Best of our wild blogs: 24 Dec 14

December walks at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park
from Sisters' Island Marine Park

Tuas shore with stars surprise!
from wonderful creation

Return to Tuas Merawang Beacon
from wild shores of singapore

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Johor reclamation project sparks concerns again

Kua Yu-Lin The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Dec 14;

PONTIAN (Malaysia) - A proposed land reclamation project in the Johor Strait has once again raised environmental concerns, even as a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report on it was released by the Pontian authorities last month.

The project to create a 1,411ha island, known as the Tanjung Piai Maritime Industrial Park, is one of two massive land reclamation projects in the south-western end of Malaysia's Johor state which have previously sparked concerns among environmentalists.

The other project, a 2,000ha proposed island, near the Second Link Bridge connecting Johor to Singapore, is known as Forest City.

A Straits Times report in June quoted the company involved in the Tanjung Piai project, Benalec Holdings, as saying reclamation is expected to begin before the end of this year, and oil storage facilities would be built once the island is completed.

Pekan Nanas assemblyman Yeo Tung Siong of the opposition Democratic Action Party raised concerns at a press conference over whether Tanjung Piai will become another Pengerang, reported the Sin Chew Daily last Saturday.

He was referring to a US$16 billion (S$21 billion) project on the south-eastern side of Johor, in Pengerang, called the Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development (Rapid), which activists have said would harm the environment and affect the livelihoods of fishermen. Previous media reports said this project is part of the Malaysian government's plan to capture some of the global energy business from Singapore.

Benalec is also involved in the reclamation works to extend the shoreline of the Rapid project.

As for the Tanjung Piai project, Mr Yeo raised fears that the proposed oil storage facility, which is less than 1km away from Tanjung Piai's mangrove forests and about 10km away from Kukup fishing village, will bring irreparable damage to the forests and fishing grounds in the area.

The facility will attract large oil bunkers, leading to the possibility of oil spills that will have a serious impact on the water quality.

Many fish farms and resort operators are likely to be affected too, added Mr Yeo.

Already, he said, close to 90 per cent of local residents are against two other major development projects in the area, a power plant in Tanjung Bin and a port in Tanjung Pelepas.

According to the DEIA report, 51.2 per cent of residents polled have voiced opposition to the Tanjung Piai project. Mr Yeo cited this as a reason that he is gathering at least 50 signatures for a petition which he will submit to the Environment Ministry on Friday.

Johor lawmakers say diplomatic row with Singapore possible over manmade island
Straits Times 23 Dec 14;

A view of the Second Link at Tuas from the Singapore side. The Forest City project is a man-made island with total size of 2,000ha - nearly three times the size of Ang Mo Kio estate - in the Johor Strait opposite Tuas. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

JOHOR BARU - Johor lawmakers fear that Malaysia and Singapore will be embroiled in a diplomatic row when the detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) report of the controversial Forest City project is approved, the New Straits Times (NST) reported on Tuesday without naming the lawmakers.

They are worried about the possibility of "retribution" from Singapore, the pro-government newspaper said, citing the republic's reclamation works in Pulau Tekong and Tuas more than a decade ago as an example.

Malaysia had in 2003 took its complaint to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) following Singapore's actions in the Pulau Tekong and Tuas reclamation works, raising bilateral diplomatic heat.

"I hope both governments can work together to resolve the Forest City reclamation issue," an unnamed Johor assemblyman was quoted as saying by NST. "If it is brought to the ITLOS for arbitration, it can affect investors' confidence in Johor and Iskandar Malaysia."

The Forest City project is a man-made island with total size of 2,000ha - nearly three times the size of Ang Mo Kio estate - in the Johor Strait opposite Tuas.

It is being built by China's Country Garden Holdings which plans to build luxury homes on the reclaimed land over the next 30 years.

The project will be split into four man-made islands, NST reported in September, following a Malaysian hydrology study. The biggest island will measure 1,005ha and the smallest 58ha.

Sand for the project is being dredged up off Teluk Ramunia at the eastern tip of Johor, NST said, and delivered by barges via the Tuas side of the Johor Strait.

Singapore has conveyed its concern on a number of occasions to Malaysia, asking for more information on reclamation and construction works in the Johor strait from May.

Apart from Forest City, investors are also planning a 1,411ha man-made island called Maritime Industrial Park to host an oil-storing and energy hub. The project is also located off Tuas and has raised environmental concerns.

Reclamation works for Forest City had been started, and then stopped in June, as environmental impact studies are being carried out by Malaysia's Department of Environment.

The DEIA is expected to be released this week, NST said.

In the Pulau Tekong and Tuas reclamation cases, Malaysia had pursued the matter with ITLOS although Singapore had given the assurance that it had undertaken mitigation measures.

Similarly, several mitigation measures are being proposed for the Forest City project, but the assemblyman said Singapore might not be pacified with such assurances.

"Bringing the case to the arbitral tribunal does not bode well for cordial bilateral ties, which is needed to speed up several impending projects, including the Rapid Transit System connecting Johor Baru and Woodlands," said a second assemblyman.

Benalec: Tanjong Piai job delayed on client’s request
NUR HANINI MOHD HANIFKUALA New Straits Times 23 Dec 14;

BENALEC Holdings Bhd, a marine construction services provider, said its land reclamation project for 1MY Strategic Oil Terminal Sdn Bhd in Tanjung Piai, Johor, has been delayed on the client’s request.

“The project was put on hold, based on our client’s request. We were informed by them that they needed some time to iron out some of the terms and conditions in the agreement,” Benalec chief operating officer Desmond Boey said after the company’s annual general meeting yesterday. Boey declined to reveal further details.

Benalec has extended the term sheet validity period for the signing of the land reclamation deal for another six months from December 12 until June 11.

It had announced to Bursa Malaysia that its 70 per cent-owned Spektrum Kukuh Sdn Bhd had entered into a binding term sheet with the State Secretary, Johor, and 1MY Strategic to undertake the reclamation works and the sale of about 404.6ha off the coast of Tanjung Piai for the development of a crude oil and petroleum storage facility together with a private jetty.

The 404.6ha of reclaimable land is estimated between RM2.5 billion and RM3 billion.

Boey said its land reclamation contract is awaiting approval from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

He said the delay will not pose a big impact on Benalec for now as it still has projects in Malacca until 2017.

Boey added that the Tanjung Piai job, as well as another reclamation project in Pengerang, Johor, will open up doors for recurring income, providing strong growth and investment opportunities.

On land sales, Benalec in December had sold 23.4718ha worth about RM100 million, which will be recognised in 2016.

The company is looking at expanding its landbank and future projects mostly in the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia.

“We are eyeing not just land reclamation projects but also dredging and other marine based construction projects,” said Boey

Benalec posted a lower profit of RM7.1 million in the year ended June 30 2014 from RM56.6 million last year.

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Malaysia: New moon phenomenon triggers extraordinary floods in east coast

The Star 23 Dec 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: The new moon phenomenon, when the moon is closest to the earth and causes high tide, is among the factors that triggered extraordinary flooding in the east coast this year.

Meteorological Department National Weather Centre senior meteorological officer Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said the flood situations worsened with the presence of northeast monsoon winds blowing consistently across the South China Sea to Malaysia starting November until March.

"Although rainfall is no longer heavy, flood waters do not seem to recede due to the new moon phenomenon as it causes higher tides than normal.

"Besides that, previously incessant rainfall caused water from the upstream to not reach the confluence and resulted in overflowing rivers," he said when contacted by Bernama Tuesday.

He said they predict the heavy rainfall since last week due to northeast monsoon winds in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang will continue until early January.

"However, the weather is expected to be more favourable today until tomorrow with many of our forecasts showing showers in only one or two areas in the affected states," he said.

Dr Mohd Hisham explained that the northeast monsoon wind brought about heavy rainfall in three episodes, namely the first episode which ended in November, the second episode between Dec 16 and 19 followed by the third episode which started on Monday and will last until tomorrow.

"Although the weather is expected to be good on these two days, we predict a fourth episode to start from Dec 28 to 30 and it may continue until early January," he said.

Dr Mohd Hisham said they do not dismiss the possibility that floods may hit low-lying areas near the river after Dec 28. "During the northeast monsoon season, the east coast is expected to experience four to five episodes of heavy rainfall for between three to seven days in November until January 2015, as well as western Sarawak and Sabah from January until March 2015.

"Therefore, people living by the river and in low-lying areas are advised to prepare for any possibility, including floods," he said.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department said in a statement today that strong northeast winds with speeds of 60 kilometres per hour in the coastal areas of the east coast, Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan is expected to last until tomorrow.

In addition, rough seas and waves of up to 5.5 metres will pose a danger to beach and shipping activities, including to workers on oil platforms.

The statement added that the coastal areas of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and east Johor are vulnerable to a rise in sea levels until Wednesday. - Bernama

East coast train services remain inoperative due to floods
The Star 23 Dec 14;

KUALA LUMPUR: All east coast train services, disrupted Monday due to floods and a landslide on the tracks between Dabong and Kuala Krai in Kelantan, remain inoperative, according to Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB).

KTMB corporate communications manager Siti Badariah Wan Hanafi said on Tuesday that the services were expected to remain inoperative until at least Friday.

She said the affected services were those between Woodlands and Tumpat and vice versa; KL Sentral to Tumpat and vice versa and the shuttle services between Gua Musang and Tumpat.

Passengers booked on these services could request a return of the full fare for the cancelled services or change their date of travel, she said when contacted by Bernama.

"We will keep the public updated on the status of the services," she said. – Bernama

4m-high waves to hit 3 states
New Straits Times 24 Dec 14;

THOSE on the east coast have been warned to brace themselves for the worst floods in recent history.

A powerful combination of king tides and strong winds are expected to slam into Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, which are still dealing with slowly receding floodwaters.

Communities in coastal areas and along river mouths have been warned to ready themselves for immediate grab-and-go evacuations, as the worst is expected to unfold tonight or tomorrow.

The high-alert notification follows not only the sustained rain in recent days, but is also in anticipation of tidal waves as high as 4.35m hitting the states.

This is expected to happen for two nights from yesterday.

Many in coastal areas in Terengganu last night caught a glimpse of the power that comes with waves that high.

About 10pm, a little under two hours after 2.9m waves hit, residential areas were inundated by floodwaters that rose rapidly to about 30cm high.

The last time floods of this magnitude occurred was some 20 years ago.

Other states hit by the floods include Sabah, Sarawak, Labuan and Perak.

The Meteorological Department has been less hopeful of a reprieve from the situation, saying the heavy rainfall would likely subside only in the middle of next month.

National Weather Centre senior meteorologist Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said in the past few days, these states experienced double the rainfall compared with last year.

Some 600mm of rain fell over Kelantan and Terengganu last year, compared with the 1,200mm for the same period this year. Kuantan recorded 1,000mm of rainfall, compared with 500mm last year.

The department said the unusually high tides and floods were caused by a combination of three elements: the new moon, surges of strong winds and the perigee, or the point when the moon is closest to the Earth and its gravitational force is at its strongest.

“With the moon close to Earth and the stronger gravitational pull, the consequential stronger pull on water causes high tides.

“The new moon and perigee normally occur separately, but now, they are occurring almost simultaneously,” he told the New Straits Times, adding that strong winds of 60kph over the South China Sea were exacerbating the situation.

Hisham said the three states should prepare for more torrential rains from Sunday.

Record number of evacuees in east coast states
New Straits Times 24 Dec 14;

THE east coast is seeing a record number of evacuees as vast swathes of the area are submerged by floods.

Portending that the worst is yet to come, the number of flood victims at the tens of relief shelters in the various districts is fast climbing.

Major rivers in Kelantan and Pahang have, since yesterday, swollen beyond the danger level, while tidal waves have been lashing coastal villages in Terengganu.

Strong currents in flooded areas are also threatening to take victims along with them.

In Gua Musang, a rescue boat manned by two soldiers with nine evacuees aboard, capsized, and the occupants swept away by the currents. Those aboard, including toddlers, were saved by a passing boat.

Many houses in the district were also swept away.

As of 6.30pm, there were 21,601 victims at 96 relief shelters in nine districts in the state, with most of the evacuees brought from Pasir Mas.

Meanwhile, the number of evacuees in Terengganu has doubled in less than 24 hours, with their number expected to rise from yesterday’s total of 15,046.

Increasingly strong tidal waves slammed into the Terengganu coast, triggering panic.

For residents of Pulau Duyong, it was a recurring nightmare, as the last time they experienced flooding of this magnitude was just before the Sultan Mahmud Hydroelectric Dam in Jenagor, which created Tasik Kenyir, started operations in 1986.

The unusually high waves did not spare the island and nearby areas, including Seberang Takir, Batu Buruk and Kuala Ibai.

In Rusila, Marang, a chalet owner was praying that her property had not been washed out to sea after 3.6m-waves hit the area about 9pm on Tuesday.

Jamilah Abdullah 50, the owner of another chalet, said the shore fronting her 25-room chalet had eroded, from the length of a football field to mere metres.

“There are three 6m-high walls protecting the property, but they were no match for the pounding waves on Monday evening.”

Villagers in the area on Tuesday rushed to build a wooden wall to to protect their properties from the second wave of king tides.

In Kuala Dungun, passengers waiting at an express bus station had to be evacuated to higher ground when waves brought seawater into the area about 10pm.

In Kemaman, two families narrowly escaped death.

Jais Ismail, 73, said his family had evacuated their home mere minutes before a huge wave crashed into and destroyed their house.

“I decided to evacuate when seawater started seeping into the house. We are left with only the clothes on our backs,” he said.

The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry yesterday said the supply of food and essential items in flood-hit states would be sufficient.

Its deputy secretary-general, Datuk Azmi Lateh, said the ministry had made early preparations and was monitoring the situation in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.

He said there had been no reports of food shortages in the states, but the ministry, with the cooperation of the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, would send supplies if one was reported.

“We have drawn up strategies to address food shortages during the flood season, but that has not been the case,” he said in Penang.

Meanwhile, efforts are being mobilised to deliver aid to areas cut off by the floods.

The Kelantan Social Welfare Department, with the help of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, is using helicopters to reach victims in Gua Musang and Jeli, as the roads are inaccesible.

Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob said the state government would use funds from the “Tabung Serambi Mekah” to channel aid to the victims.

“The magnitude of this year’s floods was beyond the state Welfare Department’s expectations.

“But we will find ways to meet the needs of those affected,” he said in Pengkalan Chepa yesterday.

Floods leave more than 100 tourists standed in Taman Negara
The Star 24 Dec 14;

KUANTAN: More than 100 local and foreign tourists are believed to be stranded at the Mutiara Taman Negara Resort after Sungai Tembeling in Kuala Tahan surpassed its danger level.

It was learnt that the park recorded its highest rainfall Tuesday since the major flood in 1971.

The Kuala Tahan tourist jetty had to be closed due to swift currents in the river, which is dangerous to boats.

A resort employee, who declined to be identified, said the foreign tourists holed up in the hotel were from Canada, Germany, France and Holland while there were also some local tourists.

"They should have left today (Tuesday) but the dangerous river has cut off the place from the outside world and we are running low on food. Nonetheless, we ensure the safety and well-being of tourists and if necessary, we will use a helicopter to drop food for us tomorrow," he said when contacted late Tuesday.

According to him, a special meeting with police and Jerantut district office was held to discuss measures to get all tourists out safely. – Bernama

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Koalas face extinction without stronger protection, say conservationists

Federal environment department says a recovery plan is in development, but conservationists warn the vulnerable koala needs urgent action
Oliver Milman 23 Dec 14;

Conservationists say the koala is on the way to extinction if its habitats aren’t restored. Photograph: Sarah Motherwell/AAP
Conservationists have warned the koala is on the path towards extinction following the failure to release a strategy to actively reverse the decline of the marsupial species.

The federal government has published new guidelines to help reduce the impact of new development upon koala. It points out that koala populations have rapidly shrunk due to the destruction of vegetation and increasing risk of koalas being hit by cars or attacked by dogs.

The guidelines suggest certain mitigation measures, such as underpasses or bridges across highways, but there is no recovery strategy for the koala, which was listed as vulnerable in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory in 2012.

The environment department said a national recovery plan was “under development” with state and territory governments, although there was no date for its release. A recovery plan was due to be unveiled by the end of 2014 due to the expiration of a five-year strategy that ran since 2009.

The lack of a recovery plan alongside the guidelines for developers has dismayed conservationists, who warn that the koala needs urgent action to save it.

“Where is the recovery plan? That is my big question,” said Deborah Tabart, chief executive of the Australian Koala Foundation. “The states are incapable of protecting the koala, which is why we went for a federal listing in the first place. There’s no doubt these guidelines will just refer things back to the states. They’ll be useless.

“We need a national recovery plan that would mean developers have to change their behavior. And yet there’s no sign of it. They’ve got rid of so many people in the department I’m not even sure there’s anyone left who can do it.”

Koalas are extremely vulnerable to climate change and, when they stray from their favoured trees, are at risk from being run over by cars or mauled by dogs.

But the loss and fragmentation of vast tracts of koala-friendly vegetation, especially in the eastern states, is the primary reason koala numbers have slumped by 40% in Queensland and by a third in NSW over the past 20 years.

“The koala is on its way to extinction,” Tabart said. “I’m tired of having to explain, over the past 28 years, that if a koala has its house cut down, it starves to death, or a dog or car wipes them out. Until there’s something that says ‘no, Mr Developer, you can’t cut the trees down’, we’ll keep having extinctions.”

Ecologists view koalas as a key “flagship” species that shares habitat with hundreds of other threatened species. Therefore, protecting koala eucalypt habitat would also safeguard many other plants and animals.

Prof Corey Bradshaw, an ecologist at the University of Adelaide, said the development guidelines were an example of a “toothless” Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the main federal legislation to protect nationally significant species.

“There’s nothing in the act that mandates any restoration of habitat and there are so many loopholes that developers can find,” he said. “If your definition of restoration is putting in an underpass and a koala fence, you are putting them on the way to extinction.

“We’ve lost 40% of Australian bush since European arrival and the rest is fragmented. There’s virtually no area of eucalypt left untouched, so it’s no surprise the koalas are struggling.

“The only way to recovery is a 20 to 30-year plan of mass reforestation and connectivity. That is beyond debate. We should have a goal for increasing net forest cover.

“But there seems no appetite in government for this. We are seeing deforestation even in national parks, so the future doesn’t look very bright for koalas.”

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Top firms' greenhouse gas emissions rise, despite call for cuts

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 23 Dec 14;

Greenhouse gas emissions by the world's top 500 companies rose 3.1 percent from 2010 to 2013, far off the cuts urged by the United Nations to limit global warming, a study showed on Monday.

The top 500 firms by capitalization accounted for 13.8 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions and 28 percent of gross domestic product in 2013, according to the report, drawn up by the information provider Thomson Reuters and BSD Consulting, a global sustainability consultancy.

"Almost all of us use products from these companies," said Tim Nixon, Director of Sustainability at Thomson Reuters. "This is about transparency. We hope companies will look at the report and engage with their stakeholders to reduce emissions."

A path set out last month by the U.N. Environment Programme, intended to limit global temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, implied a 4.2 percent fall in world emissions between 2010 and 2013.

Almost 200 nations have set 2 degrees C as a ceiling to limit the extra droughts, floods, heatwaves and rising sea levels that scientists see as the consequence of global warming.

Governments will try to work out a U.N. climate deal in late 2015 at a summit in Paris to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, which trap the sun's heat.

The top corporate greenhouse gas emitters in 2013 were PetroChina Co Ltd, China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. and steel maker ArcelorMittal, the report said.

Big companies with a more than 10 percent decline in emissions between 2010 and 2013 were led by ConocoPhillips, Valero Energy Corp and Dominion Resources Inc.

Large firms whose emissions rose more than 10 percent in the period were led by the metals and mining group Glencore, Russia's Surgutneftegas and Exelon Corp. The data came from businesses themselves and estimates from Thomson Reuters Asset4.

John Moorhead, executive manager of BSD, noted that many of the top 500 companies, especially in finance, information technology or telecoms, had relatively low emissions.

But he said they could have a huge influence on emissions beyond their company's borders in their choice of suppliers.

(Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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