it, a key idea has been to eventually move from a reactive regime reliant on penalties and punishment to a proactive system which focuses on getting people to do the right thing.
Mr Yeo, who chaired the Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee that pushed for changes to the law, pointed to elements that have now been put in place: LThe National Development Minister will be empowered to make training mandatory for anyone in a business who handles animals for a living;

=The authorities can issue codes and set standards for the proper care of animals;

=The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) can direct a person to take corrective action if he is found to have taken inadequate care of animals under his charge;

=Courts can disqualify a person from owning an animal or from working with animals.

Just as Mr Yeo acknowledged that the law was not a "magic bullet", MPs who lauded the changes also suggested ways that it can continue to be strengthened.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) said animal abusers should be given counselling and education to reduce the likelihood of their being repeat offenders. Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) had recommendations for improving the pet licensing process, to reduce cases of abandonment.

Speaking during the debate, Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee said the AVA will review rules on dog licensing to see if owners should inform the AVA when there is a change of ownership and provide details of the new owners.

He said a society's standards of animal welfare reflected its maturity and compassion, and also made the point that there were emotive and varied views on animal welfare which the Government has to balance in its management of animals, as well as when safeguarding public safety and health.

Mr Yeo indicated as much, saying when wrapping up the debate that animal welfare was a shared and collective responsibility among all parties.

Key changes

ANIMAL handlers, those who foster and care for pets temporarily, as well as owners are legally responsible for providing proper care for animals.

- New codes of animal welfare spell out what constitutes proper care. Failure to abide by them can be used as evidence to prosecute offenders.

- Both individuals and businesses that commit acts of cruelty or fail to provide duty of care will face tiered and higher penalties. Repeat offenders will face harsher punishments.

- Staff working with animals in relevant businesses must be trained in animal care and handling. A fine, jail term, or both will be meted out if this is not complied with. There will also be a temporary ban on the business.

- The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will have more enforcement powers like issuing written directives to owners. Its officers can take pictures, audio and video recordings for evidence.

Pre-sale screenings for pet owners should not be conducted by pet sellers: Baey
Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 5), more than two years after a committee was set up to look into strengthening legislation on animal welfare.

The National Development Ministry said the recommendations aim to strike a balance between enhancing animal welfare and addressing the community's concerns.

Said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee: "The law is just an enabler to set boundaries and strengthen powers. What is more important is for everyone to play his or her role. What we need is to cultivate a shared ethos of animal welfare, a sense of realism on the trade-offs involved, and a willingness to compromise and collaborate with one another despite our diverse perspectives."

While speaking in support of the Bill, several Members of Parliament (MPs) also raised various concerns ranging from pre-screenings of pet owners to granting dog licences.

Pre-sale screenings for pet owners should be conducted by a neutral party such the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) or an animal welfare group - rather than pet sellers who have vested interests in ensuring successful transactions, said MP for Tampines GRC Baey Yam Keng.

Pre-sale screenings began in January this year, and the process includes questions about the potential buyers’ pet ownership history and whether he or she has the time and resources to care for the new pet.

“This pre-sale screening is certainly a step in the right direction," said Mr Baey. "Potential owners are prompted to think more deeply and carefully before buying and this would help to reduce impulse buying or adoption.”

But the screenings could be made more stringent, he said. “Getting pet owner certifications from independent third parties sounds inconvenient. However, compared to putting down thousands of animals every year, especially highly-cognisant ones such as dogs and cats, additional red tape is definitely the lesser evil."

He also argued for stricter limits on the number of pets sold and the number of places that sell pets, as well more stringent requirements to ensure the health of animals being bred or imported for sale.

“Sellers should be required to be more transparent about the lineage of their animals and be required to offer animals suited to our warm and humid tropical climate and dense, built-up environment," he said. "In recent years, there have been a number of mass adoption exercises due to pet farms closing down or not being able to sell their ‘excess stock’. There have also been cases of poor breeding practices leading to genetic health problems."

He noted: "Many animals which cannot find homes or which suffer from health problems have to be put down. Such tragic outcomes could have been prevented if we have more stringent measures in place upstream.”


Also speaking on the Bill was MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Gan Thiam Poh, who suggested that the size of a pet-owner’s house and the number of people living there are factors that should be taken into consideration by authorities when granting dog licences. Current regulations are based on whether the pet-owner lives in an HDB flat or on private property.

Mr Gan, who is also a member of the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, pointed out that regulations now stipulate that those living in an HDB flat can only have one dog of an approved breed, while those who live in a private property can have three dogs.

However, he said that a couple “can live quite comfortably with a chihuahua and a toy poodle in a four-room flat”, while some private property units allowed to house three dogs can be smaller than certain HDB flats.

Mr Gan also asked for updates on a pilot project to assess the feasibility of keeping cats in HDB flats and more stringent measures to compel owners of noisy dogs to get their pets trained.

He also said those interested in keeping cats feel that the animals "can be confined without problems by fencing their windows and doors with netting", and "can also be toilet-trained and their caterwauling can be prevented by sterilisation".


MP for Marine Parade GRC Tin Pei Ling spoke about the issue of pet abandonment and how current practices make it difficult to apprehend the culprit.

"Abandonment is currently recognised as an offence only if the owner confesses - which I am highly doubtful of because whoever is guilty, I do not think the person will confess," she said. "Or if the act of abandoning the pet was caught on camera - which is challenging as well - because the guilty owner will usually do so very discreetly. And even if not so discreetly, who among the unsuspecting passers-by will stand by with a camera and is prescient enough to have a camera ready and film the act of abandonment?"

Ms Tin also said that currently, there is no obligation for the owner who wishes to give his pet away to ensure that the next owner registers himself with the AVA. She suggested that pet owners must ensure that the next owner is registered within a stipulated time-frame.

- CNA/xy

MPs want stricter rules for sale of animals
SIAU MING EN Today Online 6 nov 14;

SINGAPORE — While the proposed amendments to the laws governing animal welfare were passed in Parliament yesterday, lawmakers also raised issues that were not covered by the legislation, such as the sale of animals.

During the debate on the Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill, Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) urged the Ministry of National Development to limit the number of pet farms and stores as well as the number of animals being sold, given the “mass adoption exercises” that have emerged in recent years when pet farms closed down or were unable to sell their “excess stock”.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) suggested improving the traceability of pets, such as requiring subsequent pet owners to register themselves with the authorities, while Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) raised concerns about additional costs for smaller pet-related businesses under the new laws.

Responding to the issues raised, Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee noted the need to strike a balance amid the varied views on animal issues, with some advocating stricter laws to raise animal welfare standards, while others are concerned animals could be a public nuisance.

Echoing the views of Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who is also chairman of the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, Mr Lee said the aim of the amended laws was to take a responsive and preventive approach to animal welfare and to nip problems in the bud.

First tabled as a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament last month, the amended laws will include tiered penalties for acts of cruelty and neglect to animals.

Repeat offenders of animal cruelty can be fined up to S$30,000 and/or sentenced to a three-year jail term, while animal-related businesses can be fined up to S$100,000 and/or sentenced to a three-year jail term.

Repeat offenders who fail to provide reasonable care can be fined up to S$20,000 and/or sentenced to a two-year jail term.

Animal-related businesses can be fined up to S$100,000 and/or sentenced to a three-year jail term.

Also, staff working with animals in animal-related businesses will now have to be trained and certified in animal care and handling.

The amended Act will also adopt a code to set the standards for animal welfare, while enforcement powers will be enhanced, where the authorities can issue directives to require an individual to improve the care of an animal.

Acknowledging Ms Tin’s concerns, Mr Lee said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will be reviewing its rules on dog licensing to explore whether owners must inform it of changes in ownership.

Responding to Mr Baey’s calls to limit the sale of animals, Mr Yeo said while many suggestions have been considered — such as introducing the concept of a Certificate of Entitlement for pet ownership — the setting of a threshold for the supply of pets is “not the right approach” and runs the risk of driving underground pet sales and breeding.

“The way to go is to increase public and pet ownership education, raise the standards in the industry and allow the market to sort it out by itself,” he added.

Parliament: protecting animals is 'a shared social duty'
Audrey Tan and Rachel Au-yong The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Nov 14;

Protecting the welfare of animals must involve more than just the Government, Parliament has been told.

The pet industry, pet owners and animal welfare groups will also play a role in safeguarding this, if proposals to reinforce animal welfare are passed in Parliament today.

Opening the debate on the Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill in Parliament yesterday was Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who chaired the Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee pushing for the changes.

"Much emphasis is placed on the Government to be the sole protector of animal welfare, when it should really be a shared social responsibility," he said.

The proposed amendments to the Act will try to "instil responsible and appropriate behaviour in all stakeholders who play a part in an animal's life cycle", Mr Yeo added.

These stakeholders will include people who work with animals, such as pet groomers and trainers, and individuals who do not own animals but care for them, such as in a shelter or in their homes.

The proposed amendments will also include harsher penalties for animal abuse, especially for repeat offenders and animal-related businesses.

The stiffer penalties for offences committed by animal-related businesses will target the industry's profit motives, Mr Yeo said. The tougher penalties will also highlight these businesses' obligations to care and provide for the welfare of animals, he added.

Under the proposed changes, staff in animal-related businesses are required to be trained in animal care.

For animal welfare groups, Mr Yeo said that they will not be exempt from the committee's original recommendation for harsher penalties that was initially targeted at pet-related businesses.

He explained: "(It is not) our intent to cause animal welfare groups to be over-penalised, but rather to ensure that these groups have the proper processes and systems in place, similar to any other businesses which handle animals."

If the proposed amendments to the Act are passed in Parliament today, pet owners must also provide reasonable care for animals that are under their charge.

Those who neglect to do so will, for the first time, face a fine, a jail term, or both.

If passed, the changes will also let the authorities adopt a code that sets new standards on animal welfare.

The debate continues today.

New bill against animal cruelty: Got teeth or not? activists ask
Zul Othman The New Paper AsiaOne 8 Nov 14;
The Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill is a "huge leap forward" and shows a commitment from the Government to protect animal welfare here, activists told The New Paper yesterday.

The Bill, which was passed in Parliament yesterday, will mean stiffer fines and longer jail terms for animal abusers.

Those who commit acts of animal cruelty face a maximum fine of $30,000 or three years' jail, or both.

Animal-related businesses face a maximum fine of $100,000 or three years' jail, or both.

Currently, those convicted of animal cruelty under the Animals and Birds Act can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year, or both.

Under the Bill, pet owners who neglect their pets will also, for the first time, face a fine and/or a jail term.

Individuals who fail to provide care for their animals face a maximum penalty of $20,000 or two years' jail, or both, while animal- related businesses face a fine of up to $100,000 or three years' jail, or both.

The changes will also require staff in animal-related businesses to be trained in animal care.

The enhanced penalties will send a strong message against animal cruelty, said Mr Louis Ng, chief executive of animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

"The Bill defines cruelty (against animals), which I think is good. I hope this Bill will be a deterrent, as it will send a message that cruelty to animals is morally wrong," he added.


Ms Eunice Nah, volunteer chief advocate at the Agency for Animal Welfare, also said the Bill is "a good first step".

"It remains to be seen how effective the Bill will be," she remarked. "But I will choose to remain hopeful that more can done in the future."

Ms Joanne Ng, chief executive of the Cat Welfare Society, said the Bill has been "long awaited" and is a sign of a changing climate.

"More people now have an interest in the welfare of animals.

"But what we would like to know is how the authorities are going to enforce these rules, because enforcement is a key issue," she added.

In Parliament, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said the aim of the Bill "is to take a responsive and preventative approach to animal welfare and nip problems in the bud".

He pointed out that this is a better approach as compared to reacting only when it is too late, and pet owners have to be hauled up for animal cruelty amidst public outcry.

The amendments will also "instil responsible and appropriate behaviour in all stakeholders who play a part in an animal's life cycle".

The Bill was lauded as timely by all six backbenchers who spoke on it in an hour-long debate.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) also praised Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC) - who chaired the Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee (AWLRC), which was set up in April 2012 to review the issue.

He also initiated the Private Member's Bill with fellow backbenchers Alex Yam, Gan Thiam Poh, Edwin Tong and Vikram Nair.

Private Member's Bills are introduced by MPs who are not Cabinet ministers.

However, Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) was concerned that if applied rigidly, the duty of care imposed on animal owners in the amendment may drive up pet abandonment.

In reply, Mr Lee said owners who take proper care of their pets need not fear running afoul of the law as the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will enforce the law "sensibly, fairly and even-handedly".

In his closing speech, Mr Yeo acknowledged that there will be challenges ahead. Successful prosecution requires credible evidence, he said.

"In this regard, I urge members of the public to step forward and render assistance to the authorities," he said.

The last major review of animal welfare legislation was in 2002.

According to AWLRC's report last year, cases of animal abuse handled by AVA grew from 377 in 2008 to 484 in 2012.

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2,200 cases of high-rise littering reported in past year: MEWR

Channel NewsAsia 4 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) received feedback on 2,200 cases of high-rise littering from September 2013 to September 2014, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said on Monday (Nov 3).

Responding to a query from MP Lee Bee Wah on high-rise littering, Dr Balakrishnan said that in most cases, the situation improved following outreach and education efforts by NEA, the Town Councils and grassroots organisations.

For persistent cases, surveillance cameras are deployed and, in the same period, 169 litterbugs were identified. Since 2012, NEA has deployed more than 1,500 cameras in Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates and apprehended 273 litterbugs, he said.

“High-rise littering is a safety hazard. We will investigate each case of high-rise littering rigorously to apprehend the culprits who carry out such irresponsible acts,” Dr Balakrishnan said.

- CNA/cy

Read more!

Malaysia: Agarwood’s value is also its curse

ROSLI ZAKARIA New Straits Times 4 Nov 14;

KUALA TERENGGANU: AGARWOOD, the green gold of the rainforest, is fast becoming rare due to illegal felling by poachers for its highly prized resin.

In Malaysia, two agarwood species are sought after, namely the Aquillaria malaccensis (gaharu) and Aquillaria hirta (chandan).

The depletion of the tree and high demand for quality resin meant that the price for agarwood would keep soaring.

Grade A agarwood resin, which can only be found in the wild, cost about RM25,000 per kg while Grade C resin could easily cost RM2,500 per kg. The price is usually doubled in the Middle East.

Sadly, the tree’s value is the reason that lead to its illegal felling by poachers. Poachers’ usual targets are the dying trees, followed by the next best option, which is to cut healthy trees and let them rot before the hardened resin can be harvested.

Whether it is the first or second option, the felling of agarwood trees is illegal. Since 2004, the wild resources of all Aquilaria species have been listed in Appendix II by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Fauna and Flora.

Senior state forestry ranger Salleh Endot said the hunt for good agarwood trees was an obsession for some as finding one was like discovering the mother lode of gold.

“But, the depletion of agarwood in the natural habitat has made finding the trees more difficult. As a result, the price keep rising.

“Alternative sources from monoculture plantation are not of high grade. Yet, they still fetch a high price,” he said.

It is not difficult to identify wild collected agarwood from those processed from a plantation. The resins collected from the wild are darker and almost black, while those from plantations are lighter and brownish.

Salleh said forestry rangers had found many agarwood trees felled by poachers, who had left them in the forest to rot, hoping that in six months they would be able to collect the resin.

“The poachers’ modus operandi is simple. Encroach into the protected forest undetected, log the tree and get out as quickly as they can. They know the noise from their chainsaws can be heard and easily detected by the rangers.”

He said poachers were willing to camp in the deep forest, risking attacks from wild animals.

“But, that risk is nothing compared to the rewards of finding a sizeable resin of high quality. Conservation is the least of their concerns. They just want to make quick cash.”

Salleh said to ensure the survival of the species, the Forestry Department had undertaken a monoculture project to plant gaharu trees on a 40ha land in Mercang, near here, in 2005.

More than 30,000 trees were planted and some of trees, inoculated five years ago, had produced resins but of low grade.

“ If the inoculated trees survived the process of inoculation and were left untouched for many years, it is possible that they can produce higher grade resins.

“If a tree produces 2kg of resins, we can get RM50,000 per tree. That is a generous estimate.

“Multiply that with 30,000 trees and we can get RM1.5 billion. That is a lot of revenue from a 40ha agarwood plantation,” he said.

“If the harvesting cycle is repeated every year, agarwood plantation could provide a sustainable revenue for the state.”

Salleh called on villagers to cultivate agarwood trees on their idle land. He, however, stressed on the need to register their smallholdings to avoid infringing CITES and also to make Malaysia’s agarwood trees more acceptable in the world market.

Research by the Forestry Department and the Malaysian Forestry Research Institute (FRIM) showed that the demand for agarwood trees would increase following the expansion of the perfumery industry and its use in the processing of incense.

Researchers also discovered that the trees’ leaves have medicinal values and could be used in the beverage industry. This further boosts the value of the agarwood tree, which is living up to its reputation as the green gold of the rainforest.

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Malaysia: Monsoon to hit in 2 weeks

ALIZA SHAH New Straits Times 4 Nov 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: THOSE living in the east coast should brace themselves for floods as the monsoon season is expected to start in mid-November.

Meteorological Department commercial and corporate services division director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said several states in the east coast would experience continuous downpour in two weeks’ time.

“The inter-monsoon season is expected to come to an end in two weeks’ time before the Northeast monsoon kicks in.

“Kelantan and Terengganu will be the first to be hit by floods in November and December, followed by Pahang and Johor in December and January next year,” he said.

“Those in west Sarawak would be the last to be hit by floods, which is expected to last from January until February.”

The department, however, could not determine the exact areas that would be affected as it is too early to tell.

Hisham said they estimated there would be four to five episodes of continuous rain during the four-month Northeast monsoon season, which is expected to end in early March. However, each state may only be hit by episodes of continuous rain just once.

“During the monsoon season, some northern states in the peninsular would also have wet days. But, the intensity of the rain would be less than that experienced in the east coast region.”

Hisham also warned that the current erratic weather in the northern region might continue until the end of the week.

“The weather in the northern region is very active, with the presence of storm clouds, strong winds and heavy downpours. Gusting winds range from 30-100kph and this makes it possible for landspouts to occur.

“However, the one (landspout) that hit Pendang was a rare occurrence. Based on the damage, we estimate the wind to have been around 150kph,” he said, adding that the unstable weather conditions are expected to gradually subside by next week.

Heavy rain and strong winds had on Oct 14 formed a landspout in Kampung Alor Besar and Taman Sri Kota in Kuala Kedah.

In the 4pm incident, several houses in the village and SK Alor Besar’s computer lab and another building within the compound were damaged.

Meanwhile, National Security Council (NSC) secretary Datuk Mohd Tajuddin Abdul Wahab said the council had identified 5,218 evacuation centres nationwide.

“Even though our focus would be more on the flood prone states, we are not taking any chances so preparation is done in every state.

“We briefed all related agencies, including the district police chiefs, firemen, armed forces and the Welfare Department on the timeline of the Northeast monsoon season and the intensity of downpours.”

Tajuddin said NSC had also improved its standard operation procedures based on previous experience in handling floods.

“NSC has taken the lead role, which is to give early warning to rescue agencies in every state as soon as the council is informed of any incoming rain.

“This will give rescue agencies more time to prepare in case of an evacuation. Assets can be deployed earlier to areas that are likely to be flooded.”

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Indonesia: Sumatra, Kalimantan still covered by haze

Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post 5 Nov 14;
Haze continued to blanket a number of provinces in Sumatra island and Central and South Kalimantan, amid a prolonged drought.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Terra and Aqua satellite detected 234 hotspots in Sumatra on Tuesday, indicating forest and peatland fires in several provinces on
the island.

“Based on satellite images as of 5 a.m. on Nov. 4, the number of hotspots amounted to 234,” Pekanbaru BMKG station head Sugarin said via text message to Antara news agency in Pekanbaru, Riau.

He added that the highest number of hotspots was monitored in South Sumatra, with 194, followed by Jambi (13), Bangka Belitung (11), Lampung (10) and Riau (six).

Three hotspots were also detected in the regency of Bengkalis, two in Pelalawan and one in Meranti Islands.

The haze has affected visibility in a number of regions in Riau. Pekanbaru city, Rengat, Dumai and Pelalawan were covered by haze and reported limited visibility in the morning.

The haze caused visibility in Pekanbaru to drop to 500 meters in the morning, while the visibility in Pelalawan was 600 meters, Rengat (800 meters) and Dumai city (1,000 meters).

Meanwhile, South Sumatra BMKG reported that the hotspots in the province were located in Ogan Komering Ilir, Banyuasin, Muara Enim and Ogan Komering Ulu regencies. Of the four regencies, Ogan Komering Ilir had the most with 54 hotspots.

Earlier Palembang BMKG observation and information head Agus Santoso forecast that rainfall in South Sumatra would be very light; between 100 and 200 millimeters was expected in November and over 200 mm in December.

In Jambi, the haze had returned and covered a number of regions in the past few days, despite having previously dissipated due to rain.

Jambi BMKG forecaster Bahar Abdullah said visibility at 6 a.m. was down to 800 meters, but was gradually improving.

“At noon, the weather improved and visibility reached up to 2,300 meters,” said Bahar.

Riau Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo said the province needed more babinkamtibmas [police officers assigned to villages as advisors on security and public order] who could help minimize crimes and detect forest fires.

“Ideally, a village should have one babinkamtibmas,” he said, adding that the province, which has 1,775 villages, only had 500 babinkamtibmas.

Separately, Antara reported that the Central Kalimantan Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) had extended the emergency response period until Nov. 10.

“The decision to extend the emergency status was issued by Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang as of Nov. 1,” said Central Kalimantan BPBD head Muchtar in Palangkaraya on Tuesday.

He said the extension was based on a recommendation from the BMKG, which predicted the drought would continue in Central Kalimantan.

Muchtar said 38 hotspots had been recorded in the province. According to him, the dense haze over the past several days in Palangkaraya city was due to forest and peatland fires in Pulang Pisau, Katingan and East Kotawaringin regencies.

The location and condition of peatland in the three regencies means it tends to dry out quickly and become highly combustible.

“The BMKG has also forecast that the rainy season cannot be guaranteed to arrive in the next two weeks, so we hope every party will be alert and anticipate the fires,” said Muchtar.

On the other hand, Kotawaringin Timur regent Supian Hadi denied that the dense smog originated in his regency, claiming that a higher number of hotspots was detected in other regencies in Central

He said the number of hotspots in his administration had declined during the past few days, leaving small-scale peatland fires with little smog.

“We will keep trying to put out the fires to reduce the smog,” he said.

The haze was still covering Banjarmasin city in South Kalimantan as of Tuesday morning.

Local resident Muhammad Noor, 57, expressed hope that rain would fall to minimize the effects of the haze.

“When will it rain? It is already November when rain usually starts falling,” he said.

Dense haze also blanketed Banjarmasin’s Syamsudin Noor Airport in Kota Banjarbaru and led to the delay of five scheduled flights.

“Five scheduled flights were delayed by between 30 minutes and one hour,” said airport services section head Heru Widiatmo at state airport-management company PT Angkasa Pura I in Banjarbaru on Tuesday.

He said that previously the airport had been free from flight disruptions for only a month.

Haze resurfaces in various areas across kalimantan, sumatra
Andi Abdussalam Antara 4 Nov 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Haze emanating from forest fires and hotspots continues to shroud various parts of Kalimantan and Sumatra, hindering the day-to-day activities of the local residents and flight schedules.

On Tuesday, thick smog blanketed Syamsudin Noor Airport of Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, leading to delays of five flights to Balikpapan, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, and Jakarta.

"Five flights were delayed for about 30 minutes to an hour from their scheduled departure time," Airport Service Section Head of PT Angkasa Pura I airport operator Heru Widiatmo stated in Banjarbaru, South Kalimantan, on Tuesday.

The haze also covered regions in Jambi and South Sumatra and disrupted flights from Palembang on Monday.

According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the smoke arising from hotspots still engulfed various regions in Indonesia, such as South Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Based on satellite data on Monday, South Sumatra still had 37 hotspots, Central Kalimantan (125), South Kalimantan (29), and East Kalimantan (20).

"It seems that the annual land and forest fires have not yet served as a lesson for the people to fully prevent the disaster," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the head of the Information Center and Public Relations of BNPB, affirmed on Monday.

He noted that the satellite detected the spread of haze in the Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) region of Palembang (South Sumatra) and Jambi. The winds blew from the south towards the north-northwestern directions.

In South Kalimantan, five flights faced delays in their departure schedules. According to the local airport operator official Heru Widiatmo, visibility at the airport at 6 a.m. local time, on Tuesday, was still normal at 800 meters, but thirty minutes later, the visibility reduced further.

"Visibility was only about 300 meters at 6:45 a.m. local time, thereby causing flights to be delayed as pilots chose not to operate them," Sutopo remarked.

On Monday, Banjarbaru and Banjarmasin were engulfed in thick haze, which caused breathing problems among the residents in the two South Kalimantan cities.

Dark smoke filled nearly all the streets in the two cities after the conditions remained normal for almost two weeks.

"At 6 a.m. local time, the air is fresh, but 30 minutes later, thick smoke blew across the city," Wita, a mother from northern Banjarbaru, claimed.

The visibility was limited, and the odor was so strong that the passersby and motorists had to wear masks, Wita stated.

The smoke originated from several bush fires not far from the city. A fairly large fire ravaged tens of hectares of open bush land in that area. The fire, which spread rapidly, completely ravaged a public health center in Liang Anggang.

In the nearby provincial city of Banjarmasin, the people were already complaining about the inconvenience caused by the thick smoke over the past several days, and on Monday, the condition deteriorated as thicker smoke rolled into the city.

Thick haze also covered the Buntok City of South Barito District in Central Kalimantan province, over the past two days. The haze hindered daily activities of the locals and motorists as it reduced visibility on various roads in the district.

Head of the Health Care Service of South Barito District Djulita K. Palar called on the residents to reduce their outdoor activities and to wear masks if they had to venture out.

"If the residents experience symptoms of respiratory tract diseases, then they should visit the health care center to check their health," Palar emphasized.

Besides affecting the regions in South and Central Kalimantan, the haze has also engulfed areas in South Sumatra and Jambi provinces.

Several local activists in Palembang, South Sumatra, have complained about the inconvenience and disturbances caused due to the haze. It is believed that the haze spread in the province during the drought in September, declined in October, but early this month, it resurfaced.

"Smoke covered the Palembang City and the adjoining areas. It happened to decrease in October, but now, it is blanketing South Sumatra again," environmental activist Dedek Chaniago noted in Palembang on Monday.

On Monday morning, several airlines were forced to delay the departure of their flights from Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Airport of Palembang. Due to limited visibility, the nations flag carrier Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air each delayed two flights, and CitiLink had to delay one of its flights to Jakarta.

"One could see only as far as 200 meters ahead at 6 a.m. local time," an airport official remarked, adding that "no takeoff occurred until 8:30 a.m. local time."

Bad weather coupled with thick clouds have frequently affected flights in Palembang over the past three months, he pointed out.

The forest fires in 300 locations have ravaged over 10 thousand hectares of bush lands in seven regencies in the province.

Some farmers had unlawfully started bushfires in order to clear the land for farming.

In Jambi province, thick haze has shrouded the city over the past two days. In the past week, the clouds dissipated as the rains fell.

Forest Protection Head of Jambis Forest Service Bestari stated on Monday that the NOAA satellite images showed only 13 hotspots in various districts in Jambi. However, he claimed to have no knowledge about the origin of the haze.

"The satellite detected 13 hotspots in Jambi: four in Tebo District, three in Sarolangung, two in West Tanjung Jabung, and one hotspot each in East Tanjung Jabung, Batanghari, Bungo, and Merangin," he revealed.

In the meantime, the number of hotspots detected in South Sumatra reached 169, Lampung province (29), and Riau province (6)," noted Bestari.

According to Sutopo of the BNPB, the number of hotspots in South Sumatra in October stood at 3,282, of which 2,420 or 74 percent were in the OKI District.

"As hotspots are still surfacing, the government, in this case the BNPB, continues to make efforts to put out the forest fires," Sutopo remarked.

He said that BNPB head Syamusl Maarif had urged the regional and central government officials to assist in extinguishing the forest fires.

He had earlier stated that the efforts should be directed at activating the land task force, and it should implement law enforcement measures to cope with the forest fires.

"The BNPB is still mobilizing helicopters and other planes to conduct weather modification and produce artificial rain to put out the fires. The government has set aside more than Rp330 billion for that purpose," Sutopo added.


Seven hotspots detected in South Barito
Antara 4 Nov 14;

Buntok, C Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - The NOAA18 Satellite detected seven hotspots of forest and plantation fires in South Barito District, Central Kalimantan, in October 2014.

"The hotspots were detected in three sub-districts in South Barito," Krisnadi, the head of the South Barito forest and plantation office, stated here on Monday.

Some 216.25 hectares of forest area were ravaged by wildfires raging from August to October 2014.

In September 2014, 20 hotspots were detected in South Barito. Buntok town was shrouded by haze due to the wild fires, he remarked.

In the meantime, thick haze blanketing Syamsudin Noor Airport in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan Province, has led to at least five flights being delayed on Tuesday.

"Five flights were delayed for about 30 minutes to an hour from their scheduled departure time," Airport Service Section Head of PT Angkasa Pura I port operator Heru Widiantmo reported in Banjarmasin on Tuesday.

Of the five delayed flights, two belonged to Lion Air that departed for Yogyakarta and Surabaya and three flights from state-owned Garuda Indonesia. The Garuda flights left for Balikpapan (East Kalimantan), Surabaya (East Java), and Jakarta.

On Monday, thick haze began engulfing Banjarbaru and Banjarmasin, thereby triggering respiratory problems among the residents in the two South Kalimantan cities.

Dark smoke filled nearly all the streets in the two cities after the conditions remained normal for almost two weeks.

"At 6 a.m. local time, the air is fresh, but 30 minutes later, thick smoke blew across the city," Wita, a mother from northern Banjarbaru, remarked.

The visibility was limited, and the odor was so strong that the passersby and motorists had to wear masks, Wita noted.

The smoke originated from several bush fires not far from the city.

A fairly large fire gutted tens of hectares of open bush land in that area.

The rapidly spreading fire completely destroyed a public health center in Liang Anggang.


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Indonesia: Environmental values of forest resources

Edi Purwanto Jakarta Post 4 Nov 14;

The merging of the environment and forestry ministries is expected to reduce a persistent dichotomy between the ecological and economic values of forest resources.

Since the end of the 1960s, the value of forests as biodiversity pools and life-supporting systems has been overlooked. As a result, Indonesia has permanently lost a big part of its primary forests, while most of the secondary forests are in a degraded state.

Environmental conditions became worse after the onset of the timber industry, as most forests were over-logged and experienced unchecked and rapid conversion driven by short-term economic gains.

There was no exception for forests with fragile ecosystems, such as peat forests, heath forests and those containing outstanding biodiversity and eco-hydrology values. Meanwhile, small-scale rehabilitation and restoration efforts have often been poorly designed and implemented.

The overall result is rampant conflict over land resources, human and wildlife conflicts and more frequent mega environmental disasters such as haze and flooding, which absorb huge amounts of government resources to mitigate the problems.

It is true that the scope of the Environment and Forestry Ministry is broader than forestry issues.

However, in a tropical country, bad forest management is often the major root cause of environmental problems, such as the annual haze problem, drought, flooding, erosion, river pollution, coastal sedimentation or coral reef destruction.

The huge and invaluable environmental services provided by forests have led to inter-connecting environmental degradation and catastrophe when the forests are in a degraded state. As such, the union of the environment and forestry ministries is the right decision, just like killing two birds with one stone.

Better environmental conditions would be achieved by improving natural resource management, which is ideally managed on the basis of watershed, or natural and ecological boundaries. Using the watershed or water-catchment boundary, the relationship and inter-dependency among ecosystem components and the impacts against development are clearly understood.

The problem is that regional development planning in this country is implemented based on administrative rather than watershed areas and ecological boundaries.

As such, the inter-connection problems and impacts among government and sectors on unsustainable natural resource management are not quickly identified.

Watershed management has been well respected by Indonesian foresters since the 1970s, and since the early 1980s the forestry ministry has mainstreamed watershed-management programs. It was partly conducted by developing watershed-management planning documents, monitoring and evaluation of watershed areas, etc.

Unfortunately the program has limited success stories, despite the huge resources investment.

The hundreds of watershed-management planning and implementation documents aim to be guidelines on managing natural resources.

Referring to past experience, a big question remains — whether the documents will be used as guidance for development or just become a silent pile of papers in a box.

The key requirement in operating watershed management is the establishment of mutual trust, benefits and understanding across sectors to reach common goals.

As such, the initiator should have a strong institutional position to direct, coordinate and enforce sustainable development. The inclusion of the environment ministry as the coordinating ministry on natural resources management will hopefully be able to enlighten the watershed-management program.

Most forestry problems are rooted in a lack of communication and coordination with local government and relevant sectors. The complexity of forestry problems made it impossible for the forestry ministry to solve the problems alone, thus the inclusion of the environment ministry will strengthen the mitigation of forestry problems in an integrated manner, as in the cases of a peatland moratorium, forest fires, rampant illegal logging and encroachment, as well as management of protected forests and conservation areas.

Now that the Environment and Forestry Ministry is managing the largest land resource in this country, unfortunately large parts are in a critical and unproductive state, while the access of local communities to state forest areas remains limited — less than 5 percent of total state forest areas.

At present 40 million hectares of state forest land are unproductive and unmanaged. Big tasks and responsibilities await those in charge of these issues such as, among other things, developing communities based on productive landscapes.

This could be done by enhancing local community access to forests by maintaining the original function and status of the forest, such as developing community-based agro-forestry systems in state forests on outer islands.

As large parts of forestry landscapes have in the past been in the form of monoculture for oil palms and industrial forests, and have become degraded land in mining areas, the establishment of community based agro-forestry will play an important role as a future life-supporting system.

Again, the Environment and Forestry Ministry should not work alone; it has to take collaborative and integrated actions, including the involvement of honest NGOs working on sustainable livelihood development especially at the grassroots level.


The writer is the director of the Tropenbos International-Indonesia program in Bogor, West Java.

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Indonesia: Jokowi Cancels Sunda Strait Bridge Project

Jakarta Globe 4 Nov 14;

Jakarta. The administration of President Joko Widodo will not pursue an ambitious plan to build a bridge between the islands of Java and Sumatra, senior officials have said.

“Joko has reviewed the project [and] I’m sure that the project is not an option for at least the next 10 to 15 years,” Andrinof Chaniago, the minister for national development planning, said as quoted by Kompas.com.

He said Joko preferred instead to focus on improving boat services between the country’s two most populated islands, as part of his wider effort to leverage Indonesia’s maritime potential.

“We’ll opt for improvements in [the existing] sea transportation. We want comfortable ships, more docks if needed. When we’re done with those, then we can go ahead with the Sunda Strait bridge project,” Andrinof said.

Plans to build a bridge have been mooted since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the administration of Joko’s predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that the idea got more serious attention.

A pre-feasibility study was kicked off in October 2007, and in January 2010 Yudhoyono issued a regulation on the formation of technical teams for the development. The whole project was expected to take eight to 10 years to complete, at an estimated cost of at least $10 billion.

However, chief economics minister Sofyan Djalil denied that the Yudhoyono administration had any expectation of starting the project this year.

“There was never any fixed decision on the Sunda Strait bridge,” he said on Monday as quoted by Detik.com. “There were problems about the money and the local governments involved. Even when Yudhoyono’s term was up there was no decision on this. It remained an idea. Now, it’s not in line with [Joko’s] maritime concept, so that’s the problem.”

Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono said separately on Monday that the cancellation was prudent, given that the bridge would serve only the economic development of Java and Sumatra, and not that of the less-developed regions in the country’s east.

The scrapping of the project is not without its critics, though. Marwan Cik Asan, a legislator from Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, questioned the lack of an open discussion leading up to the decision.

“There are no good reason behind the scrapping,” he said as quoted by Antara. “The people have been waiting for this project. Citing the maritime aspect and development inequality as reasons [for not continuing] isn’t good enough.”

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More than 40 percent of China's arable land degraded: Xinhua

Dominique Patton PlanetArk 5 Nov 14;

More than 40 percent of China's arable land is suffering from degradation, official news agency Xinhua said, reducing its capacity to produce food for the world's biggest population.

The rich black soil in northern Heilongjiang province, which forms part of China's bread basket, is thinning, while farmland in China's south is suffering from acidification, the report said, citing agriculture ministry statistics.

Degraded land typically includes soil suffering from reduced fertility, erosion, changes in acidity and the effects of climate change as well as damage from pollutants.

Beijing is growing increasingly concerned about its food supply after years of rapid industrialization resulted in widespread pollution of waterways and farmland.

The country, which must feed nearly 1.4 billion people, has already outlined plans to tackle soil pollution, said to affect around 3.3 million hectares of land.

But as rising incomes place growing pressure on its domestic resources to produce more, high quality food, it is also planning to tackle degraded soil, the report said.

The agriculture ministry wants to create 53 million hectares of connected farmland by 2020 that would allow it to withstand drought and floods better, said Xinhua. Larger farms are more suited to irrigation and other modern farming practices.

It also wants to strengthen the monitoring of arable land management and speed up the legislative process to protect farmland in order to ensure stable food production and farmers' incomes, the report added.

Currently protecting farmland is difficult as liability for soil contamination is hard to determine, experts say.

The government is drafting a new law to tackle this but it is not expected to be completed until at least 2017.

(Editing by David Evans)

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Yes, Organic Farming Can Feed the World

Anna Lappe Takepart.com Yahoo News 5 Nov 14;

A few years ago, I was at a biotechnology trade meeting listening to a panel on GMOs. Throughout the two-hour session, the panelists all sang the praises of the technology—not too surprising at an industry event. (At the time, the GMOs under commercial planting were limited to seeds genetically engineered to produce an insecticide and/or resist a proprietary herbicide.)

What was unexpected was what came next: One of the speakers took the mic to say those opposed to GMOs should be tried for crimes against humanity. Seriously. Sure, the comment may have been a gross misuse of the term, but a similar sentiment runs throughout the messaging from the biotech industry that says we can’t feed the world if we don’t embrace the technology.

If my experience last month in Turkey is any indication, the notion that GMOs are the only way to feed a growing population is way out of step with both the leading thinkers on food and farming and the world’s smallholder farmers—who produce much of what the planet eats and 80 percent of the food in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

These farmers may not have money on their side, but I saw the power of strength in numbers at the Organic World Congress. Held this year in Istanbul, the conference brought together people from 81 countries to discuss the latest research from organic farm fields and share private and public developments that promote organic agriculture.

What I heard should have biotech execs shaking in their boots, or their penny loafers, as the case may be: Organic agriculture is taking off around the world, especially where it’s needed most. About 80 percent of all organic producers are based in developing countries, with India, Uganda, Mexico, and Tanzania leading the charge. To date, 162 nations are now home to certified organic farms, and in 2012 the 37.5 million hectares of farmland produced a harvest worth $63.8 billion. While that works out to less than 1 percent of global agricultural land, the figure dramatically undercounts the actual amount of land farmed using organic principles, as many farmers are not part of a official certification program. And consider that globally, organic agriculture has received a fraction of the subsidies and 0.4 percent of the research dollars funneled into chemical farming ventures.

One of the themes of the three-day gathering in October was that embracing these practices is increasingly being seen as key to food security, from national departments of agriculture all the way to the halls of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Several speakers quoted José Graziano da Silva, the head of the FAO, who said, "We cannot rely on an input-intensive model to increase production—the solutions of the past have shown their limits,” at a recent international summit.

In Istanbul, former USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan shared examples of interest in organic agriculture at the USDA: “Times have radically changed,” she said. “Fifty thousand people have taken an organic literacy course as staff of USDA.”

Research, including studies presented at the conference in Istanbul, is showing that organic agriculture can deliver reliably high yields—and that organic fields thrive in the face of disaster and duress, where chemical-reliant crops falter. Organic fields, for example, fare significantly better than chemically managed ones in the face of extreme weather, such as droughts or floods. A 30-year study from the Rodale Institute, for example, found that organic farm fields yielded 33 percent more in drought years compared with chemically managed ones. Organic agriculture can also reduce on-farm energy use and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. One comparative study in Slovakia found that chemical farming systems were more than 50 percent more “energy demanding” than the organic systems.

Pat Mooney, executive director of the ETC Group, a global antipoverty group, had the audience spellbound by his tales of woe: The monoculture design of industrial agriculture has decimated species diversity in our food system.

“In the last half century,” Mooney said, “the industrial food chain has destroyed 75 percent of the genetic diversity of our food chain.” Mooney’s message was that organic agriculture is key to protecting this disappearing biodiversity, which farmers have long known is the heart of food security.

All this interest; all these benefits. So why isn’t organic agriculture a bigger player in the global marketplace? In part, the answer has to do with the power, specifically the consolidation of power, among the agribusiness giants profiting from the chemical agriculture model. Mooney mentioned that in the two weeks prior, the world’s first- and fourth-largest fertilizer companies merged. While we were gathered in Turkey, news came out that several multinational companies, including one largely controlled by Monsanto, had acquired major stakes in SeedCo, the largest seed company in sub-Saharan Africa. As The Ecologist wrote of the deal, “Taken together, this means that three of the world's largest biotechnology companies, Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, all now have a significant foothold on the continent in markets for two of the three major global GM crop varieties: [corn] and cotton.”

I would never suggest promoters of industrial agriculture and GMOs have a Machiavellian strategy for global food chain dominance—but the consolidation of the food chain is alarming. Perhaps that was what was most inspiring about soaking in the stories in Istanbul: The 981 attendees of the Organic World Congress were the faces of the counterforce. The farmers, researchers, and advocates at the front lines are pushing back against this corporate consolidation—and speaking up for a truly sustainable system that can feed the world.

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