Best of our wild blogs: 20 Dec 14

Trekking From USR Park to Bukit Panjang
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Morning Walk At Upper Pierce Reservoir (18 Dec 2014)
from Beetles@SG BLOG

Pedal Ubin on Ubin day (30 November 2014)
from Toddycats!

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Malaysia: Johor latest to be hit by flood

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 19 Dec 14;

JOHOR BARU: Flood has worsened at the east coast of Johor in the afternoon, with 355 villagers from three villages relocated to three relief centres in Endau, an east coast town of Johor, as of 8pm.

The villagers are 18 from three families in Kampung Air Tawar, 84 from 18 families in Kampung Tenglu and 253 from 74 families in Kamping Sri Pantai.

They have been evacuated to the flood relief centres in SK Air Tawar, SK Tenglu and SK Sri Pantai respectively.

Information from the Johor police revealed that the number of flood victims are 355 at present.

This morning, only six villagers from three families in Kampung Air Tawar and 11 villagers from Kampung Tenglu in Endau near the Johor/Pahang border were affected after their homes were hit with flood waters measuring 1.5 metre deep.

Johor Environment and Health Executive Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the affected villagers are those staying at low-lying areas which are prone to flooding.

Non-stop rain forces 300 to evacuate villages in Johor
The Star 20 Dec 14;

MERSING: Continuous rainfall in several villages here since yesterday has forced more than 300 villagers out of their homes and raised concerns that the evacuation exercise will take longer than expected.

The affected villagers are from Kampung Che Wook (250 victims), Kampung Tenglu (49) and Kampung Air Tawar (six).

They are currently seeking shelter at relief centres set up at three schools – SK Sri Pantai, SK Tenglu and SK Air Tawar.

Heavy rain started to fall at 9am and caused water levels to rise quickly with many villagers moving out to relief centres on their own.

Mersing OCPD Deputy Supt Mohamed Shahar Abdul Aziz said all the flood victims were in good shape at the relief centres.

“The authorities have taken several precautionary measures in anticipation of the floods,” he said.

A Johor Fire and Rescue Depart­ment spokesman said the Mersing and Endau fire stations were on standby if conditions got worse.

“The department has instructed both stations to be on alert,” he said.

He added that assets from other districts may be deployed if the situation did not improve.

Heavy rain hits Pahang, Johor
New Straits Times 20 Dec 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: THE floods in three east coast states are heading for the southern part of the country as heavy rains begin to lash southeastern Pahang and Johor.

The Meteorological Department forecasted intense downpours for Pekan and Rompin in Pahang towards the end of the month.

The same situation was expected to occur in Kluang and Kota Tinggi in Johor next month.

One or two continuous rain cycles in these areas could last up to five days.

The flood in Kelantan, which has seen four lives lost up until yesterday, had the highest number of evacuees with 14,508 people evacuated, despite the flood easing in several districts. A total of 17,185 people from 4,724 families were evacuated in the east coast.

National Security Council (NSC) secretary Datuk Mohd Tajuddin Abdul Wahab said residents in
Tumpat were told to prepare themselves as the district was expected to experience a longer duration of flood.

The border town of Rantau Panjang, which is usually bustling this time of year, came to a standstill after traders packed up their wares to place them on higher ground.

Residents said the flood was the worst in 40 years as Sungai Golok overflowed and inundated the town in 4m-deep waters.

Meteorological Department commercial and corporate services division director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said Kelantan and Terengganu were at the peak of the monsoon season.

He said last year, the two states received an average of 300 millimetres of rain per hour (mm/h) but this year it surged to 600mm/h.

“Residents in flood-prone areas should be extra cautious as heavy rain is expected to continue until the end of this month,” he told the New Straits Times.

Hisham confirmed that Pahang was expected to experience heavy rain starting in the next few weeks while Johor would experience the same early next month.

He said the rainfall intensity in Pahang and Johor was expected to reach 600mm/h, which was less than last year’s figure of 1,000mm/h.

He said the monsoon season that began in November may end in early March with Sarawak expected to be the last state hit by heavy rain.

Johor Environment and Health Committee chairman, Datuk Ayub Rahmat said the state government had learnt from the floods in 2006 and 2007 in Kota Tinggi, and was prepared.

He said agencies had mobilised its resources since September in light of deteriorating weather.

He said Johor’s flood control mechanism had improved in preparation for unexpected weather over the years.

In Pahang, there was a decrease in the number of flood victims from 1,586 to 1,556 people at noon.

In Terengganu, there were
evacuees in Hulu Terengganu (3,066), Besut (2,232), Setiu (1,904) and in Kemaman (946) and Dungun (950). In Johor, 355 people from
two villages in Endau were evacuated.

Tajuddin said the NSC was seeking help from Pahang, Selangor, Malacca and Perak to prepare truck, boats and helicopters to
send goods to villages affected by flood.

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In Indonesia, Natural Disasters Are a Security Concern

‘Crucial Importance’ Incidents such as the recent Banjarnegara landslide are more than just humanitarian and economic calamities
Bantarto Bandoro Jakarta Globe 18 Dec 14;

Heavy rain has triggered many catastrophes that cannot be addressed by one party alone. What we saw in Jemblung in Central Java’s Banjarnegara district is a fatal landslide, evidence that humans cannot resist the forces of the nature. This is one of the worst landslide disasters recorded in Indonesia in recent years.

The landslide claimed the lives of nearly 80 people, while dozens remain missing. Around 570 people have also been displaced from their homes.

Local infrastructure was badly damaged in the landslide, preventing rescue teams from reaching certain areas.

Economic activities have also been interrupted as many lost their workplaces and livelihood.

The Banjarnegara landslide highlights the country’s vulnerability to disasters as well the government’s slow reaction, if not total inability, to effectively deal with such chronic catastrophes.

The media has reported the landslide comprehensively and no day passed without discussion of the event.

A Jakarta Globe story published earlier this week titled “Most of Indonesia at risk of landslide,” says among other things that around 9 percent of the country’s 250 million people live in an area at very high risk of natural disaster.

This suggests that Indonesia’s government must consider disasters, be it landslides, heavy floods or earthquakes, from a much more comprehensive perspective. The response of the government in addressing these disasters must make full use of all resources available.

Indonesia has experienced natural disasters from minor floods to devastating tsunamis. In response to the vulnerabilities and risk of disasters, a presidential decree established the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency (known as BNPB) in 2008.

The existence of BNPB is necessary to help the government respond to national disasters, but it alone is not sufficient to manage and address the widespread impact of future disasters the country will certainly face.

It is not clear if the government’s security planners consider disasters from a comprehensive perspective of national security.

The government in Jakarta tends to responds to natural disasters with actions framed as disaster relief and assistance, rather than through a security lens.

Armed conflict, war or trafficking of small arms and light weapons, to mention just a few, are some of the conventional security hazards constantly reviewed by the security planners to update preventive steps for the security of the nations.

On the contrary, several non-traditional security threats, that can have as disastrous an impact on human security as the more conventional threats, are often overlooked by the agency concerned.

Some of these non-traditional security threats to Indonesia such as flooding, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis and the recent landslides highlight the need for the government of President Joko Widodo to frame the response through a security lens.

Human vulnerability — especially to natural disasters — must be part of the nation’s security agenda.

The devastating Banjarnegara landslide should not be seen as merely the BNPB’s business. How other government agencies respond to environmental threats and disasters is a key issue and how the response is securitized is of crucial importance.

Because Indonesia has many areas that are prone to natural disasters, it is perhaps not an exaggeration if the government reveals elements of securitization such as landslides identified as existing threats; a multiplicity of securitizing actors, such as the BNPB and other disaster-related government agencies; and the complexity of various agencies — both central and local government.

Thus, when the landslide drew a large number of rescue teams dispatched by various national agencies, the securitization of the landslide conformed to the particular “logic of security” found in security studies, but separated it from a singular type of actor and threat, as is usually found in traditional security issues.

Landslides and other forms of natural disasters can be perceived as threats to human security and the environment, as well as other aspects of national security. The BNPB and the government agencies, such as the military, National Police, and the coordinating office for law, politics and security, are the securitizing actors that play central roles in mitigating the security impact of landslides.

When President Joko Widodo visited the site he was reported as saying the landslides should provide lessons for us on the importance of a balanced environment, suggesting blame on those who convert lands into farms.

The government’s short- and long-term response to the landslide should not only target rebuilding a balanced environment, or only be based on disaster-relief considerations.

Given the severe casualties in landslides, it is not wrong to suggest that Joko should start framing his government’s policy response through a security lens.

When his responses are securitized, the presidential communication would focus on non-traditional security concerns such as human or environmental security issues.

This suggests that, for natural disaster response such as the recent landslide, human security and other aspects of this should significantly influence the framing of the issue at the presidential level.

Bantaro Bandoro is a senior lecturer at the Indonesian Defense University’s School of Defense Strategy, in Sentul, Bogor

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Major coral bleaching in Pacific may become worst die-off in 20 years, say experts

Warm sea temperatures are causing massive coral reef die-off across the Northern Pacific in what could be the start of an historic bleaching event around the world
Karl Mathiesen The Guardian 19 Dec 14;

Scientists warn extreme sea temperatures could cause a “historic” coral reef die-off around the world over the coming months, following a massive coral bleaching already underway in the North Pacific. Experts said the coral die-off could be the worst in nearly two decades.

Reports of severe bleaching have been accumulating in the inbox of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch programme since July.

A huge swathe of the Pacific has already been affected, including the Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Hawaii, Kiribati and Florida. Some areas have recorded serious bleaching for the first time.

“On a global scale it’s a major bleaching event. What it may be is the beginning of a historic event,” said Coral Reef Watch coordinator Dr Mark Eakin.

In the Marshall Islands, bleaching of unprecedented severity is suspected to have hit most of the country’s 34 atolls and islands. The Guardian witnessed devastated expanses of coral that look like forests covered with snow.

Warm water will soon begin hitting reefs in the southern Pacific and the Indian Ocean as the seasons and currents shift. Eakin said coral watch modelling predicts bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as early as January.

Bleaching is caused by persistent increases in sea surface temperature. Just 1C of warming lasting a week or more can be enough to cause long-term breakdown of reef ecosystems.

The worst coral bleaching event on record is a mass die-off during 1998. A massive El Niño event combined with climate change to raise global sea and air temperatures to never-before-recorded levels and killed around 15% of the world’s corals.

2014 has already surpassed 1998 as the hottest year recorded - with a mild El Niño still predicted in the new year.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coral reef expert from the University of Queensland, said the current bleaching event was on track to be as bad or worse than 1998.

“Many coral reef scientists are expecting something similar to 1997-98 to unfold in the next six to 12 months.”

Eakin said even under a weak El Niño, bleaching could continue until 2016 – lasting twice as long as the 1998 event. High sea surface temperatures due to climate change are making El Niño a less decisive factor in coral bleaching.

“Despite the fact that there’s really not a big El Niño, we’re seeing these patterns of severe bleaching. So what’s happening is, as global temperatures increase and especially as the ocean warms through the increase of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, it’s warming the ocean so that it doesn’t take as big an El Niño to have the same effect on water temperatures,” said Eakin.

Initial analysis of the Guardian’s photos from the Marshallese atoll of Arno showed its reefs could be added to the fast-growing list of seriously affected places. In less extreme temperatures bleached coral may not die completely.

But Karl Fellenius, a coral reef manager from the University of Hawaii said that in the Marshall Islands “it’s looking like the thermal stress was so profound that the corals died within days of getting bleached”.

This does not augur well for the future of the world’s reefs under climate change.

“The real problem is that recovery from a major bleaching event can take decades and these events keep coming back every 10 years or less… [Reefs] just don’t have time to recover,” said Eakin.

The combined effect of rising temperatures and sea levels – corals can only survive near the surface – could mean the end for coral reefs in the next 50 years even if world leaders combine to keep global temperature rise below their target of 2C, said Hoegh-Guldberg, who was lead oceans author for the UN’s definitive climate science report.

“Temperatures projected under even mild climate change scenarios may be too damaging to coral reefs for them to survive beyond the mid to late part of this century.”

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