Best of our wild blogs: 5 Dec 14

What makes Ubin Day special: The Ubin Day 2014 report
from wild shores of singapore

'Open House' at Pulau Ubin fish farms for Ubin Day
from wild shores of singapore

from The annotated budak

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New study to find out about life in reservoirs

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE - Six of Singapore's 17 reservoirs will be studied in the next two years to find out what lives in them and the relationship between the aquatic plants and animals, such as what the fish eat.

National water agency PUB, which is leading the study that starts this week, said the information will allow it to better manage the reservoirs' water quality.

It could also help the agency to prevent and resolve problems such as the midge fly infestations that have plagued the Bedok and Pandan reservoirs in the past.

"If we want fewer midges, we may want to increase its fish predators, but that won't be useful if the predators of the fish are also increasing," said PUB senior biologist Low E-Wen, adding that knowledge of food chains would allow PUB to adjust fish levels for desired outcomes.

The six reservoirs are the Punggol, Serangoon, Pandan, Bedok, Upper Peirce and Marina reservoirs, and they were selected for different reasons.

Between 2006 and 2010, PUB surveyed 14 reservoirs' biodiversity to get baseline data, but it studied only which plants and creatures and how many of each species lived in them, not the species' relationships.

Marina Reservoir was opened in 2008, and the Punggol and Serangoon ones in 2011. They were not ready to be surveyed at the time, hence their inclusion in the new study, said PUB.

Although the Bedok, Pandan and Upper Peirce reservoirs were included in the previous study, Bedok and Pandan were selected for the new one because of their past midge problems. The swarms of insects have been a longstanding problem, with a severe spate in 2011 leading to complaints, some shops closing early and days-long fogging.

Upper Peirce Reservoir, "as a controlled, protected catchment", will be used to provide a contrast to the other more open reservoirs, said Dr Low.

"We will take stock after these six reservoirs are done... and then see if there is a need to continue," she said, adding that some of the study's survey techniques are being used here for the first time and need to be validated.

One such technique is electrofishing. It uses electricity to temporarily immobilise fish so researchers can weigh, measure and tag them before releasing them, to sample fish populations. The fish suffer no permanent harm.

The team from PUB, National University of Singapore's Department of Biological Sciences and Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum will also study the aquatic creatures' isotopic ratios - which reflect the food they eat - and analyse their stomach contents using DNA sequencing.

For public safety, water activities at the reservoirs will be stopped temporarily during the sampling sessions. A 50m safety zone and a safety boat will be deployed during electrofishing.

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Car-sharing does not reduce road use

Christopher Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Dec 14;

How would an electric car- sharing scheme further our ambition to be "car-lite"? In short, it does not.

Car-sharing schemes, electric or otherwise, will actually lead to higher utilisation of road space, not less. And as the whole purpose of going "car-lite" is to put a cap on congestion, car-sharing does not quite serve the cause.

Former Transport Minister Raymond Lim told Parliament in 2010: "From an overall transport perspective, more people sharing a car in effect increases the use of that car."

Furthermore, Singapore already has an absolute cap on its car population, via the vehicle quota system. In countries where there is no such control, a car-sharing scheme might conceivably reduce overall car demand marginally. Not so in Singapore, where the quota system has been in place since 1990.

In Singapore, car-sharing schemes will only lead to a greater demand for road space.

If the end goal is to reduce demand for road space, then we need to ramp up our public transport system, improve how our taxis are deployed, and make it easier for people to share rides. Ride-sharing - or car-pooling as it is more commonly called - reduces demand for road space.

So, why are we launching an electric car-sharing scheme?

One theory is that it is another way for us to assess the viability of electric cars here. The first $20 million "test-bed" led by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) ended with pretty watery findings. Examples include:

- Electric vehicles are "technically feasible" in Singapore, because the average distance clocked in the trial was 46km a day. This is less than the national average of 50km for a conventional passenger car, and much lower than the manufacturers' declared range of 120-160km per charge. (The average distance clocked by car owners is a long known fact, and there is no reason to doubt an electric car owner would behave differently.)

- High purchase price was the top inhibiting factor cited by consumers. (There has already been clear evidence of this in other markets.)

- Range anxiety was the next major concern. (Another well-documented fact.)
- Electric cars are expensive compared to conventional cars primarily because of their high open market value. (Yet another known fact.)

- A cost-benefit analysis showed that the health-care savings arising from the clean mode of transport would not be sufficient to offset the high cost of electric cars. (This is probably the most interesting finding, but the EMA did not elaborate despite repeated requests.) Another $75 million in tax dollars have been set aside to put more than 1,200 green vehicles on the road. Sources say the electric car-sharing scheme would account for the bulk of the budget.

But despite having been on the drawing board for over a year, the initiative is still stuck in neutral gear. Life! understands that the Land Transport Authority and Economic Development Board - which will be spearheading the plan - have not yet called for an RFI (request for information).

As such, the scheme is unlikely to take off anytime soon. According to industry players, one of the stumbling blocks is the different charging cables used by various manufacturers from China, Europe and the United States.

This makes setting up a public charging infrastructure that can be used by one and all a costly affair. Even if Singapore were to adopt the latest European convention, the new cable is different from those used by cars involved in the first test-bed.

That might render an entire network of three-year-old charging stations obsolete.

One view is that Singapore should forget about setting up a public charging infrastructure. As the first trial showed, the average driving distance for an electric car is less than half the range of a fully charged vehicle.

The Government should just leave it to the private sector to decide how it wants to provide charging facilities to customers.

And instead of another tax-funded trial to see if electric vehicles are viable, the carbon emissions-based vehicle scheme (CEVS) should be enhanced to give due recognition to cars with substantial environmental and health contributions. Today, CEVS rebates are granted too freely.

Having said all that, car-sharing still has a role here. Not so much as a transport solution, but a social one. Car- sharing indirectly placates the person who is priced out of the car market.

But the way we have been operating car-sharing thus far is inefficient.

In Europe, car-sharing plans rely on smartphone apps that tell users at a glance the availability of cars in the vicinity. Users can then book an available car with a touch of the screen.

There is no need for designated parking spaces and other logistical requirements. In Singapore, where carpark spaces are as precious as road space, reserving lots for car-sharing schemes is just not possible.

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Green and walkable space in Civic District coming in 2015

Channel NewsAsia 4 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE: Works to create a green, safe and walkable park environment in the Civic District have started, announced the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Thursday (Dec 4).

The project will stitch the spaces around Padang - such as the Asian Civilisations Museum, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall - the National Gallery and the Esplanade Park, to create an integrated arts, culture and lifestyle precinct.

Most of the works will be completed in phases throughout 2015, to tie in with the various SG50 celebrations and events taking place in the area next year, said the URA.

In a blog entry on Thursday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan described the Civic District as "full of history, memories, monuments and beauties". He said these works will enhance visitors' experience considerably and also create new spaces for more community activities.


The key enhancements for the project will be made at Empress Place, St Andrew's Road and Connaught Drive, the Singapore River, and the Esplanade Park.

Express Place, which currently separates the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, will be paved over so as to create a seamless park-like setting.

Part of Fullerton Road is also being realigned to create a more spacious lawn in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. New infrastructure such as power, water and lighting will be installed to allow the space to be used for outdoor events.

These works will be completed by July 2015.

Also to be completed by July 2015 is the introduction of a more spacious walkway along St Andrew's Road in front of the National Gallery, the conversion of one side of Anderson Bridge to a pedestrian footpath, and the conversion of Connaught Drive to a two-way street where traffic will be limited to buses and coaches.

Other works that have started include the building of new stepped plazas along the edge of the Singapore River, the improvement of landscaping at the Esplanade Park, and the building of a new 8km-long "Jubilee Walk" with trail markers that tell the story of Singapore's progress from past to present and the future.

- CNA/xh

Greener and more walkable spaces to be introduced in Civic District
Today Online 4 Dec 14;

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s Civic District is undergoing a makeover that will see some landmarks in the area connected to create a green, safe and walkable park environment, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) today (Dec 4).

The goal of the project, the URA said, is to stitch together spaces around the Padang — such as the Asian Civilisations Museum, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, the National Gallery and the Esplanade Park — to create an integrated arts, culture and lifestyle precinct.

Besides greenery and walkways, some new infrastructure, such as power, water and lighting, will also be installed to allow for outdoor events. The bulk of the work is expected to be completed in phases throughout next year.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post that the upgrades are an “SG50 gift to Singaporeans”. The enhancements were first unveiled during the Draft Master Plan 2013 exhibition, Mr Khaw said.

Some of the key areas undergoing changes include:

Empress Place

Empress Place, which currently separates the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, will be paved over by July next year to give priority to pedestrians and integrate the buildings on either side into a seamless park-like setting. Part of Fullerton Road will also be realigned to create a more spacious lawn in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.

St Andrew’s Road and Connaught Drive

A more spacious walkway will be introduced along St Andrew’s Road in front of the National Gallery. One side of Anderson Bridge will be converted to a pedestrian footpath. Both will be completed by July next year.

Along Connaught Drive, works have started to remove the existing car and coach parking lots and these will be paved or landscaped over to provide more space for the public. From July next year, Connaught Drive will be converted to a two-way street and traffic will be limited to buses and coaches, with new bus stops, shelters and coach drop-off points to allow visitors a convenient gateway point into the precinct.

Stepped Plazas

Along the edge of the Singapore River, new stepped plazas will be introduced at Queen Elizabeth Walk and in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum to allow visitors to sit and enjoy the waterfront views and activities taking place on the river.

Esplanade Park

The URA is working together with NParks to improve the landscaping in the area. Street furniture, such as benches with mobile phone charging points, will also be added.

Five new Angsana trees will be planted within Esplanade Park near Anderson Bridge. This commemorates a popular meeting spot marked by five such trees that were around until the 1990s, popularly known in Hokkien as the “Gor Zhan Chew Khar” (the spot under the five trees). A new children’s playground is also planned within the park.

Jubilee Walk

An 8km long trail known as Jubilee Walk will connect key attractions through the Civic District and Marina Bay. There will be trail markers that tell the story of Singapore’s progress from past to present and the future, as visitors walk from Fort Canning to the Marina Bay Barrage. A new Jubilee Bridge will also link Merlion Park to Marina Promenade.

Turning civic district into a walkable park - minus cars
Christopher Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Dec 14;

Cementing a bold vision laid out in an urban master plan last year, the authorities here said work has started to reclaim the city's civic district from the car.

The area around the Padang - encompassing landmarks like Victoria Theatre, the National Gallery and Esplanade Park - will be turned into "a walkable park" within an "arts, culture and lifestyle precinct", said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

"Our civic district is full of history, memories, monuments and beauties," the minister wrote on his blog yesterday. "Over the years, huge assets have been assembled there, but their full potential is not being realised."

To unleash this potential, traffic access to the area will be crimped, with roads like Empress Place paved over and Connaught Drive accessible only to buses and coaches. One side of the historic Anderson Bridge will be converted to a footpath.

Most of the reconstruction - which will cost $66 million - will be completed in phases next year, in time for the various SG50 celebrations. For instance, part of Fullerton Road will be realigned to free up more lawn space in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum. Likewise, a more spacious walkway will be built along St Andrew's Road. These will be ready by next July.

Work has already started to remove kerbside parking spaces in Connaught Drive. The stretch will be paved and landscaped so people can walk, jog, cycle and skate there. Along the edge of the Singapore River, where Queen Elizabeth Walk sits, a stepped plaza will be built to bring the public closer to the water.

Harking back to the days when the area was a favourite haunt for courting couples, five Angsana trees will be planted in Esplanade Park near Anderson Bridge. They mark the spot where five such trees stood, up to 1990.

To mark SG50, an 8km Jubilee Walk will connect attractions in the area, with trail markers to tell stories of Singapore's progress. The transformation plan is reminiscent of similar moves by cities elsewhere to claw back road space.

San Francisco did away with the Embarcadero Freeway after it was damaged by an earthquake in 1989. In its place, a wide boardwalk now fronts the bay, frequented by joggers, cyclists and those who want respite from the city.

About 10 years ago, Seoul tore down a highway to uncover the Cheonggyecheon river and create an oasis in the city.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng gave the plan the thumbs up. "It allows residents and visitors a greater opportunity to immerse in the city and to enjoy the city," he said. "We should have more of this."

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Indonesia: Coal Mines Polluting Half of South Kalimantan’s Rivers, Lakes - Greenpeace

Jakarta Globe 4 Dec 14;

Jakarta. Nearly half of all the bodies of water in South Kalimantan is at risk of being contaminated by waste from coal mines, claims a report released by Greenpeace on Wednesday.

“Revealed: Coal Mines Polluting South Kalimantan’s Water” details the findings of a nine-month Greenpeace investigation that shows hazardous waste from intensive and largely unregulated coal mining activities is contaminating the province’s streams and rivers — and in many cases breaching national standards for mining wastewater.

One third of South Kalimantan has been allocated to coal mining, posing a clear threat to the province’s water quality. Greenpeace found that hazardous discharges of acid mine waste containing iron, manganese and aluminum, among others, are reaching bodies of water and their surrounding environment.

Around 3,000 kilometers of South Kalimantan’s rivers — almost 45 percent — are located downstream from coal mines.

“People in neighboring and downstream communities are using potentially contaminated water to bathe, wash and farm. They face unacceptable risks from coal mining activities. The government must act to safeguard their health and livelihood,” said Arif Fiyanto, Greenpeace Indonesia Climate and Energy campaigner.

Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal and the second largest coal exporter overall. Over the last decade, more than 90 percent of the archipelago’s coal production and exports have come from Kalimantan.

In addition to causing environmental problems, the province’s coal export boom could add 460 million metric tons to global annual carbon emissions by 2020, which would make a mockery of Indonesia’s 2009 pledge to cut emissions by up to 41 percent by 2020.

In recent years, coal production has grown the fastest in South Kalimantan, which produced 33 percent of Indonesia’s coal in 2011. As coal production has increased, so have the negative impacts on the people and environment.

Of the 29 wastewater samples taken by Greenpeace from five coal mining concessions in South Kalimantan, 22 were found to be acidic (low pH), well below the standards set by the government. Discharges, leaks and spills from contaminated ponds in coal concessions pose grave dangers to nearby creeks, swamps and rivers.

According to Greenpeace, mining companies profiting from these dirty — and in some cases illegal operations — have the responsibility to stop polluting water resources communities depend on. Companies found to be breaking the law should pay for clean-up operations even if their mining licenses expire or cancelled, since acid mine drainage (AMD) problems typically persist for many decades, the organization added.

“The new government of Indonesia and the provincial government of South Kalimantan can and must do more to hold polluters accountable to protect the people and the environment,” said Arif. “We expect a thorough investigation by government agencies, as well as tougher regulatory control. We look forward to working with the authorities to tackle and solve the problems highlighted in our report.”

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Indonesia: In Bali, fishermen learn about crabs and mangroves

Trisha Sertori Jakarta Post 4 Dec 14;

With engines roaring, a passenger jet comes in to land at Bali’s airport as a steady stream of traffic crosses the Bali-Mandara toll road across Benoa harbor.

This is the fast-paced view of the world from an oasis hidden among mangrove trees, just half a kilometer from Ngurah Rai International airport and less than 100 meters from the toll road.

These mangroves and seas abutting one of Bali’s busiest tourist transit zones are home to 96 fishing families who can trace their roots here over generations.

It is also home to the Wanasari Fishing cooperative, which was founded in 2009 with the goal of restoring the mangrove environment and raising the living standards of the local fishermen through crab farming.

Wanasari is the brain child of Made Sumasa, who says he looked around his home a half-dozen years ago and saw the continuing destruction wrought on the environment by the fishing and wood harvesting methods developed by his ancestors.

“I had the concept of improving fishing management in 2009. Fishermen here have survived over the years by taking side jobs cutting down mangroves to burn in the process of forming cement and making salt,” says the 49-year-old.

“That was the system our parents taught, but as a member of the younger generation, I developed a concept of how we could care for the environment,” Sumasa says.

“’Wanasari means the ‘jungle can give life to the people’,” says Sumasa of naming the group, the easiest task he faced.

Convincing his fellow fishermen that planting and protecting mangroves and farming crabs rather than taking them from the sea was another.

“I put my ideas to the people, but that was hard, because in the past they had destroyed the environment to survive,” Sumasa says. “I needed them to turn that upside down into the idea of protecting the environment to survive.”

Seeing is believing, so Sumasa began planting mangroves and growing crabs in a small bamboo fenced area called a keramba in the mangrove intertidal zones. “People on the coast are different, they are tough and it’s hard to change their views,” Sumarsa says seated on the deck of one of Wanasari’s floating restaurants, which specialize in serving fresh crab and seafood. “Over time, the fishermen saw I was harvesting crabs from my farm and they saw my idea could be interesting. By 2011, they wanted to start farming crabs and protecting the mangroves, so the group was started.”

The restaurants, run by relatives of the fishermen, are built on stilts over the water and accessed via narrow boardwalks winding through the 10 hectares of mangrove forests planted by the fishermen’s cooperative.

In contrast to local mangrove forest, where plastic waste is drowning these critical nurseries for fish and other organisms; at Wanasari, the sea and the mangroves are clean and healthy.

Rubbish is collected daily, says Sumasa of the waves of plastic waste that wash Bali’s coastlines with incoming tides.

“Our concept is conservation and education. I built this group so fishermen could feed their families sustainably. How can we ask people to care for the environment when their stomachs are empty? People need to benefit from conservation projects,” says Sumasa.

Local families are doing better financially and there is work for all, he adds.

It is not only the families whose welfare has improved. Sumasa recalls that when he was a child, there were no tall trees in the area.

“We cut down all the mangroves back then, so the environment now is far better than when I was a child,” says Sumasa against a backdrop of mangrove trees, their shady branches alive with birds.

Crab numbers are also growing, despite the volumes harvested from five bamboo-fenced keramba. In a small room in Wanasari’s operations area, several tanks of seawater are the backbone of the enterprise. A male crab and three females are the breeding stock.

“One female lays three million eggs, 60 percent of which are viable,” says Sumasa. “Of these we return 40 percent to the sea and farm 20 percent, so we are also improving crab numbers in the wild.”

Making the decision to abandon fishing methods used all his life and join Sumasa’s conservation model was not easy for Nyoman Sudiasa.

The 42-year-old says he was afraid to risk a known living for Sumasa’s theory that sustainable fishing would improve his environment.

“I agreed completely with Sumasa’s ideas on the environment, but I thought it would be hard to change how we thought of the environment and our fishing methods,” he says.

“I held off and only joined the group in 2011 after seeing Sumasa’s success,” Sudiasa adds. “Now I believe this system is really good for us and great for the mangrove forests and the crabs.”

“Helping protect the environment is also improving our welfare and promises a better future for our kids,” says Sudiasa of his conversion to environmentally sustainable fishing.

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Indonesia: Haze disrupts flights over Sumatra

The Jakarta Post 4 Dec 14;

A Lion Air plane that departed from Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam on Tuesday afternoon was forced to return to the airport as its the destination of Pangkalpinang airport was closed due to thick fog.

Hang Nadim airport general affairs head Suwarso said the plane departed at about 1 p.m. local time on Tuesday but turned back after flying some distance as Pangkalpinang was closed.

“The Lion Air aircraft departed but returned to Batam due to safety concerns as Pangkalpinang was closed. The plane departed again in the evening,” Suwarso told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, adding that several airports in Sumatra were still being disrupted by haze.

“Some airports, such as Sultan Syarif Kasim II in Pekanbaru, Sultan Thaha in Jambi as well as airports in Palembang and Pangkalpinang

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Deforestation may be at root of Brazil drought

Amazon deforestation may be linked to drought threatening millions in southeastern Brazil
Brad Brooks and Adriana Gomez Licon, Associated Press Yahoo News 4 Dec 14;

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Vera Lucia de Oliveira looks to the sky, hoping for any sign of rain.

For weeks, the taps in her home have run dry as Sao Paulo has suffered its worst drought in eight decades, with rainfall at one-third the normal level. Without heavy and prolonged rain, the megacity of 23 million could soon run out of water, experts warn.

"We are always thinking: The rain is coming, the rain is coming," said Oliveira.

But it doesn't, and a growing consensus of scientists believes the answer to what is happening to Oliveria and her neighbors lies not in the sky above their heads but in decades of deforestation of Amazon rainforest hundreds of miles away.

The cutting of trees, scientists say, is hindering the immense jungle's ability to absorb carbon from the air — and to pull enough water through tree roots to supply gigantic "sky rivers" that move more moisture than the Amazon river itself. More than two-thirds of the rain in southeastern Brazil, home to 40 percent of its population, comes from these sky rivers, studies estimate. When they dry up, drought follows, scientists believe.

It's not just Brazil but South America as a whole for which these rivers in the sky play a pivotal meteorological role, according to a recent study by a top Brazilian climate scientist, Antonio Nobre of the government's Center for Earth System Science.

The study draws together data from multiple researchers to show that the Amazon may be closer to a tipping point than the government has acknowledged and that the changes could be a threat to climates around the globe. His work is causing a stir in drought-stricken Brazil as environmental negotiators meet in neighboring Peru at the Dec. 1-12 U.N. climate talks.

Destruction of the Amazon went unchecked until 2008, when the government put teeth in its environmental laws and sent armed agents into the jungle to slow the pace of deforestation by ranchers, soy farmers and timber speculators. The impact was quick: Destruction in 2012 was one-sixth of what was recorded eight years earlier, though it has ticked up in the last two years.

But Nobre and other scientists warn it's not enough just to slow the pace of destruction — it must be halted.

"With each tree that falls you lose a little bit more of that water that's being transported to Sao Paulo and the rest of Brazil," said Philip Fearnside, a professor at the Brazilian government's National Institute for Research in the Amazon who was not part of Nobre's study. "If you just let that continue, you're going to have a major impact on the big population centers in Brazil that are feeling the pinch now."

U.S. scientists praise the study, with U.S. Geological Survey drought expert James Verdin calling it "compelling and credible."

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Minnesota highlighted two "once-in-a-century-level droughts" occurring in 2005 and 2010 in the region, in a peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Climate. They used climate simulations to find that deforestation "has the potential to increase the impact of droughts in the Amazon basin."

The sky rivers are generated by the forest acting as a massive pump, according to research that has shown the jungle's uniform humidity consistently lowers atmospheric pressure in the Amazon basin. That allows it to draw moist air currents from the Atlantic Ocean much farther inland than areas that don't have forests. Those currents travel west across the continent until they hit the Andes mountains, where they pivot and carry rains south to Buenos Aires and east to Sao Paulo.

The trees pump an estimated 20 billion metric tons of water into the atmosphere every day — 3 billion more than what the Amazon river, the world's largest, discharges into the ocean.

Recent research indicates rainfall has decreased downwind of deforested areas. The fewer the trees, the less humidity there is in the Amazon basin, making its "pump" effect weaker.

Nobre's October report warned of the crucial need to replant one-fifth of jungle areas that were razed. In addition, 310 million acres, an area twice the size of France, have been degraded by patchwork destruction and need to be restored.

"We're like the Titanic moving straight toward the iceberg," Nobre said in a telephone interview.

The government is preparing a study to measure the impact deforestation has had over recent decades, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said in an interview.

The issue is a complex one tied to local problems and the government's own drive to develop the Amazon region, home to nearly 25 million people. Teixeira said the trick is finding the balance, to be able to use the jungle to benefit the population without destroying it in the process.

However, Nobre's report calls on the government to take more urgent action and to aim for zero deforestation. It also calls on Brazilians to influence the government's approach to the Amazon, noting that "the shock of dry taps here, flooded cities there, and other natural disasters must surely provoke a reaction."

Taps have been dry for several weeks in Itu, a community 60 miles northwest of Sao Paulo, where residents are feeling the drought more than anywhere else. Water is so scarce that supply trucks have been hijacked at gun point.

"We are very scared," said Ruth Arruda, an elementary school teacher who stopped washing dishes and uses only disposable plates and cups now. "The water simply has nowhere to come from. Nothing is helping concentrate it, and the dams are not storing it well."

On a recent day, Arruda drove herself and her daughter to a community kiosk to fill empty soda bottles with water from a spigot.

On the ride there, she passed rows of homes with signs out front depicting the community's desperation: "Help, Itu Needs Water." In the 1980s, she says, the city chopped down dozens of trees to clear land for big homes for white-collar workers who wanted a quiet community away from Sao Paulo.

"We have to look inward and pay attention to what we have done wrong to our environment," she said.


Associated Press writer Brad Brooks reported this story from Rio de Janeiro and Adriana Gomez Licon reported in Sao Paulo. AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

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'Future Earth' platform outlines global change strategy

Mark Kinver BBC News 3 Dec 14;

A global initiative bringing together scientists across different disciplines has launched its strategy to identify key priorities for sustainability.

The document outlines what Future Earth, launched at the 2012 Rio +20 Summit, hopes to contribute towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

It has identified eight global challenges, including "water, energy and food for all" and decarbonisation.

The strategy also focuses on the roles of policymakers and funding bodies.

"Future Earth is a global research platform aimed at connecting the world's scientists across the regions and across disciplines to work on the problems of sustainable development and the solutions to move us towards sustainable development," explained Future Earth science committee vice-chairwoman Belinda Reyers.

"It really is an unprecedented attempt to consult with scientists across the world as well as with important stakeholders and policymakers," she told BBC News.

"It will consider what kind of science is needed in the medium-term to really move us towards more desirable futures."

Dr Reyers - chief scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Stellenbosch, South Africa - said the strategy had been distilled down to eight "sustainability challenges":

Deliver water, energy and food for all
Decarbonise socio-economic systems
Safeguard the terrestrial, freshwater and marine natural assets
Building healthy, resilient and productive cities
Promote sustainable rural futures
Improve human health
Encourage sustainable consumption and production patterns
Increase social resilience to future threats

"Within each of the eight challenges, we have developed what we see as fundable research programmes that scientists and funding agencies can use as a starting point for building their programmes and strategies," she explained.

Dr Reyers explained the strategy aimed to build on the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) process within the United Nations framework.

The SDGs are the successor to the UN Millennium Development Goals, which come to end in 2015.

The concept of sustainable development - defined as "development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" - has been on the international policy scene since the late 1980s and the publication of the Our Common Report report by the Brundtland Commission.

However, Dr Reyers said that the time was now right for a global science platform to work alongside the established policy framework.

"Future Earth builds on the legacy of the past 20 years of investment in sustainability science, but that investment was very fragmented.

"We are also much more aware of the future, thinking about challenges such as nine to eleven billion people on the planet in the coming decades and how we can feed them in a warmer and less predictable world.

"If you look at news headlines, the scale and complexity of sustainability challenges that we are facing are very evident, but also very different from those outlined in the Brundtland Commission documents. Now we have things like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the widespread droughts in California.

"Using sustainability challenges, societal needs and policy priorities to direct our science makes it both more relevant and accessible," she observed.

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