Best of our wild blogs: 6 Nov 14

Haze: Know it. Stop it. Exhibition: 7-9 November
from Green Drinks Singapore

osprey & fish @ SBWR - Nov2014
from sgbeachbum

The day a fruit fell from above…
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Preserve rustic charm of Ubin

Straits Times Forum 6 Nov 14;

THE idyllic Pulau Ubin has long been my place of solace when I need to unwind after a hectic week ("Wanted: More modern facilities for Ubin"; Monday).

Since the 1970s, I have made countless trips to Ubin to trek, camp, cycle and swim. Any future development should seek to preserve the natural flora and fauna of this precious island with its scenic, disused granite quarries.

The toilets at Chek Jawa are well maintained but not those at Noordin Beach and Mamam Beach. Chek Jawa has attractions such as the Nypa fruticans which gives us the "attap chee" in our ice kachang.

Noordin and Mamam should be open to the public for swimming and camping, as these are popular haunts for our students. The rugged terrain is ideal for cycling and the tracks are a far cry from our flat roads in Singapore.

It is a bugbear for me to use my mobile phone, as most of the time my line shows the word "Maxis" or "Digi". I hope SingTel, M1 and StarHub can improve their network coverage as Ubin is still part of Singapore.

Ubin has some rare flowers such as torch ginger and tiger claw which grow in the wild; when they bloom, the forests are transformed into a Garden of Eden.

Chek Jawa is replete with aquatic life even at low tide. I invariably see hordes of mud-creepers clinging on for dear life on the tree trunks at low tide.

I have met many foreign tourists who have visited Ubin as they are drawn there by its granite quarries, the rare bird species, the beaches, the temples, lotus ponds, rubber plantations, and even the quaint coffee shops near the pier.

They find Ubin an ideal place for cycling and swimming; even sipping a glass of beer at the coffee shop is an unforgettable experience on an island where time has stood still.

Let us keep Ubin for what it is and not transform it into another Kusu Island, Pulau Tekong or Sentosa.

Heng Cho Choon

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Malaysia: Heavy rains cause mud flood in Camerons, one dead


CAMERON HIGHLANDS: At least one person has died, while four others were injured with another missing after heavy rain caused two landslides and a mudslide at several areas here.

The area is 4km away from Bertam Valley where a mudslide occurred on Oct 23 last year.

Cameron Highlands Fire and Rescue Department deputy director Morni Mamat said the missing person was a 13-year-old boy, who was swept away by floodwaters near a farm in Kuala Terla after Sungai Ringlet overflowed.

It is believed the boy had tried to climb onto a tractor in a bid to save himself, but failed.

Search and rescue efforts are ongoing.

Nearby in Ulu Merah, a Nepalese worker died while an Indonesian worker sustained slight injuries in a landslide at about 9.50pm, he said.

In yet another landslide at a factory area along Jalan Kuari, two Indian workers and a Malaysian were seriously injured after being crushed in a car workshop.

"It has been raining heavily since 5.30pm and the rain has not stopped," Morni said when contacted by The Star.

As at 10pm, some 150 people from 37 families have been evacuated from their homes, which were inundated with mud and floodwaters, and placed at the Ringlet community hall.

A police spokesman said the authorities were expecting the number of victims to increase due to continuous heavy rain.

He also said that as at 10.30pm, Tenaga Nasional Bhd had started slowly releasing water from the Sultan Abu Bakar Dam to avoid waters from reaching critical levels, failing which the dam gates will automatically open.

The flood prompted netizens such as Mohd Azham (@azhamvsvc) to take to Twitter to express their concern for the residents, saying; "Just saw the photos; that's a huge flood. Hope everyone in Ringlet, Cameron Highlands stay on higher ground".

"Flood in Cameron Highlands. Hope everyone is safe," tweeted Mohd Azham, who also posted photos of the incident showing the extent of the floodwaters as it flowed down streets.

On Oct 23 last year, four people died while over 100 houses and scores of vehicles were damaged when water and mud gushed through Bertam Valley after water was released from the Sultan Abu Bakar Hydroelectric Dam.

Three dead from Camerons mud flood
IVAN LOH The Star 6 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: A total of three people were killed during the downpour that caused the mud flood and landslide at three areas here.

Cameron Highlands OCPD Deputy Supt Wan Mohd Zahari Wan Busu said one teenager was swept away by floodwater at Kuala Terla while two others were buried by landslide at Ringlet and Bertam Valley.

"The 13-year-old boy, R. Tunesh, was found about 5km from he was swept away at Batu 49, Kuala Terla.

"He was found by a riverbank by search and rescue personnel at about 8.45am,” he told journalists at the operations centre in Bertam Valley Thursday.

"His body has been sent to the hospital for post mortem," he added.

DSP Mohd Wan Zahari said a 48-year-old Indonesian, Anipan, was found buried at his rented house at Bertam Valley about 9.20am.

"He failed to escape from the house and was buried some one meter (three feet) under a pile of soil," he said.

"Another 66-year-old Nepalese, Md Yousuf Miya was also buried at his home at Ulu Merah in Ringlet" he added.

Bertam Valley in Cameron Highlands under water, again
SYLVIA LOOI New Straits Times 5 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: The horror of the Bertam Valley mudflood which claimed four lives a year ago has returned to haunt residents on the highlands.

More than 20 houses in the Ringlet town, Ringlet New Village and Kampung Ulu Merah Ringlet were submerged in knee-deep muddy water after continuous heavy rain since evening caused Sungai Ringlet to overflow its banks.

A total of 150 people from 37 families staying at Ringlet New Village were evacuated to the Ringlet multipurpose hall at 10pm.

A fire and rescue department spokesman said one victim was trapped under the debris while a boy was swept away by flood waters.

“Six vehicles were also swept away,” he said.

A Tenaga Nasional Berhad spokesman said water from the nearby dam would be released if rain continued to pour.

“This may lead to mudfloods in the nearby Bertam Valley,” he said.

The affected villages are located barely 4km from Bertam Valley, which was hit by a deadly mudflood last October.

A Cameron Highlands fire and rescue station spokesman said they received a distress call about 7.04pm and dispatched its personnel to the scene.

Electricity to the affected villages had been cut off.

Cameron Highlands MCA division chief Datuk Yee Shan Kon said heavy rain lashed the area about 6pm.

"We are unsure of the extent of the damages for now as electricity to the areas have been cut off and the areas are in pitch darkness.

"I was made to understand that the banks of Sungai Ringlet gave way, leading muddy water and rubbish to overflow into nearby houses," he told the NST when contacted.

It was learnt that, should the heavy rain continue, water from the nearby dam would be released to ease pressure.

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Indonesia: Jokowi Green on Environmental, Forestry Policies

Forest Beyond Trees: The change of government leaves environmental policy in limbo, but that won’t stop Indonesia’s REDD+ administrators and legislators from working toward their targets
Adelia Anjani Putri and Abdul Khalik Jakarta Globe 4 Nov 14;

Yogyakarta. Indonesia, under President Joko Widodo and Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, faces an uncertain path going toward sustainable development and striking a balance between economic progress and protection of its forest, land and sea, experts say.

While Joko’s predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, kicked off several environmental policies such as a moratorium on the issuing of new forest-clearing concessions and the establishment of a body to oversee programs under the Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism, the incumbent has not yet made any promises on whether to continue with those initiatives.

He has, however, shown a high degree of awareness the ongoing destruction of the country’s forests and the need to protect them, says Nasir Jamil, a legislator from the opposition Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

“He knows the importance of protecting the forests,” Nasir told the Jakarta Globe during a forest workshop in Yogyakarta last week.

“But we hope he also has a sense of urgency and crisis on the matter.”

Nasir said Joko should continue with Yudhoyono’s programs and put them into practice while pressing forward with his own programs, voicing support of a special task force.

“First of all, we must treat crimes relating to the destruction of forests, including slash-and-burn clearing, illegal logging and misuse of forest permits, as extraordinary crimes like corruption and drug offenses,” he said.

He said the proposed task force overseeing such crimes could be similar to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) or the National Narcotics Agency (BNN).

“But Joko should benefit from what Yudhoyono has established, especially the REDD+ executive board. They have the expertise and have done a good job in laying the foundation for further progress in protecting our forests,” he said.

He proposed the House of Representatives pass legislation strengthening REDD+ programs and providing a basis for the formation of the task force.

Reduction target

Four years after the signing of a $1 billion agreement between Indonesia and Norway on REDD+ projects, Indonesia is now ready to move into the second phase of the program, under the direction of its REDD+ Management Agency, or BP REDD+.

REDD+ is a mechanism for sustainable management of forests and the environment, conducted at the global level. Not only does it cover deforestation and forest degradation, REDD+ also pursues other targets such as conservation of forests and carbon stocks, sustainable forest management, and enhancement of forest conditions.

Indonesia is among the countries implementing pilot projects through the REDD+ mechanism. Based on the letter of intent with Norway, the latter will disburse the promised funds only when Indonesia has managed to decrease its carbon dioxide emissions level.

Yudhoyono in 2009 committed Indonesia to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2020, or 41 percent with international assistance.

The initial agreement with Norway stated that the program would last three year, from 2010-2013; but due to some developments the program will be continued until 2020.

The first phase of preparing the institutions and necessary tools ran from 2010 to 2012. Indonesia has also developed a one-map initiative, creating a database of licensed forest users, and a new law to protect indigenous lands.

Indonesia is now embarking on the second phase, lasting until 2016. The phase is set to further national engagement and reporting on the pilot projects and disburse additional funding.

In the 2017-2020 period, Indonesia plans to embark on the last phase, which is full implementation across the country.

Conflicting regulations

The initial meetings on the issue were difficult, BP REDD+ chief Heru Prasetyo recalls.

“There were no regulations on climate change or forest restoration,” he told the Globe on the sidelines of the workshop in Yogyakarta.

“The regulations from different ministries were conflicting with each other. That’s how we know what we should do first: set up a legal basis and fix the regulations.

“We also found the Forestry Ministry, the Environment Ministry and other institutions each had their own versions of forest definition and mapping. We needed to renew the knowledge, the institutions and the information system, so that went onto our to-do-list: making a single integrated map of forests and setting up a database of companies with forest-related licenses.”

With a high deforestation rate, environmental issues have become increasingly pressing for Indonesia.

Forest clearing has contributed 63 percent of Indonesia’s annual CO2 emissions, which are increasing every year.

In 2000, the country emitted 1,720 million tons of CO2, a gas that contributes to global warming. That figure increased to 2,120 million tons in 2005 and is projected to reach 2,950 million tons in 2020.

The problem stretches far beyond the clearing of forests, says William Sabandar, the deputy for operations at BP REDD+.

“Take Sumatra as an example,” he said.

“From 1985 to 2012, we lost 53 percent of the forest there. Deforestation is more than just forest or carbon issues, and to handle the problem we have to see the whole picture. In Sumatra, it involves development issues, poverty, indigenous land rights and social conflicts.

“Forest degradation and deforestation will affect biodiversity, water supply, and even marginalization,” William said.

“REDD+ is an opportunity for Indonesia to strive for a better condition to change the development trajectory to a sustainable one. Our development should be able to address all those issues.”

This year, BP REDD+ has been engaged in a 10-point imperative action plan to implement its operational strategy.

“We’ve been monitoring the permit issuance moratorium, handling of forest fires, mapping and increasing the capacity of indigenous forests, supervising forest area licenses, conducting the green village and green school programs, supporting spatial planning, supporting conflict resolution, and setting up a strategic plan to save national parks and protected forests,” William said.

Besides financial and guideline assistance, REDD+ also provides Indonesia with a louder and clearer voice.

“The international world will hear us better and pay more attention now that Indonesia is a part of REDD+, making our strategy a global concern,” William said.

“We’re now moving on REDD+’s guidelines and representing them as well, but we will do it on Indonesia’s own terms.”

Heru said he aimed to make REDD+ more than just a government program.

“It’s more than just a program and regulations. It’s a movement. It has to be a movement so we can include everyone and every sector — art, social, geophysics,” he said.

However, he said public awareness of REDD+ and of the agency administering projects under the mechanism remained poor.

“We admit that REDD+ hasn’t been really explained to the people. We need to transfer the information to a wider audience,” Heru said.

Private sector push

Questions have been raised about the ethics of putting money as the incentive for implementing carbon emissions mitigation programs, particularly at the community level.

REDD+ green economy advisor Ivo Mulder says the discussion of REDD+ should not just revolve around money.

“If we talk about opportunity cost in the short term, the income generated from REDD+ won’t pay as much as a fully operational [oil palm] plantation,” he said.

“Worldwide, our research showed that it takes up to $30 billion per year to decrease deforestation by 50 percent, and as Indonesia has up to 20 percent of the total forest, we can see that $1 billion [promised by Norway] would not cover the need. But we can’t just expect local governments to pay the $30 billion.

“The role of government is increasing, but to our delight, the effort coming from the private sector is increasing in a much bigger scale. Companies like Unilever and Nestle have started to chip in to the process by not ordering supplies from companies that are involved in deforestation.”

The pledged money, though not fully disbursed yet, is also bound to put the government in a bind on some matters.

“There are questions that should be answered by the government: Should REDD money be used for subsidies? Should it be used to stop illegal logging or to increase legal timber production instead?” Mulder said.

As a product of the previous administration, BP REDD+ and its REDD+ programs might face a new challenge — the new people in office and their stance on the issue.

“We’ll continue to hold events to inform them,” Heru promised.

He added he was also eager to see what the new government would do.

“In Brazil, when they first started their anti-deforestation movement, the president took a strong approach,” he said.

“He set up a federal police unit to handle illegal logging, conduct unannounced searches to catch the perpetrators red-handed, and set up supporting policies, including one that denied fund disbursement from the central government to local governments that were still engaged in deforestation.

“The question now is whether Indonesia can do the same. Does the Indonesian government have the guts to do that? Are legislators willing to support it? It’s going to be interesting if the government want to do this.”

Desmond Mahesa, a legislator from the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), said that REDD+ was a good initiative in general but criticized some points.

“BP REDD+ needs to come and inform us at the House of Representatives so that we can understand the approach and shape our decisions in accordance to it,” he said.

“It’s also important that the agency doesn’t impose policies arrogantly. It has to pay attention to each area’s local wisdom. We don’t want the policies to block people’s opportunity to develop. The public should be involved. The policies have to adjust to their condition.”

Riven House

Rahayu Saraswati, a fellow legislator from Gerindra, also threw her support behind the REDD+ plan and said she was willing to work despite other political priorities in the House.

“For the legislation, we would love to help as it’s also stated in Gerindra’s main visions that we promote environmentally friendly growth,” she said.

“But how are we supposed to function properly when half of the members of the House are not willing to collaborate?” she added, referring to a political squabble that has seen the five parties from the coalition backing Joko announce its own shadow House leadership.

“For us, now we’re already working on some issues even though we don’t have any staff yet,” Rahayu said.

Hermanto, a legislator who has served since 2010 on House Commission IV, which oversees forestry and environmental affairs, said the House would continue to advance efforts to protect the environment.

“In the last period [from 2009 to 2014], we came up with nine laws, including the amended forestry law, to protect forests and push forestry industry stakeholders to obtain optimal result with minimal damage to the environment,” he said.

“The House is still committed to protecting the environment by supervising the regulations issued by local governments. We’ll pursue a balance of forest protection and maintaining public welfare.”

However, Hermanto said he doubted Joko’s administration would make protecting the environment a priority.

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Philippines: How a forest of mangroves saved a village from ‘Yolanda’

Matikas Santos 6 Nov 14;
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines — The tale of two villages (barangay) in the municipality of Giporlos, Eastern Samar is a clear example of how mangroves can protect people from the wrath of a typhoon’s storm surge, even one as strong as Yolanda (international name: Haiyan).

Barangay Parina is nestled comfortably between two large mangrove forests approximately nine hectares in size which served as a protective cover for the storm surge that rushed inland nearly a year ago.

In contrast, Bacjao (local term for mangrove trees), is located outside of the mangrove area and was completely destroyed when the storm surge swamped the village.

Although both villages didn’t suffer casualties, it was Parina that got off lightly because the mangroves that surrounded the area absorbed the force of the storm surge as residents waited out “Yolanda’s” wrath inside the school and church, said Kagawad (councilor) Serafin Balais Jr., 26 in an interview with

‎While Bacjao didn’t have mangroves, it’s residents survived because of their early evacuation knowing that their area was a danger zone.

“The rush of the water was not powerful, it just streamed in and also receded slowly for a duration of about five to 10 minutes,” Balais said in Filipino. “In Bacjao where they didn’t have any mangroves, all the houses were destroyed, even the foundations.”

“Most of the houses were made of light materials and were blown away by Yolanda’s winds, around 25 houses remained but were partially damaged,” he said.

The Mangrove forests however, paid the price for standing up to Yolanda. Balais said that only 30 percent of the forest remained intact after facing the world’s strongest typhoon to ever make landfall.

“We are now replanting the forest because it will serve as our protector when future typhoons come,” Balais said. “Mangroves are not uprooted easily, their roots are many and deep which make them really suitable as shield against waves.”

The mangrove replanting is part of Plan‎ International’s cash for work program where local residents are the beneficiaries.

“The Barangay Council already has plans to protect the mangroves because they are not just a good defense for us but also for the future generations. We hope to expand the forest and maintain it. We already have ordinances to outlaw the cutting of mangroves,” Balais said.

Balais told of stories from the older generations that the very ground where their barangay stood was once also part of the Mangrove forest.

Because they have personally experienced the protection of the Mangroves, Balais said that they did not hesitate to advocate to other local governments about their importance.

“Anybody who comes into our barangay, we always tell them what a big help the mangroves have been for us,” Balais said.‎

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A fraction of global military spending could save the planet’s biodiversity, say experts

IUCN 5 Nov 14;

Only one in four protected areas is well managed.

A fundamental step-change involving an increase in funding and political commitment is urgently needed to ensure that protected areas deliver their full conservation, social and economic potential, according to an article published today in Nature by experts from Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).

The paper, The performance and potential of protected areas, comes ahead of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 – a once-in-a-decade global forum on protected areas opening next week in Sydney, Australia.

According to the authors, allocating US$45 - $76 billion to protected areas annually – just 2.5% of the global annual military expenditure – could help adequately manage those areas, ensuring their potential contribution to the well-being of the planet is fully met.

Many threatened species, such as the Asian elephant, the tiger, and all rhinoceros species, as well as numerous plants, reptiles and amphibians, survive thanks to protected areas. Well-managed marine protected areas contain more than five times the total large fish biomass and 14 times the shark biomass compared with fished areas.

“Protected areas offer us solutions to some of today’s most pressing challenges” says Dr James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and The University of Queensland and lead author of the study. “But by continuing with ‘business as usual’, we are setting them up for failure. A step-change in the way we value, fund, govern and manage those areas is neither impossible nor unrealistic and would only represent a fraction of what the world spends annually on defence.”

According to the latest data, protected areas cover around 15% of land and 3% of oceans. Experts warn, however, that despite the significant increase in their coverage over the past century, this is still short of the global 2020 targets to protect at least 17% of land and 10% of oceans. Many ecosystems remain poorly conserved because protected areas do not always encompass the most important areas for biodiversity.

In addition, the vast majority of existing protected areas that are well placed do not have sufficient resources to be effective, with some studies finding as few as one quarter of them are being effectively managed. Growing threats from climate change and the escalating poaching crisis place additional pressures on protected areas globally.

“Some of the most iconic protected areas, such as Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park, are undergoing significant degradation, partly due to an inability to manage them effectively,” says Professor Marc Hockings of The University of Queensland, co-author of the study and member of the IUCN WCPA. “But governments cannot be solely responsible for ensuring that protected areas fulfil their potential. We need to find new, innovative ways to fund and manage them, actively involving government, business and community groups.”

The paper also highlights an alarming increase in governments - in both developing and developed countries – backtracking on their commitments through funding cuts and changes in policy. A recent global analysis has documented 543 instances where protected areas saw their status downgraded or removed altogether.

For example, recent cuts to the Parks Canada budget have reduced conservation spending by 15%. In Uganda, active oil exploration and development is occurring inside many protected areas, including Murchison Falls National Park. In Indonesia, in 2010, mining permits were issued inside 481,000 hectares of protected areas and in the Virgin Komi Forests in Russia, significant boundary changes have been made to reserves such as the Yugyd Va National Park to allow mining. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman was removed from the World Heritage List after the government reduced the size of the reserve by 90% to allow for oil and gas extraction.

“There is a fundamental need for an increase in support of global protected areas, including better recognition, funding, planning and enforcement” says Nigel Dudley, co-author of the paper, from Equilibrium Research and The University of Queensland, member of the IUCN WCPA. “It is governments’ responsibility to step up but there is also the need for the wider community to take collective responsibility for protected areas.”

Protected areas conserve biodiversity and sustain a large proportion of the world’s poorest people by providing them with food, water, shelter and medicine. They play a key part in climate change mitigation and adaptation and bolster national economies through tourism revenues. In Rwanda, for example, tourism revenue from visits to see mountain gorillas inside Volcanoes National Park is now the country’s largest source of foreign exchange, raising US$200 million annually. In Australia, the 2012–2013 budget for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was approximately AUS$50 million, but tourism to the reef was worth more than AUS$5.2 billion annually to the Australian economy.

“The growth of the modern global protected area movement over the last 100 years is arguably the greatest conservation achievement,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “It is also increasingly important for livelihoods and global security. The key now is for countries to recognize the return on investment that protected areas offer and realize that those places are fundamental to the future of life on earth. This is exactly what we hope to achieve at the upcoming IUCN World Parks Congress.”

Effective management of protected areas, the threats they face and the solutions they offer to today’s global challenges will be discussed at the IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in Sydney from 12 to 19 November 2014.

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