Best of our wild blogs: 20 Nov 14



BirdBlitz – young greenies learn all about birds!
from Toddycats!


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Protect Pulau Ubin for those seeking refuge from urban life

HENG CHO CHOON Today Online 20 Nov 14;

I refer to the report “Nature Society wants Ubin to be given protected status” (Nov 19)

I applaud the Nature Society’s gesture of petitioning the authorities to give Pulau Ubin protected status, as this little island is the last frontier of our rapid urban development. Pulau Ubin has for many years been the weekend refuge for many Singaporeans who need a break after a hectic work week in our fast-paced society.

Students visit the island to go trekking, cycling and camping, which is necessary for their physical development in their growing-up years. Tourists visit it to soak in the rustic charm of an island where time has stood still. They flock there on weekends to enjoy a seafood meal at the quaint coffee shops adjoining the shore. Proprietors of the bicycle rental shops eke out a living by catering to the needs of hordes of visitors who visit Pulau Ubin to unwind.

Construction of new buildings should be discouraged as this would put a strain on the ecosystem and the relationship between man and nature. This was evident when condominiums were built along Hindhede Road and Bukit Way. The developments are too close to the nature reserve and conflict arises between man and beast when monkeys invade the residents’ homes.

The attractions of Pulau Ubin are the sandy beaches on Noordin Beach and Mamam Beach. The boardwalk at Chek Jawa is also a favourite haunt of tourists. Then there is the Tiger’s claw (Gloriosa superba), a rare flower that grows in abundance on Ubin. The disused prawn ponds are now full of water lilies and lotus flowers (Nelumbo nucifera).

The island also has many species of mangrove trees and when the Bruguiera gymnorrhiza is in full bloom, the forest looks like a scarlet canopy. The squirrel and the Many-lined Sun Skink (Mabuya multifasciata) can be found on the tracks and the trees. Let us keep these flora and fauna for our future generations.

I hope the authorities will not convert Pulau Ubin into another Sentosa, but let it remain a sanctuary for those who want to seek solace from the rat race and city life.

With rare fauna, Pulau Ubin deserves nature-reserve status
BEN LEE, FOUNDER, NATURE TREKKER Today Online 22 Nov 14;

I refer to the report “Nature Society wants Ubin to be given protected status” (Nov 19).

I fully support the Nature Society’s move to give the island nature-reserve status, because it is home to a variety of wildlife not commonly found on the mainland.

Pulau Ubin was indeed a nature haven where wildlife, such as the critically endangered Malayan Tiger and Asian Elephant, were reportedly sighted and reported in the media.

Occasionally, there are interesting avian visitors to the island, such as the huge Trumpeter Hornbill from Africa. Besides these visitors, the island also boasts some iconic native animals, such as the Oriental Pied Hornbill as well as other rare and uncommon animals including the Sunda Pangolin, Malayan Porcupine, Greater Mousedeer, Asian Palm Civet, Oriental Small-Clawed Otter, Malayan False Vampire Bat and Wild Boar, which still exist on the tiny 7km stretch of island.

I have been visiting Pulau Ubin almost every weekend for the past 35 years and have witnessed its rapid transformation from an island of rustic charm, where coconut trees, kampungs and chickens scurrying in backyards were a common sight, to its current state, after having experienced mass human encroachment and seen modern facilities built and cycling trails created.

If the island is given nature-reserve status, it will be a great joy and relief to all nature communities in Singapore as it will remain a refuge for the wildlife there with binding legal protection, unlike the case with its current status as a nature area.


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Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve gets extension

VALERIE KOH Today Online 20 Nov 14;

The extension will have new guided tours, attractions and a vistors centre.

SINGAPORE — A 31-hectare extension at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve opens on Dec 6,the nature reserve’s 21st birthday, with new guided tours, attractions and a visitor’s centre.

The extension — linked to the 130-hectare Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve — has rich mangrove and coastal forests. Members of the public can explore the place by joining any one of the six new guided walks available on Saturdays.

This brings the total number of guided walks at the reserve to seven. They are offered on a rotational basis.

The existing guided walk focuses on the habitat of the mangrove forest, whereas the new walks will educate members of the public on other habitats found at the reserve, including the sky, mud and water.

Two walks have been developed specifically for children under 12 years old to teach them to identify common species of flora and fauna.

Each 1.5-hour guided walk is helmed by some 50 volunteers from the public and Regent Secondary School.

New attractions at the extension include a Mud Experience, where visitors can get close to creatures living in the mud, a mid-canopy walk with a suspension bridge, and a coastal boardwalk, which offers an unobstructed view of the Kranji waterfront and a lookout point for nature lovers.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension opens Dec 6
Channel NewsAsia 20 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: Visitors to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension will be able to step onto mudflats and get up close with creatures, and enjoy a scenic mid-canopy walk and coastal boardwalk when it opens on Dec 6.

In the mid-canopy walk, visitors can immerse themselves in the understory of a secondary forest through an elevated boardwalk, where they can spot birds such as Pied Fantails and insects like cicadas.

The coastal boardwalk offers views of the Kranji waterfront with a lookout point where raptors such as the Ospreys and White-Bellied Sea Eagles can be spotted hunting for prey.

New programmes will also be offered at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and six new guided walks will be conducted on Saturdays by student volunteers.

- CNA/av

Sungei Buloh reserve extension to showcase trails, guided walks
VALERIE KOH Today Online 21 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — Visitors to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve will be able to step on mudflats, cross a suspension bridge and take a stroll along a coastal boardwalk, once a new 31ha extension opens on Dec 6.

The grand opening, which coincides with the reserve’s 21st anniversary, will also see the launch of six new guided walks around the wetlands. The extension at Kranji Way, which includes mangrove and coastal forests, will have three nature trails totalling 1.65km and a new visitor centre.

Visitors can make their way across the 120m suspension bridge in the heart of a secondary forest and spot birds and insects in the mid-canopy region and forest floor.

Those looking for a more immersive experience can step on mudflats during low tide to look for crabs, worms and mudskippers.

Of the six free guided walks that the National Parks Board (NParks) is introducing — on top of an existing guided tour — two will cater to children under 12. During those two tours, led by students from Regent Secondary School, the children will be taught to identify common species of flora and fauna found at the reserve and the need for conservation.

The six walks, lasting one-and-a-half hour each and led by public and student volunteers, will be held on Saturday mornings on a rotational basis.

Each walk can accommodate up to 15 participants.

The wetland reserve sees an average of 100,000 visitors each year, but NParks hopes that the opening of the new ecological space will draw more people to the area.

Ms Sharon Chan, the reserve’s deputy director, said: “Over the years, we’ve seen a rising number of visitors going to the reserve. With these numbers, there will be an impact on the wildlife found there. We thought it’ll be a good idea to expand so that we can reach out to more people.”

The expansion plans took into account comments from the public.

“We do take note of the feedback … that the reserve is not very accessible, so we’ve brought it closer to people by building the extension closer to Kranji Reservoir Park,” Ms Chan said. Visitors can access the extension via a new entrance to the reserve at Kranji Way. The current entrance at Neo Tiew Crescent remains.

More to explore at Sungei Buloh reserve's extension
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Nov 14;

The National Parks Board (NParks) has also set up observation points in the extension, as well as a suspended bridge through the mid- canopy of a secondary forest. Six new guided walks have been added to the reserve's original one, including two walks meant for children under 12 years old.

These will be held on Saturdays and rotated. Each free, 1½-hour walk will be led by volunteers from the public and Regent Secondary School. The students have been training since last year to beef up their knowledge of the flora and fauna in the area.

Visitors can step onto mudflats during low tide to get up close to creatures such as the tree climbing crab, solitary tube worm and giant mudskipper. A new bird-watching walk at the original reserve will teach people to spot shorebirds such as plovers and sandpipers, and passerines, also called perching birds, such as sunbirds and bulbuls.

A coastal boardwalk offers a scenic view of the Kranji waterfront, and a lookout point to observe ospreys and white-bellied sea eagles hunting for prey. NParks deputy director of conservation Sharon Chan said the extension will help relieve pressure on the original reserve, which receives some 100,000 visitors a year.

Regent Secondary student Siti Nur Khairulhuda, 15, said she hopes to guide visitors on the walks every weekend once the extension opens. "I signed up as a volunteer with my friend. We're both interested in nature and we both really like to talk," she said with a laugh.


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Tampines Road hit by flash flood

Hoe Pei Shan and Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Nov 14;

A heavy midday downpour led to damage and disruption yesterday in Tampines Road, one of a handful of areas which saw flash floods in the afternoon.

The intense rain caused water to overflow from the Tampines Canal into residential areas, trapping parked cars, causing power outages and flooding homes.

Tampines Road was identified by PUB as a "hot spot" for flash floods, but the authority is hoping to address the problem with drainage improvements.

Physical works to widen and deepen the Tampines Canal are expected to start in the first quarter of next year. PUB is also currently upgrading the roadside drains in Jalan Teliti, and this is slated for completion in the third quarter of next year.

"When completed, these works will increase flood protection for the Tampines Road, Jalan Teliti and Hougang Avenue 1 areas," said a PUB spokesman.

Yesterday, water levels reached the windows of cars parked in the basement of Fortune Park Condominium in Tampines Road.

Residents of some houses along the road waded in ankle-deep water, with several expressing worries about coping with floods.

"Before the canal gets widened, PUB should make sure it responds more quickly when called to get pumps in, to minimise damage to property and disruption to residents," said Madam Ho Gek Leng, who chairs Fortune Park's management committee and has lived there for 18 years.

Residents could not get to work as they had to settle insurance claims or clean up homes, she said. "There have been cases of flooding in the past here, but this is the first time that it is this bad."

Other areas hit by flash floods yesterday included Lorong Gambir, MacPherson Road and Lorong Ong Lye - all of which are also set for drainage improvement works next year.

The highest rainfall recorded as at 5pm yesterday was 62.6mm in the Paya Lebar area - about a third of the record 160.8mm so far this month.

More thundery showers are expected over many areas this afternoon.

Additional reporting by Audrey Tan

Heavier year-end rainfall still within expected range: Experts
Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 19 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The Meteorological Service Singapore expects a "slightly more active" Northeast Monsoon this year. The rainfall for Nov and Dec is forecast to be about 20 per cent above the normal average - but experts say this is still within the expected range.

As of mid-Nov, Singapore has already experienced more than two-thirds of the month's average rainfall. The wet phase of the coming monsoon will bring short periods of moderate to heavy showers in the afternoons and evenings.

However, Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the geography department at the National University of Singapore told Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday (Nov 19) that it would be unusual if the upcoming monsoon showed extreme weather patterns.

"When we look at the long-term records - more than 30 years of data - there will be periods where there is less rainfall, periods where there is more rainfall. A 20 per cent increase still falls within what we would expect for the natural variation of rainfall for this particular month," he said.

"We would be interested in extreme weather - for instance, earlier this year in February, we only received 0.2mm of rain for the entire month. That has not been recorded before in Singapore, so that is an extreme event."

In this case, Asst Prof Chow said extreme weather translates to more intense and frequent rainfall. While it is too early to tell, he said climate change could be one of the reasons if indeed there are more frequent and intense rainstorms during this monsoon season. Another reason could be an El Nino weather pattern setting in.

But what eventually results in flash floods could also be due to a multitude of factors. National water agency PUB said flash floods occur due to intense rains especially in low lying areas, constricted drains and road depressions.

PUB said its measures to address flash floods go beyond the expansion of drains, and include the monitoring of CCTV cameras and water level sensors. In light of the monsoon season, it is also providing flash flood updates on its website - such as providing information on where the flood occurred and at what intensity. It also sends alerts through SMS and its MyWaters app, which has about 10,000 subscribers so far.

- CNA/ac

PUB ready to tackle looming threat of flash floods
AUDREY TAN Straits Times 20 Nov 14;

Singapore has the infrastructure in place to minimise disruption from flash floods during the oncoming north-east monsoon season, said PUB, the national water agency, yesterday.

However, it warned that these may not be able to "cater to the most extreme of storms".

The authority said that, as of Monday, there have been 14 flash flood days this year.

More could occur in the final two months of the year - traditionally the wettest for the Republic.

There were 36 flash flood days last year, up from 23 in 2011, and experts said causes could include increased urbanisation and climate change.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's geography department said: "The increasing frequency of extreme weather events, such as intense rain or droughts, is consistent with other scientists' observations on climate change."

Mr Ridzuan Ismail, PUB's director of catchment and waterways, said the growth of urban areas in Singapore has led to more rainwater in developed areas flowing into drainage canals.

However, the agency said yesterday that it has adopted a suite of measures to address flood risks.

It has completed 163 drainage projects over the past three years at locations such as Toh Tuck Road and Rochor Canal.

About 133 drainage projects are currently under way, and 23 more will be undertaken by next year.

PUB told The Straits Times that it requires drains to be open in low-lying areas at risk of flooding. In areas where there are space constraints, drains could be closed and water is let in through inlets instead.

The latter "have the advantage of doubling up as a footpath", and PUB said it ensures both types of drains are "adequately sized".

Mr Chong Kee Sen, president of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore, said: "As long as adequate drainage paths are designed to lead rainwater into the drain quickly and effectively, there is no significant difference between covered drains and drains with grille tops."

PUB encourages building owners to play a role in protecting their properties against floods.

Its Code of Practice on Surface Water Drainage, for instance, requires developers to include features that retain or slow down rainwater.

The agency lists 48 flood- prone areas and 55 flooding hot spots on its website.

Flood-prone areas are low- lying places with a history of flooding, while hot spots are areas that are not low-lying but have experienced flash floods.

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) warned on Tuesday that rainfall this month and next will be about 20 per cent above the long-term average of 257mm and 288mm respectively. The first half of this month has already been wetter than usual, with 188mm of rainfall recorded so far.

The MSS also expects short, moderate to heavy thundery showers during afternoons and evenings over the next two months, as the annual north-east monsoon season takes hold. It added: "Heavy rain coinciding with high tides could lead to localised flash floods in low-lying areas."


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NEA clamps down on vehicle idling

Channel NewsAsia 19 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: As part of the National Environment Agency's (NEA) ongoing efforts to raise awareness and promote compliance with anti-idling engine regulations, the agency conducted a three-hour enforcement exercise at a car park at Ang Mo Kio Street 53 on Wednesday (Nov 19).

During the exercise, enforcement officers issued warning letters to 14 motorists for leaving their vehicle engines idling while stationary. They also distributed educational pamphlets and anti-idling car decals to 236 motorists.

NEA urges motorists to turn off their engines after parking their vehicles so as to achieve better air quality and safeguard public health. Members of the public who spot idling vehicles on the road are encouraged to report them to NEA, providing details such as vehicle registration number, location and time of incident. Errant motorists may be fined up to a maximum of S$5,000.

- CNA/ac

NEA advises motorists to switch off engines to minimise pollution
Today Online 20 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — One of the top reasons for motorists leaving their engines idling while stationary, is that they are unaware of anti-idling engine regulations, according to a statement released by the National Environment Agency (NEA) today (Nov 20).

This was discovered during a three-hour long enforcement exercise conducted on 19 Nov by the NEA at Ang Mo Kio St 53. The exercise was held to raise awareness among motorists and promote compliance with the anti-idling engine regulations.

Engines were also left idling by taxis waiting to pick up customers, parents waiting to pick up their children from school, drivers loading and unloading goods at non-designated areas, as well as drivers resting in their vehicles during short coffee or lunch breaks.

Under the Environmental Protection and Management (Vehicular Emissions) Regulations, it is an offence to leave the engine of a motor vehicle running when it is stationary for reasons other than traffic conditions. Errant motorists can be fined up to a maximum of S$5,000.

During the exercise, 14 motorists were issued warning letters for leaving their vehicle engines idling while stationary. NEA enforcement officers also distributed educational pamphlets and anti-idling car decals to 236 motorists.

Such exercises will be conducted periodically to remind motorists to switch off their engines.

The NEA encourages motorists to turn off their engines after parking their vehicles, “achieve better air quality and safeguard public health”.

Members of the public who spot idling vehicles on the road, are encouraged to report them to NEA, providing details such as vehicle registration number, location, date and time of the incident via the NEA hotline (1800 2255 632), Contact_NEA@nea.gov.sg or its myENV iPhone and Android application.

NEA clamps down on drivers who leave engines idling
YVONNE LIM Today Online 21 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE – Over the past three years, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has taken action on more than 8,000 cases of errant drivers who leave the engines idling while their vehicles are stationary. Fines have been meted out and warning letters and advisories issued, the NEA said.

In its latest three-hour enforcement blitz on Wednesday in Ang Mo Kio Street 53, warning letters were issued to another 14 drivers who had left the engines of stationary vehicles running. Pamphlets and anti-idling car decals were also distributed to 236 motorists.

The exercise will be conducted periodically to serve as a timely reminder to motorists, the NEA said.

Wednesday’s exercise found that motorists who had left their engines idling were often those who were unaware of the regulations, taxi drivers waiting to pick up customers, parents waiting for their children at school, workers loading and unloading goods at non-designated spots and drivers resting in their vehicles during a break.

Under the Environmental Protection and Management (Vehicular Emissions) Regulations, it is an offence to leave the engine of a motor vehicle running when it is stationary for reasons other than traffic conditions.

Errant motorists can be fined up to S$5,000. “A stationary motor vehicle with its engine running wastes fuel and causes air pollution. In addition, it causes smell and (is a) noise nuisance to the public,” the NEA said.

To raise public awareness of the regulations and environmental hazards posed by such vehicles, the NEA said it regularly engages vehicle fleet operators such as public transport operators, the Singapore School and Private Hire Bus Owners’ Association and the Singapore School Transport Association.

It also distributes through schools publicity posters, decals and pamphlets to educate parents and private school transport operators on switching off the engine while waiting to pick up schoolchildren.

However, a random check by TODAY with motorists found that many were unaware of the regulations, which date back to 1999.

Video producer Jeremy Oh, 27, said he often waits for his friends in his car with the engine running. “Sometimes they take a long time to leave (their houses) — up to 15 minutes — so I wait for them in my car with the air-conditioning on because it is comfortable,” he told TODAY.

He pledged to turn off the engine while his car is stationary after being informed of the regulations.

Taxi driver David Goh said that, while he was aware of the regulations and had tried to adhere to them, he felt they were an inconvenience — especially when he had to wait for passengers on warm days.

“Sometimes, passengers enter my taxi and complain that it is too warm inside. But I have no choice, because I have to turn off my engine while waiting for them.”

The NEA said members of the public who spot idling vehicles are encouraged to report them to the agency, with details such as the vehicle’s registration number, location as well as the date and time of the incident.

They may do so via the NEA’s hotline at 1800-CALL NEA (1800 2255 632),smartphone app myENV or email at Contact_NEA@nea.gov.sg.

14 motorists issued warnings after caught leaving vehicle engines on
AsiaOne 20 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Wednesday issued warning letters to 14 motorists who had left the engines of their stationary vehicles on, during a three-hour exercise in Ang Mo Kio.

As part of the exercise, NEA gave out pamphlets and anti-idling car decals to 236 motorists to promote compliance with anti-idling regulations, according to The Straits Times.

The NEA found that the people who left their engines on were delivery workers, taxi drivers waiting for customers or drivers resting in their vehicles.

It is an offence to leave the engine of a stationary vehicle on, except for reasons to do with traffic conditions under Environmental Protection and Management (Vehicular Emissions) regulations, according to The Straits Times.

In a statement, the NEA urged the public to turn off their vehicle engines after parking, in order to prevent air pollution.

"In the last three years, NEA had taken action on over 8,000 cases of idling engines and these comprise issuance of advisories, warning letters and fines to errant drivers," it said.

According to Channel NewsAsia, members of the public who spot idling vehicles on the road should report them to NEA. They should also take note of details like the vehicle registration number, location and time of incident.

They can call the NEA hotline at 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255 632), or choose to send in videos to contact_nea@nea.gov.sg.

Errant motorists may be fined up to a maximum of S$5,000.

Warnings issued to 14 motorists caught leaving vehicle engines idling
LINETTE LAI Straits Times 21 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE - Warning letters were issued on Wednesday to 14 motorists who had left their vehicle engines idling while stationary in a three-hour enforcement exercise by the National Environment Agency (NEA) in Ang Mo Kio.

NEA also distributed pamphlets and anti-idling car decals to 236 motorists, as part of the exercise to promote compliance with anti-idling regulations, which NEA officers had found many motorists to be unaware of. Those who left their engines on were workers loading or unloading goods, taxi drivers waiting for customers, parents waiting for school-going children, or simply drivers taking a break in their vehicles.

Under Environmental Protection and Management (Vehicular Emissions) regulations, it is an offence to leave the engine of a motor vehicle running when it is stationary for reasons other than traffic conditions. Those breaching the law can be fined up to $5,000.

In a statement, the NEA urged the public to turn off their engines after parking for better air quality and public health.

"In the last three years, NEA had taken action on over 8,000 cases of idling engines and these comprise issuance of advisories, warning letters and fines to errant drivers," it said.

Those who spot idling vehicles are encouraged to report them, providing the vehicle registration number, as well as location, date, and time of the incident.

They can call the NEA hotline on 1800-CALL NEA (1800-2255 632), or use the smartphone app called myENV. They can also choose to send in videos to contact_nea@nea.gov.sg


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Malaysia: Illegal logging penetrated wildlife sanctuaries

VICTORIA BROWN The Star 20 Nov 14;

PETALING JAYA: Illegal logging is prevalent across Malaysia and has even penetrated protected areas like wildlife sanctuaries.

“Samunsam wildlife sanctuary was completely decimated by illegal loggers and this has been happening over the past ten years,” said chairman of Malaysia Nature Society Kuching Anthony Sebastian (pic).

“The entire sanctuary is gone, all that’s left is its borders. That should not be happening,” he told The Star in an exclusive interview.

Police personnel checking illegal logs seized during a raid on a sawmill in Bintawa, Kuching. File pic

Sebastian who is also the chairman of the international board of directors for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) said that if we do not act now, illegal logging could have dire consequences to our environment, wildlife, culture and economy.

However, even though some of our ‘most vital areas’ have been logged, our forests will eventually regenerate, although it will take 60 to 100 years to do so.

“But our forests will never be the same. We have already lost so many species and we will lose more,” said Sebastian.

The Government also has a vested interest in the curbing of illegal logging due to massive forestry asset loss.

“We have come to a point where if we do not protect our assets, we will have nothing for the future,” said Sebastian.

“The timber industry requires its assets, we call them Permanent Forest Estate (PFE), and this is what ensures that Malaysia will always be a timber producing country.

“What’s happening in Malaysia, and in Sarawak particularly, is that our PFE has been wiped out, and a lot of it has been logged illegally,” he said.

Sebastian said that Malaysia is losing her tropical forests at a tremendous rate with illegal loggers “practically throwing away” valuable hardwood and illegal sellers selling them off at a fraction of the price.

“We need to address the problem (of illegal logging) from multiple levels,” said Sebastian.

“We can’t just be sending out enforcement officers across Malaysia to catch illegal stockpiles and confiscating them, for example. The illegal loggers will just change their tactics, they won’t stop.

“We need a much more comprehensive solution, where find out who the buyers are, who the middlemen are, who supplies the machinery,” he said.

Sebastian said that the public can also help to report on suspicious logging activities on Transparency International Malaysia’s Forest Watch Project website.

“Citizens can play a part in stopping illegal logging by submitting reports that will go into a database which is linked to all the forest departments in Malaysia, which will then be reviewed,” he said.

Sebastian lauded Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s tough stand against corruption and illegal logging in the state.

“I think that it is high time that the state government made a strong stance on illegal logging. This is as strong as it gets, and I applaud it.

“The Chief Minister is essentially saying enough is enough. We have all the wonderful laws but if we don’t enforce them there’s no point in having these laws,” he said

If you would like to submit a report on any suspicious forestry activities such as illegal logging, visit http://www.timalaysia-forestwatch.org.my/.

NGO: Not easy to wipe out corruption in S’wak timber sector
STEPHEN THEN The Star 20 Nov 14;

MIRI: An NGO here described the state of illegal logging and corruption in Sarawak’s timber sector as a complex web that would be difficult to unravel.

“It is widespread and very complicated. It will not be easy to tackle the problems, let alone eradicate them totally,” Michael Jok, the secretary of the Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips), said yesterday.

He welcomed Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s statement on Monday that warned that corruption in the timber sectors must be stopped because it was affecting the image of the state.

Jok said it was good that Adenan was brave enough to deal with these issues publicly, adding that it was “a refreshing development” in Sarawak.

But he called on the state’s enforcement authorities to re-open the old reports on illegal logging and corruption in Sarawak in the interest of justice.

He said that many official reports had been lodged since the days when the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) was still in authority in Sarawak.

Jok added that these cases saw native rights groups and longhouse folks claiming massive illegal logging and corrupt practices by logging giants that were operating on native land.

“When the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was formed several years ago to replace the ACA, did it relook into the old cases lodged by Sarawak natives on illegal logging?

“These old cases must be reopened because many of them did not see any conclusive investigation by the ACA,” he said.

Adenan unveils tough action plan against illegal logging
SHARON LING The Star 20 Nov 14;

KUCHING: Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem (pic) has unveiled a string of measures that he termed “follow-up action” to his offensive against illegal logging.

During his winding-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly yesterday, he warned the culprits involved that they would be up against stronger enforcement with a beef-up in intelligence gathering, equipment and weapons capabilities, among others.

He said the state government had approved RM5.07mil to acquire 29 Land Cruisers, four caravans, 50 pieces of firearms, uniforms and helicopter rental for aerial surveillance to boost enforcement.

He also said the state Forestry Department had intensified its actions against illegal logging and timber smuggling activities, including gathering intelligence, conducting surprise checks at log ponds and timber mills and helicopter surveillance.

The department also held a workshop on combating illegal logging and smuggling last month, during which various enforcement agencies assessed the log verification system currently being used in the state.

“We will try all this first to see whether it will work. If it is not very effective, we will amend the Forest Ordinance to increase the penalties, including imprisonment.

“But the main thing is not so much the penalty but the certainty of being caught. That is where enforcement comes in,” he said.

Adenan reiterated that he was not talking idly but meant what he said about putting a stop to illegal logging.

“That’s why I said don’t mess with me (on Monday). There will be follow-up action,” he said.

Adenan also invited NGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to talk with him on how to combat the problem.

“We are prepared to collaborate with sincere NGOs who are concerned about our forests,” he said.

Forestry Department director Sapuan Ahmad announced in a press conference after the speech that 22,306 illegal logs worth RM5.5mil had been seized in Bintulu and Miri in the last two weeks.

He said 17,064 logs were seized from eight locations in Bintulu and 5,242 logs from five locations in Miri for various offences, including felling without licence, felling outside licensed areas and non-payment of royalty.

Two excavators were also seized for encroaching into the Similajau National Park during the raids under the department’s Ops Bintulu Miri.

“No arrests were made as the loggers ran away when our men came,” he said, adding that the department would launch more operations against illegal logging.

Sapuan also said a first batch of 50 enforcement officers would be armed starting January.

“They are being screened first to make sure they are mentally fit. In December, they will be trained and by January they will be carrying guns,” he said, adding that the department had 400 enforcement officers.


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Malaysia: Once upon a time, there were lush forests and clear rivers

The Star 20 Nov 14;

CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Forty-six-year-old Mohd Rafee Rahim remembers a time when he and his fellow orang asli could rely wholly on forests here for their daily needs.

But those days, the Sungai Telimau deputy village headman said, were a distant memory because the surrounding land gradually turned into illegal farms.

“There used to be forests all around us. The rivers were clear with a lot of fish,” he said.

“Now, there is no more fish. The river water looks like teh ais (iced tea), and if we want to get food, we have to go to the night market.”

The thick jungle that once bordered his village on all sides had given way to farms owned by “outsiders” since the late 1980s.

Sungai Getan village headman Ahmad Bahnanggong, 53, shared a similar story.

He said farmers came to him with documents claiming aboriginal land was theirs.

“They would show us plans that this land belonged to them even though it was ours,” he said.

Then came the foreign workers, some of whom were troublemakers.

They would come to the village drunk and start fights, but they always got a beating, Ahmad said.

The villagers could smell the pesticides the farmers used, and he blamed them for the frequent illnesses among his people.

Ahmad said Immigration officers sometimes came to pick up workers who caused problems, “but no one is helping us to regain our land.”

Kampung Terisu village headman Jaafar Timor, 43, said his people were luckier than other orang asli in the area.

He said his people were able to strike a deal with the “outside” farmers, charging them rent for using their land.

“We did not have the money to work the land, so we rent it to these farmers,” he said.

Jaafar said a farmer paid the villagers about RM200,000 a year for leasing 81ha of land.

The villagers were once employed in these farms, but had been replaced by foreign workers.


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Malaysia: Embankment Ends Kelantan's Monsoon Nightmare

Siti Zarina Mohd Zahari and Siti Hajar Hussain Bernama 20 Nov 14;

KOTA BAHARU (Bernama) -- The monsoon season is a recurring nightmare for the people living in coastal areas of Kelantan as it comes with the rogue waves of the South China Sea.

The resulting coastal erosion affects almost the entire state. It is estimated that some 2.5km of the state's coastline has dissolved into the sea. Many have lost their homes to the waves in the past decade.

Kelantan is the worst affected by the erosion with tens of thousands of people exposed to the risk of losing their lives and homes during the season, which lasts from October through March.

Among the areas affected are Pantai Cahaya Bulan and Pantai Sabak in Kota Baharu, Pantai Sri Tujoh in Tumpat and Pantai Irama in Bachok.

These areas are fishing villages as well as popular tourism destinations and therefore the erosion not only caused losses to the people but for the tourism industry as well.

HOUSES WASHED INTO THE SEA

Hasnah Abdullah, 55, who lives on Pantai Sabak, said one of her relative's home had been swept into the sea while her house located nearby ends up flooded with seawater and sand during the monsoon.

"About 10 years ago, my house was located 2km away from the sea. Today, it is only 50 metres away due to the coastal erosion," she said to Bernama.

She said every monsoon season would see the villagers keeping a night vigil, for fear of having their homes swept into the sea while they slept.

The coastal erosion also destroyed thousands of coconut trees that were the source of income for the villagers.

Historical monuments too were ruined by the waves, among them the fortresses built by the British military to block out the Japanese armada anchored at the Kuala Pak Amat beach on Dec 7, 1941.

EMBANKMENT TO SOLVE EROSION WOES

To prevent further erosion and losses, the state government through the Department of Irrigation and Drainage is building a 3.85km long embankment from Pantai Sabak to Pantai Cahaya Bulan at a cost of more than RM13 million.

The 3.8-metre high embankment is being built in five phases with the last phase due for completion by the year-end.

The embankment was originally only 3.5 metres in height. However, it was not able to withstand the violent waves that destroyed a portion of Pantai Cahaya Bulan in 2011.

ADDED IMPROVEMENTS

The embankment along Pantai Cahaya Bulan is set to become a model for the development of shorelines prone to coastal erosion.

In addition to the embankment, a pedestrian path and public benches have also been placed along the beach for the benefit of the public and visitors.

Although the erosion had destroyed bathing spots and the places to sit down and build sandcastles, the operators of resorts and restaurant could now heave a sigh of relief as the monsoon waves were no longer a threat to their livelihoods.

A visitor to the beach, Habibah Shahid, 48, said the construction of the embankment could help woo the visitors back to the beach.

"Even though bathing at the beach is no longer possible, people can still jog, play volleyball and fly kites," said the teacher from Kedah.

-- BERNAMA


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Indonesia: President Jokowi should take action against forest fire perpetrators

Otniel Tamindael Antara 19 Nov 14;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Forest fires and haze on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan continue to create trouble for Indonesia despite the tightening of law enforcement.

The annual disaster that is caused by the burning of farmland and forest clearance has not only become a domestic issue but has also tarnished Indonesias image among its neighboring countries.

Last year, the environment ministry had identified some 14 companies suspected of starting peat and forest fires. However, to date, the government has yet to reveal the names of those companies.

Therefore, some environmental organizations and local community groups have urged President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to take up law enforcement processes and initiate action against the plantation companies responsible for starting peat and forest fires on Sumatra island.

"We hope the central government and the KPK will take up law enforcement operations against the perpetrators of forest fires in Sumatra," Indonesian Forum for Environments (Walhis) chief campaigner for forest and plantation Zenzy Suhadi stated here on Monday.

He noted that the local governments law enforcement against the companies, which intentionally burnt forest and peatland areas for plantation purpose, was nothing more than a business negotiation.

Zenzy said Walhi no longer trusted the law enforcement carried out by the provincial government as it has been alleged that the perpetrators are protected.

He remarked that Walhi has also urged the KPK to monitor the governments budget allocation for the management of haze problem caused by forest fires.

He emphasized there has been a strong indication that the recurring forest fires every year are set off intentionally to ensure the steady flow of funds worth billions of rupiah that the government releases to address the haze problem.

"We hope the provincial governments of the regions where forest fires occur will offer wider access to public information on the issue," Zenzy remarked.

He pointed out that the futile law enforcement against the erring companies indicated that a mafia was controlling the licensing processes.

He alleged massive structural corruption in the natural resources sector in South Sumatras local government bodies.

"We hope that the President will directly observe the forests and peatlands engulfed in flames in a number of regions in Sumatra," Zenzy remarked.

He added that if Jokowi personally visited the fire-affected locations, he would know how strong the blazes had been in various parts of Indonesia.

"If Jokowi visits the sites, then concrete measures will be taken to comprehensively end the ecological disaster," he went on.

Repeated peat and forest fires in Sumatra and elsewhere require President Jokowi to make a "blusukan", an impromptu visit, to the fire-hit locations there and gather firsthand information about the actual problems in the region.

Clearing land for agriculture purpose in Palembang and Riau is considered one of the major direct causes for extensive fires in areas with deep peat soil, releasing high volumes of carbon and contributing to climate changes. However, several efforts to address this problem have been ineffective so far.

"Therefore, it is necessary for President Jokowi to make a blusukan to the fire-hit locations and find a way to overcome the problem," Wimar Witoelar, the founder of Perspektif Baru Foundation, stated here recently.

He pointed out that the Indonesian Forum for Environment, Perspectif Baru Foundation, Greenpeace Indonesia, and Riau Universitys Disaster Study Center have urged President Jokowi to make a blusukan to the forest fire locations in Sumatra.

Wilmar noted that Jokowis blusukan is deemed necessary considering the high incidence of peat and forest fires there during the past 17 years and that no fundamental solution has been reached yet, despite the presidency changing hands several times.

"We are ready to request Jokowi to make a blusukan and obtain firsthand information about the real on-field conditions," Wilmar affirmed.

In the meantime, Greenpeace Indonesia Chief Longgena Ginting remarked that Indonesia had become the worlds largest carbon emitter thanks to peatland and forest fires and was also considered as a contributor to climate change.

"This ecological disaster has been happening for 17 years and without any real solution in sight; therefore, efforts to address peat and forest fires should be top priority for the Jokowi governments first 100 days," Ginting stated.

In view of this, he has urged the government to immediately revoke all industrial timber plantation (HTI) licenses issued in peat areas to prevent forest fires and haze during the dry season.

According to him, tens of thousands of people suffer from respiratory ailments caused by haze and pollutants discharged into the atmosphere during forest fires.

"Peat and forest fires always occur in the peat forests of industrial timber plantations and in large-scale oil palm plantations. These result in thick haze that affects the health and activities of local communities," Ginting remarked.

He noted that during the dry season, the owners of industrial timber plantations and oil palm plantations create new areas by burning peat forests.

"We see forest fires in peat lands every year due to the governments inaction and lack of decisiveness with regard to revoking the business licenses of plantation companies, which also harm the environment," Ginting remarked.

He further stated that the task of clearing forests was usually assigned to the farmers and workers of companies and this had left the plantation owners untouched by law.

"If the Jokowi government is serious about tackling peat and forest fires, it must first revoke the permits issued and then desist from issuing more permits to plantation companies. The government should also crackdown on companies that harm plantations," he reinstated.
(U.O001/INE/KR-BSR)

Minister Siti drops in on Riau to check haze problem
Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 19 Nov 14;

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya conducted an impromptu visit, or blusukan, in Riau on Tuesday to get an insight into the forest fires and haze that have plagued the province, amid efforts to prevent the disasters from recurring.

During a visit to the Riau Haze Disaster Command Station at the Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru, Siti held a dialog with academics, conservationists and a number of regional heads, promising that the government would resolve the haze issue.

“We must avoid mismanagement. Development should be carried out by managing natural resources properly, maintaining sustainability and the rights of future generations,” Siti said.

“Forest and land fires must be regarded as crises, otherwise they will persist,” she added.

She also emphasized that law enforcement against violating companies would be strict and consistent.

Assessment by the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) found that 17 companies, comprising 12 industrial forest concessions (HTI) companies and five plantation companies were recalcitrant and had triggered fires in their concession areas after failing to comply with the policies that govern the prevention of land and forest destruction.

“The field audit showed the government was serious about requiring the business sector to comply with the rules. Supervision must be heightened and every line mobilized in the field,” said Siti.

Meanwhile, Riau University Disaster Study Center (PSB) director Haris Gunawan said the government must formulate a thorough and comprehensive solution to the haze issue, which has dogged Riau for 17 years.

“I’m not denying that efforts have been made, but there needs to be a new strategy to resolve the haze issue comprehensively. We need to think outside the box,” said Haris.

He explained that the root of the problem of forest fires in Riau was dry peatland as a result of massive and uncontrolled canalization. Based on research conducted by the PSB, peatland fires in Riau have reached the innermost layer of peat, meaning that the spread of fire is not visible from the surface.

“Dry peat is very difficult to douse when it burns. In Rokan Hilir regency, land was burning in February and March, then in April and May there was extended torrential rain. Yet when we arrived in May, the peatland area was still emitting smoke,” said Haris.

Consequently, he urged that forest fires be put out now, while Riau is in the rainy season. Moreover, 46 percent of Riau’s 8.7 million hectares of territory is peatland area.

The haze is considered by many to be an irresolvable plague that will recur every year despite all efforts.

“It must be ended. We have new hope. President Joko Widodo must be brought to Riau. He should act as a symbol of the spirit to resolve the haze disaster and help Riau find a final solution,” said Haris.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Riau chapter director Riko Kurniawan said the forest fires were attributable to the poor management of natural resources.

“The existing regulations actually protect peatland, but in reality peat can dry up because of exploitation. Peatland is actually wet and difficult to burn, so if peat’s burning now, this must be investigated,” said Riko.

Greenpeace Indonesia activist Teguh Surya complained that the government only acted when haze occurred, and that prevention efforts would stop when it rained.

“We hope the current government will resolve the haze issue. Haze will stop when the right solution is achieved,” said Teguh


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Indonesia holds 200 Malaysians in crackdown on illegal fishing

KANUPRIYA KAPOOR Reuters 19 Nov 14;

(Reuters) - Indonesia on Wednesday detained 200 Malaysians found fishing illegally in its waters, as it moves to stem billions of dollars in economic losses, a senior government official told Reuters.

A crackdown on illegal fishing, which costs the vast archipelagic nation around $25 billion a year, kicked off this week, Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto told Reuters in a rare interview.

The drive is likely to spark tension with countries in the region, as new President Joko Widodo adopts a more assertive stance on the maritime sector of Southeast Asia's largest economy.

"The president has said our maritime sector is in a state of emergency...so we need a new, bold approach and that's why he's declared a war on illegal fishing," said Widjajanto, an expert on defense and foreign affairs.

"We are trying to send a clear message to our neighbors like Malaysia and China, which operate illegal ships in our territory, that this is not a normal situation for us."

Widjajanto said he expected at least 300 more illegal fishermen to be detained in the next few days.

The comments follow strong rhetoric from Widodo, who called this week for foreign ships to be sunk if they were discovered sailing without permission in Indonesian waters.

"Sink 10 to 20," the Jakarta Post newspaper reported Widodo as saying. "It would make them think," he added, referring to illegal fishermen.

"But remember to rescue the onboard crew first."

Indonesia also plans to lodge diplomatic protests with the countries involved, to pre-empt complaints over the capture of their citizens, said Widjajanto.

Indonesia aims to launch a new coastguard force in mid-December tasked with preventing piracy and illegal fishing, and safeguarding maritime borders, the chief security minister told Reuters last week.

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Minister: No Malaysian fishermen detained in Indonesia
MAZWIN NIK ANIS AND FARIK ZOLKEPLI The Star 21 Nov 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is in the dark over a report that Indonesia had detained 200 Malaysian fishermen for illegally fishing in its waters.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Wisma Putra and it's office in Indonesia were trying to confirm if the incident took place.

"As of now, we have not been able to authenticate or confirm the report. We are still checking," he told The Star Online.

Reuters reported that Indonesia on Wednesday detained 200 Malaysians found fishing illegally in its waters, as it moves to stem billions of dollars in economic losses.

Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto was quoted as saying that a crackdown on illegal fishing, which costs the vast archipelagic nation around $25bil a year, kicked off this week.

"The president has said our maritime sector is in a state of emergency...so we need a new, bold approach and that's why he's declared a war on illegal fishing," said Widjajanto, an expert on defence and foreign affairs.

Neither Agriculture and Agro-based Ministry nor the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) were also aware of the detention of Malaysian fishermen.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said there had been no report of fishermen not returning from their expedition.

"I have checked with the fisheries department whether they were informed of such matter but they too, are in the dark," he added.

MMEA deputy director-general (Operation) Datuk Mohd Puzi Ab Kahar said the report was an outrageous allegation.

“I can safely say that there is no such number of fishermen being detained by our Indonesian counterparts in the last two or three years,” he said.


“The agency and our Indonesian counterparts have always cooperated in terms of border patrols.

“If any of our citizens encroached in each other’s boundaries, we would know it,” added Mohd Puzi.

Foreign Ministry: Fisherman detained in Indonesia not Malaysians, do not speak Bahasa Malaysia
LOH FOON FONG The Star 27 Nov 14;

PUTRAJAYA: Preliminary investigations have revealed that the fishermen detained in Indonesian waters for illegal fishing are not Malaysians as they do not speak Bahasa Malaysia nor possess Malaysian identification documents.

The investigation was undertaken by the Malaysian consulate in Pontianak, Indonesia, together with the Indonesian authorities on Nov 22, the Foreign Ministry said in a press statement Wednesday.

The Ministry also said that Indonesian authorities claimed to have detained 524 boat people and 153 boats while conducting a security and public order operation Nov 16 to 17 around Berau district, East Kalimantan and between Pulau Derawan up to Pulau Panjang, Berau, East Kalimantan.

The detainees were held for illegal fishing in Indonesian waters and violating immigration rules for not possessing a permit or valid identification.

Indonesian authorities were in the midst of verifying the identity and personal information of the detainees, it said.

It said the Malaysian Embassy in Indonesia had received a diplomatic note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia on the matter on Nov 24, it said.

"The Foreign Ministry will continue to communicate with the Indonesian authorities to verify the citizenship of the detainees, so that consular assistance could be rendered to them accordingly.

"Malaysia hopes that the verification process by the Indonesian authorities could be completed as soon as possible," it said.

It was reported Saturday that the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta had sent its officers on a fact-finding mission to determine if the 200 fishermen detained in Kalimantan were indeed Malaysians.

A foreign news report had said that Indonesia detained the fishermen during a crackdown on illegal fishing, but details on their identity were sketchy.


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IUCN summit delivers major commitments to save Earth’s most precious natural areas

IUCN 19 Nov 14;

Sydney, Australia – The IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, the once-in-a-decade global forum on protected areas, closes today with the release of The Promise of Sydney. The Promise sets out an ambitious agenda to safeguard the planet’s natural assets, ranging from halting rainforest loss in the Asia-Pacific and tripling ocean protection off Africa’s coasts to a business commitment to plant 1.3 billion trees along the historic Silk Road.

The Promise includes pledges from governments, international organizations, the private sector, Indigenous leaders, community groups and individuals, with many more still being recorded.

The document highlights the need to invigorate global efforts to protect natural areas, including scaling up the protection of landscapes and oceans. It includes commitments to boost investment in nature’s solutions to halt biodiversity loss, tackle climate change, reduce the risk and impact of disasters, improve food and water security and promote human health. It also aims to inspire people around the globe, across generations and cultures, to experience the wonder of nature through protected areas.

“Protected areas are by far the best investment the world can make to address some of today’s biggest development challenges,” says Julia Marton-Lef√®vre, IUCN Director General. “The Congress has propelled major commitments from leaders across all levels of society to secure the benefits protected areas provide to humanity and ensure a sustainable future. Drawing on the collective knowledge of over five thousand top protected area experts – and many others who care about the future of our planet – the Promise of Sydney now captures innovative strategies to protect these exceptional places.”

Organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and hosted by the Australian and New South Wales Governments, the Congress brought together more than 6,000 participants from over 170 countries.

“Australia is proud to have co-hosted such a successful Congress and equally proud of our own commitments in the Promise of Sydney,” says Greg Hunt, Australian Environment Minister. “They range from banning capital dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef and a historic agreement with China to ban mining in Antarctica, to new initiatives to recover the rainforests of the Asia-Pacific and to halt species loss in our national parks. It has been an inspirational Congress – now it is time to deliver the innovative solutions to the challenges facing our planet.”

The Promise of Sydney outlines a pathway for achieving the global target to protect at least 17% of land and 10% of oceans by 2020.

The Protected Planet report, launched in Sydney by IUCN and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), showed that while the world is on track to meet the target, more work is needed to ensure that areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services are well and equitably managed. The Promise of Sydney also called for an urgent increase in ocean protection, including areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The meeting highlighted the need to scale up investment and the quality of governance and management of protected areas. Diversity, quality and vitality of governance emerged as a key prerequisite for ensuring the effectiveness and long-term success of protected areas. Delegates called for a stronger recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples through policies and management practices of protected areas. They acknowledged the critical role of traditional wisdom and management systems in long-term conservation outcomes and community well-being.

Best-practice examples of equitable governance were recognized by the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas – the first global standard set to define excellence in protected area management, presented at the Congress. This award was granted to 23 sites in Australia, China, Colombia, France, Italy, Kenya, Spain and South Korea, including a number of Indigenous Protected Areas.
Croatia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nepal, Peru and Russia expressed their commitment to undergo the IUCN Green List assessment in the next phase of the initiative.

The Congress also highlighted the need to ensure that protected areas are established in the right places to prevent further species extinctions. The world’s largest-known earwig was among species declared extinct at the Congress by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, with the Pacific Bluefin Tuna, Chinese Pufferfish and American Eel among those listed as threatened due to the growing appetite for resources.

A key focus was on economic benefits and cost-effectiveness of conserving the world’s natural areas, including their contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation. It also called for new financing models to maintain them, combining public and private funding. Modern technology emerged as a new player in nature conservation, with the launch of Google’s underwater street view and a tool to track illegal fishing. NASA provided cutting-edge satellite imagery to improve the monitoring of protected areas.

Celebrating parks, the planet and people
WWF 19 Nov 14;

WWF’s conservation experts joined other International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) member governments and organizations, as well as private sector representatives, at the World Parks Congress to discuss protection and management of fragile habitats and ecosystems, many of which are critical to human survival.

“Across the world, millions of people rely on the services provided by the healthy ecosystems in protected areas for their food security, water supply, fresh air, climate stability and employment opportunities. Protected areas are a powerful tool to secure a healthy, diverse and productive environment, which is the foundation to any credible long-term sustainable development agenda,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

“We are placing biodiversity and natural resources at the heart of our new national development plan,” Madagascar President Hery Rajaonarimampianina said during a WWF even in Sydney last night. “It is possible to effectively tackle poverty while preserving and sustainably using one’s natural capital. Our natural capital is one of our greatest assets: biodiversity, and the protected areas, are engines of our development.”

Since 2003, species-rich Madagascar has tripled the number of protected areas in the country by creating 95 new sites, and established a US$50 million conservation fund for their management. The president pledged to expand even further the country’s marine protected area coverage, and to establish community management of coastal resources.

In total, commitments to 140 million hectares of protected areas were made at WWF’s event, and over US$500 million in conservation funding for management of these parks was announced.

Earlier in the conference, Malaysia, part of the Coral Triangle Initiative, committed to gazette close to a million hectares of ocean in the state of Sabah by 2015. Over 80,000 coastal and island residents of Sabah rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Included in the state’s plans is gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park, an important marine area that needs protection from overfishing, destructive fishing practices and pollution.

Fiji, another Coral Triangle Initiative country, announced plans to increase its number of locally managed marine areas so that communities can make decisions about how best to maximize the benefits provided by their natural resources. Fiji also intends to protect nearly a third of its coastal waters, and Gabon nearly a quarter. Marine protected areas can guard stocks from collapse by giving fish a place to grow, as well as by preventing unsustainable take levels and habitat degradation.

In a landmark terrestrial announcement, the government of Peru joined WWF and other partners to form a new alliance aimed at securing long-term funding for the country’s 76 Amazon protected areas, and at ensuring the inclusion of indigenous communities in natural area management.

Additionally on land, Bhutan said that it has doubled its protected area cover to over 50 per cent, the highest in the world. Bhutan also announced the launch of a US$50 million conservation fund, which is modelled on the Brazilian Amazon ARPA for Life fund. Neighbouring China said has accelerated the roll out of new nature reserves, including the habitats of endangered pandas and tigers.

Globally, protected areas play an essential role in reducing the carbon in the atmosphere, yet they are at risk increasingly from climate change. At the World Parks Congress, WWF presented a new Climate Adaptation Methodology for Protected Areas, known by its acronym CAMPA, which can help bolster parks’ resiliency. WWF also joined eight other organizations in calling for natural World Heritage Sites to be no-go zones for oil, gas and mining exploration and extraction, which is a looming menace with the potential to impact many properties.

“WWF today is renewing its dedication to working with communities, governments and other partners to ensure that protected areas are well-managed, sufficiently-resourced and protected from threats,” Lambertini said. “Much stronger focus and efforts are required particularly to secure protected and sustainably-managed marine habitats, which are lagging behind despite their huge importance for biodiversity and people. Our planet’s extraordinary parks are a success story worthy of celebration, but much more needs to be done in order to secure them for future generations.”


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UN: World not close to avoiding dangerous warming

SETH BORENSTEIN Associated Press Yahoo News 20 Nov 14;

WASHINGTON (AP) — The world still isn't close to preventing what leaders call a dangerous level of man-made warming, a new United Nations report says. That's despite some nations' recent pledges to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions.

The report looks at the gap between what countries promise to do about carbon pollution and what scientists say needs to be done to prevent temperatures rising another two degrees. The two-degree level is a goal that world leaders set in 2009.

"The time window (for reaching that goal) is closing, closing," said United Nations undersecretary for environment Achim Steiner. And the cost of getting to that goal "is increasing, increasing."

To meet that goal, the world has to hit a peak of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases before 2030, said the report's chief scientific editor, Joseph Alcamo. But the study says carbon emissions will continue to soar until 2050 and by then it will be too late.

Using basic math and science, researchers figured out how much greenhouse gas the world can emit by 2030 and keep below that two degree mark: about 46 billion tons (42 billion metric tons). Without factoring in this month's promises by the U.S. and China to reduce emissions, the world will be spewing between 15 and 19 billion tons more than that, said Alcamo, chief scientist for the United Nations' environmental arm.

If the U.S. and China follow through with their promises, they may shave a few billions of tons off the total, said former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth, vice chairman of the United Nations Foundation. Those pledges and an earlier one by Europe, while narrowing the gap, aren't large enough to close it, Alcamo said.

In his forward to the report, Steiner wrote that the "analysis reveals a worrisome worsening trend. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will lead to an even warmer climate and exacerbate the devastating effect of climate change."

Outside scientists praised the numbers in the study, but Granger Morgan at Carnegie Mellon University raised a question that scientists have been debating more frequently: Is it time to abandon the two-degree goal as unrealistic?

"Today a two-degree target is akin to a 60-year-old man who resolves to be 25 years old next year," Morgan said in an email. "It ain't gonna happen, but it's time to get really serious about achieving what we can."

Steiner said because of the dangers of a warmer world, it is unthinkable to abandon the two-degree goal.

After the report was released at a Washington news conference, Tommy Remengesau — president of the small island nation of Palau, which is threatened by sea level rise — told The Associated Press that this really isn't about numbers: "For some of us, it's a matter of survival: life and death."


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