Best of our wild blogs: 7 Dec 14

Life History of the Dark Brand Bush Brown
from Butterflies of Singapore

My 3rd Visit to the Tampines Eco Green Nature Park
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

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A trilling tribute to late bird scientist

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Dec 14;

He was one of South-east Asia's most respected conservation biologists, and an avid bird scientist who died suddenly in 2011 from cancer at the age of 49.

Now, Professor Navjot Sodhi, a Canadian citizen who spent the last 16 years of his life teaching at the National University of Singapore (NUS), has been immortalised by some of his former students who have named a new bird species after him.

The bird, the Muscicapa sodhii, had been spotted in Indonesia's Sulawesi several times since 1997, but researchers were not able to confirm its existence as it looks very similar to another bird, the Muscicapa griseisticta, said Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt from the NUS Department of Biological Sciences.

It was only in 2012, 15 years after the first sighting, that researchers from the United States and Indonesia managed to get two dead specimens from a local bird hunter.

Dr Rheindt and his assistant analysed the DNA of the specimens and confirmed that it was a new species that had not been named.

The bird is a small, grey-brown flycatcher with dusky streaks on its breast and throat, and short wings.

Its song consists of "thin, very high-pitched whistles, chirps, twitters, glissandos, buzzy notes and trills of highly varied and often complex form".

Mr Yong Ding Li, an ecology doctoral student at the Australian National University and one of the researchers, said Prof Sodhi had played an important role in making the Sulawesi expeditions possible before his death.

The late professor introduced the researchers to his colleagues in Indonesia, gave them advice when they were interested in mounting an expedition to the Sulawesi highlands, and even wrote letters of endorsement for the research permit applications, said Mr Yong.

Mr Yong also surveyed insects and birds in Borneo with Prof Sodhi from 2006 to 2008, and had his honours-degree work supervised by him.

"He gave us a lot of independence but was always approachable. Academics aside, he also had a great sense of humour - not many days would pass without laughter or the hyena-like giggle of his emanating from the conservation ecology lab," he said.

The bird discovery was published in scientific journal PLOS One last week.

Aside from the bird, Prof Sodhi also had a snail, a fish, a crab species and a crab genus with several species named after him.

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Malaysia: Heavy rains fill up dams

RAZAK AHMAD The Star 7 Dec 14;

PETALING JAYA: Heavy rains have now filled three of Selangor’s eight dams to maximum capacity with one recording a level of 101.5%.

The almost daily downpours also flooded two water treatment plants earlier last week, causing a shutdown of the plants and temporary supply disruption in parts of the Sabak Bernam and Hulu Selangor districts.

The Klang Gates and Langat dams both recorded 100% capacity yesterday, while the Batu dam stood at 101.5%, according to the website of the Selangor Water Management Authority (LUAS), which is in charge of the state’s dams.

The Sungai Selangor dam, which supplies water to 60% of the Klang Valley and whose level fell to nearly 30% of its capacity in September due to a long dry spell, is now at 61.89%.

LUAS director Md Khairi Selamat said the high level of water at the three dams did not pose any danger.

“The water level can go over 100%, and when it reaches a certain level past that mark, excess water will be chanelled out,” he said.

“The situation does not pose any danger as the dams are designed to accommodate the overflow with spillway structures,” said Khairi.

Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) said supply to affected parts of Hulu Selangor was now back to normal after the temporary shutdown of the Sungai Selisek treatment plant on Tuesday.

“We were notified by the treatment plant operator that heavy rains had caused the water level at Sungai Selisek to rise sharply, causing the plant to be flooded,” said Syabas corporate communications general manager Priscilla Alfred.

Syabas buys treated water from the treatment plant operators, then distributes it to nine million residents in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

On Wednesday, the Bernam River Headwork treatment plant was shut down following heavy rains which caused the water level at Sungai Bernam to overflow its banks and flood the plant.

Supply to affected areas in Sabak Bernam returned to normal yesterday.

“It is not often that floods cause a shutdown but it does happen once in a while during heavy downpours,” said Alfred.

Association of Water and Energy Research (Awer) president S. Piarapakaran said that despite the heavy rains, supply disruptions could still happen because there was not enough treated water being produced to meet rising demand.

“It can rain cats and dogs for the next six months or so, but the supply of treated water is limited to how much the treatment plants can produce,” he said.

Measures to boost the supply of treated water in the Klang Valley, namely the Pahang-Selangor raw water transfer project and the Langat 2 treatment plant, are ongoing.

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Malaysia: Audit how businesses affect environment

New Straits Times 7 Dec 14;

IN the wake of the environmental disaster in Cameron Highlands brought about by illegal land clearing, the need for concerted efforts to protect the environment has become more urgent.

The Cameron Highlands tragedy has proven that if we are not going to make peace with the environment, the destruction will be all the more greater in the future.

From what we have fathomed from the Cameron Highlands destruction, we have not learnt from past mistakes and that recommendations on environmental protection had gone unheeded.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced recently that as next year’s Asean chair, Malaysia would advocate sustainable growth and climate action.

As Malaysia is about to embark on a year of global climate action and sustainable economic growth, and pushes for a green agenda, all sectors of our economy should work towards ensuring that the economy and the environment could prosper together.

We can and should demonstrate that sustainable development is not an indulgence but a precursor to success. We need more green industries to provide jobs and help Malaysians gain knowledge so that young entrepreneurs can acquire the skills to support this sector.

As our focus is on sustainable growth and environmentally-friendly development, it is essential for the public and private sectors to develop environmental auditing systems and provide annual reports on the impact of their activities on the environment.

At a time when environmental concerns in the business sector are being given greater focus across the globe, environmental auditing should be an integral part of corporate management. With the advent of the “green corporate culture”, there is a need for businesses to be more conscious of environmental issues. Companies must realise there is more to gain by preserving the environment.

Problems related to illegal land clearing, deforestation, dumping of hazardous waste by irresponsible companies and smoke emissions from factories have, time and again, been reported in the media. Unless those concerned are prepared to address these issues, they will not only have to bear the full brunt of the law, but eventually lose out, as trade barriers fall in the global market.

Environmental reporting is about the company’s disclosure on the impact of its economic activities on the environment. The disclosure may provide vital information for investors to protect themselves from unexpected losses as a result of environmental costs. To the public, such disclosures will enable them to evaluate the social commitments undertaken by the corporate entity.

As has been observed, there is an emerging trend among corporations, particularly internationally, to disclose information on environment policies, objectives and programmes to the public.

Malaysian companies need to improve their environmental accounting as this trend may become an established practice worldwide to govern investment decisions. Hopefully, environmental accounting will lead to a change in the mindset on environmental issues in a company’s top management. Securing profit should not be at the expense of the environment as companies have a social responsibility to inform their stakeholders of the impact businesses have on the environment.

Shareholders must also strive to be aware that profit is not made at the expense of the environment, and that companies should be more responsible for the future generation.

The proposed environmental accounting will no doubt ensure not only greater awareness but also the development of a responsible attitude among chief executive officers towards the impact of their company’s activities on the environment.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, Kuala Lumpur

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Thai, Myanmar villagers fear secretive Salween dam project

Thin Lei Win Reuters 4 Dec 14;

SOB MOEI, Thailand (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tikuepor, an ethnic Karen from eastern Myanmar living on the Thai side of the Salween River, is one of thousands of people worried about losing everything if a multinational hydropower project goes ahead in this sensitive border area.

A senior commander of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), which claims to control land in Myanmar affected by the project, says the Myanmar military has moved more troops into the area and this could derail peace talks with the government.

Tikuepor was only 13 when she fled her village in eastern Myanmar to escape a campaign by the Burmese military against ethnic armed rebels, during which troops terrorised civilians to stop them supporting the rebels.

Now 54 and living in Sob Moei, a Thai village beside the fast-flowing Salween, she fears what little she knows of the hydropower project.

"I don't have a Thai citizenship card. We don't have titles for the land we live on," said Tikuepor, who goes by a single name, sitting on a bench in the school grounds. "We won't receive any compensation if we have to leave this village."

Sob Moei is located 47 kms (30 miles) upstream from the site of the long-planned 1,360-megawatt Hatgyi dam in Myanmar.

Environmental activists say Hatgyi, aimed at harnessing the power of the Salween, Southeast Asia's second longest river, could displace thousands of people, block fish migration routes and reduce the food and jobs on which riverine people depend.

Communities in the area are already marginalised - many are poor, uneducated ethnic and religious minorities living in remote places.

General Baw Kyaw Heh, KNLA's vice chief of staff, has said the Burmese troop deployment to the area threatens to derail peace negotiations between the government and ethnic armed groups.

Burmese also object to the fact that most of the electricity to be generated will go to Thailand, leaving little for energy-starved Myanmar.

Hatgyi is being developed jointly by Chinese, Thai and Burmese investors, including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and IGE, a Burmese company dealing in timber, oil, gas and mining.

IGE is linked to the sons of Aung Thaung, a prominent Burmese lawmaker blacklisted by the United States for "actively attempting to undermine recent economic and political reforms."

Thana Puttarangsri, EGAT's manager for international issues, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the completion of Hatgyi depended on decisions by partners but refused to comment further and did not pick up subsequent calls.

Myanmar's Energy Ministry was also not available for comment despite numerous calls.


The Salween rises on the Tibetan Plateau and flows some 2,400 kms (1,500 miles) through China, Thailand and Myanmar to the Andaman Sea, crisscrossing many of Myanmar's ethnic minority areas.

Six million people live in the Salween watershed and depend on the river for jobs and nutritious food, according to the WWF. Campaigners say six dams are planned in Burma and 13 on the upper Salween in China.

In Sob Moei, a remote village at the confluence of the Moei and Salween rivers, about 40 families share Tikuepor's plight, according to the village's Thai-Karen headman, Decha Srisawaidaoruang, 30.

The village has no electricity or phone signal, though WiFi is available in the school grounds. It is an hour's boat ride from the only pier along the Salween in Thailand.

"There have not been many channels to voice our concerns about this dam and we do not have access to decision makers," said Decha.

Civil society groups are concerned that Thailand's military rulers may allow EGAT and the Thai energy industry to push the project through without assessments of its impact on people living nearby, said Pianporn Deetes, campaign coordinator for the environmental group International Rivers (IR) in Thailand.

Information about the project has been minimal, she said. "The last environmental impact assessment that was conducted was not made public."

"We're just asking the Thai government and Thai energy utilities to behave as they do at home, to comply with Thai laws that require social and health impact assessments on large-scale infrastructure projects," she said.


If built, Hatgyi could destabilise the area, KNLA general Baw Kyaw Heh warned.

"With such large-scale investment and a flood of money coming into the area, there are likely to be lots of conflicts. The villagers will face the direct cost of militarisation and fighting," he told journalists at Ei Thu Ta camp.

"It's clear that investment in Hatgyi and similar projects are obstructing the peace process in Myanmar, particularly in Karen state," Baw Kyaw Heh said.

Ei Thu Ta, 90 minutes upstream from Ban Sob Moei and on the Myanmar side of the river, was set up around 2006 for over 3,700 displaced Karens who say they fled abuses by the Burmese army.

Myanmar's semi-civilian government is currently negotiating a nationwide ceasefire with guerrilla groups. (Additional reporting by Kaweewit Kaewjinda in Bangkok and Soe Zeya Tun and Min Zeya Oo in Myanmar) (Reporting by Thin Lei Win; Editing by Tim Pearce)

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