Best of our wild blogs: 31 Jul 15

Moonlight survey of East Coast Park
wild shores of singapore

Macro Photography Outings – June 2015
Bugs & Insects of Singapore

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Malaysia: Sabah halts land clearing at habitat of proboscis monkey

STEPHANIE LEE The Star 31 Jul 15;

The latest drone image taken this month showing that a substantial amount of land has been cleared compared to 2012. The yellow dots represent the daily movements of the collared proboscis monkey in 2012.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has ordered an immediate stop to land clearing at sensitive riparian reserves along the Kinabatangan river.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun’s announcement came after the phenomenon was highlighted in newspapers yesterday.

“We are also investigating those involved in the land clearing,” he said, adding that the issue was being probed by the Forestry Department as well as the Land and Survey Department.

On Wednesday, conservationist and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director Dr Benoit Goossens said they had noticed wildlife habitats on the eastern side of the Kinabatangan river degrading despite numerous attempts at restoring the integrity of buffer zones.

He said the latest incident was where riparian forests along the Kinabatangan river and one of its tributaries, Sungai Sukau, were being cleared for rubber planting.

“I understand that the land that has been cleared is native land, but what about the riparian reserve that was cleared at the corner of the Kinabatangan river and along Sungai Sukau?” he asked.

“With continuous degradation and loss of habitat in the Kinabatangan river, I now wonder whether the proboscis monkey and other wildlife species have a chance to sustain viable populations in this iconic eco-tourism jewel,” Dr Goossens said.

He said the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary was one of the best places in Borneo to encounter Bornean elephants, orang utan, proboscis monkeys, estuarine ­crocodiles, storm storks, rhinoceros hornbills and hundreds of other species, and tourists would desert the region if nothing was left to see there.

“I am questioning the meaning behind the ‘Kinabatangan Corridor of Life’ concept, when every year, bit by bit, the forest along the Kinabatangan river is cleared.

“It is ironic when organisations spend millions of ringgit and many man hours to restore riparian reserves and deforested land when, at the same time, the forests are still being cleared,” Dr Goossens said.

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Indonesia: Haze thickens in Pekanbaru as hot spots drastically increase

Rizal Harahap, 30 Jul 15;

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru, Riau, has warned the country that air pollution will get worse as of Thursday morning. Terra and Aqua satellites detected 186 hot spots spread across eight regencies and municipalities throughout the province. On the previous day, Riau had only 40 hot spots spread throughout seven regencies and municipalities.

The agency reported that Pelalawan had 60 hot spots, making it the regency with the highest number of hot spots. Indragiri Hulu ranked second with 54 hot spots, followed by Indragiri Hilir (45), Siak (11), Dumai (six), Bengkalis (five), Kampar (thee) and Kuantan Singingi (two).

On Wednesday, BMKG Pekanbaru spotted one hot spot in Rokan Hilir regency.

“The hot spot disappeared on Thursday morning. However, five new hot spots have suddenly turned up in Kampar and Kuantan Singingi,” the agency said.

“As many as 140 of the total hot spots detected are fire spots with a trust level of above 70 percent. This indicates that there have been land fires in those areas,” BMKG Pekanbaru head Sugarin said.

He said 47 of the total hot spots were found in Indragiri Hulu, followed by Pelalawan (40), Indragiri Hilir (33), Siak (nine), Dumai (four), Bengkalis (three), and Kampar and Kuantan, which had two fire spots each.

“As of Thursday morning, the total number of hot spots in Sumatra has reached 326, with Riau as the province with the highest number of hot spots. Jambi ranks second with 51 hot spots, followed by South Sumatra (42), Lampung (eight), Bengkulu (six), North Sumatra (three) and West Sumatra (two),” said Sugarin.

While it had neither hot spots nor land or forest fires, Sugarin said that the air quality in Pekanbaru had continued to deteriorate, blanketed by smoke from land and forest fires from its neighboring regencies. Its air quality was still considered to be unhealthy.

“The visibility in Pekanbaru has also deteriorated, reaching only around 800 meters on Thursday morning. Dumai City is also blanketed with smoke, although its visibility still reaches five kilometers,” said Sugarin. (ebf)(++++)

Most land, forest fires in Riau extinguished: Agency 30 Jul 15;

The Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) has said that the Riau firefighting team had extinguished fires on 1,125 out of 1,264 hectares of land and forest in the province.

“As of Sunday, both air and land firefighter task forces have put out fires on 1,125.25 hectares of area by using, among others, weather modification technologies,” BPBD Riau head Edwar Sanger said as quoted by Antara in Pekanbaru on Thursday.

He said that as of July 26, the Riau air firefighting team, together with other teams including those from two big companies in the province, had carried out 25 fire-extinguishing processes by using weather modification technologies that involved several helicopters. The operations were part of efforts to reduce the bad effects of smoke exposure due to land and forest fires in 12 regencies and municipalities throughout Riau. The disaster might get worse as the dry season is predicted to last until December.

The Riau Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned of the possible impact of El Niño in several provinces, including Riau, in Indonesia. The weather phenomenon, which is associated with ocean warming that develops in equatorial Pacific areas, has led to an extreme dry season, making some areas prone to land and forest fires.

“For three days, from July 24 to 26, we spread 55.28 tons of salt as a kind of artificial rain. It means we brought around 2.4 tons of salt on each flight,” said Edwar.

Plantation company Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) said that it had helped the Riau firefighting task force to extinguish fires both inside and outside its concession areas in Pelalawan by using a helicopter.

“We found fire spots during a patrol in areas around RAPP concession areas that border with the Tesso Nilo National Park (TNTN). We reported our findings to TNTN officers and the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA),” said the head of RAPP’s firefighting team for the Ukui area, Almei Hendra. (ebf)(+++)

Forest Fire Alert Issued as Hundreds of Hotspots Detected in Riau
Jakarta Globe 30 Jul 15;

Jakarta. Indonesia’s meteorological agency has detected more than a hundred fire hotspots in eight areas across Riau province on Thursday, warning residents and officials of exacerbating haze from forest and land fires.

Pekanbaru’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has so far identified 140 hotspots, with three particular districts expected to be the biggest contributors of haze, said BMKG chief Sugarin.

“Out of the eight districts, Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir will likely be the source of the greatest amount of haze,” Sugarin said on Thursday.

Pelalawan currently has 40 fire hotspots, Indragiri Hilir has 33 and Indragiri Hulu 47, while the remaining are spread throughout Siak, Bengkalis, Dumai, Kampar and Kuantan Singingi.

Sugarin said the agency earlier detected 326 fire hotspots across seven provinces on Sumatra island, with the majority concentrated in Riau, where as of last Sunday 1,246 hectares of land have gone ablaze.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has dispatched two helicopters to waterbomb these areas in an attempt to prevent the fires from spreading.
“Each helicopter can operate for three hours before returning to headquarters to refuel,” said Riau BPBD chief Edwar Sanger.

The increasing number of fire hotspots emerging across the province has deteriorated its air quality, Sugarin said.
“According to our monitors, the air here has become unhealthy,” he said, adding that the number of residents suffering from respiratory ailments (ISPA) as a result of the haze has increased by 10 percent.
“More than 1,400 people are presently struggling with ISPA. Yet, this number is still categorized as normal,” said Helsa S. Munir, head of Pekanbaru’s health agency.

Riau has for years been plagued by debilitating haze caused by bush and forest fires, especially in the dry season.

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Indonesia: El Niño threatens clean water supplies in Batam

Fadli, 30 Jul 15;

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has said a long dry spell affecting Batam over the last several months has caused a sharp decline in the volume of water in dams in the area. If the situation continues, it says, it is probable that Batam will suffer a clean water shortage.

BMKG Batam predicts that El Niño, a weather phenomenon associated with the warming of ocean water that develops in equatorial Pacific areas, will cause a long dry season, leaving Batam without wet season rain until November.

BMKG Batam head Philip Mustamu said that El Niño was not, as many tended to think, a heat wave. “It’s a phenomenon during which rainfall in an area is lower than in normal conditions in previous years. This is what is happening now in Batam,” said Philip. He added that El Niño was also affecting other areas in Indonesia.

He said rain intensity in Batam was predicted to return to normal in November. “Now, rain has already fallen in certain parts, however, it cannot yet reduce the impacts of El Niño,” said Philip.

The BMKG head said El Niño could have an extreme impact if it happened for a much longer period. “If it continues to happen until after November, we will call it an extreme situation,” he said.

The current long dry season has caused a decline in water flow rates from five dams managed by tap water company Adhya Tirta Batam (ATB). The water level in Duriangkang, the biggest dam in Batam, has fallen by 1.84 meters. Nongsa Dam’s water level fell by 3.98 m, Sei Harapan Dam by 3.65 m, Mukakuning Dam by 2.95 m and Sei Ladi Dam by 2.71 m.

ATB says it has warned Batam residents to be thrifty with their water use. The company has also urged people to reserve clean water in tanks in their homes to anticipate more severe water shortages if the situation worsens. (ebf)(+++)

Regions begin to suffer as dry spell continues
Fadli and Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post 31 Jul 15;

Prolonged drought has begun to take its toll on the populations of Batam, the capital of Riau Islands province, as well as a number of regions in Central Java, as water sources dwindle.

In Batam, the scarcity of clean water is hurting residents, with water sources experiencing drastic decreases in water debit.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Batam office predicted rain would not fall in the region until November, a result of the El Niño phenomenon hitting the area.

BMKG Batam head Philip Mustamu said that El Niño caused less rain to fall in certain areas.

“This is what has been going on in Batam,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The prolonged drought has greatly reduced water reserves in all five reservoirs under the management of Batam administration-owned tap water company PT Adhya Tirta Batam.

Nongsa dam has seen the sharpest decrease in water levels, falling 3.98 meters, followed by Sei Harapan dam, where the water level has fallen 3.65 m, Mukakuning dam with a decrease of 2.95 m, Sei Ladi dam with a decrease of 2.71 m and Duriangkang dam with a decrease of 1.84 meters.

Batam city administration spokesperson Ardiwinata said that the region was wholly dependent on dams for clean water.

“The public must understand that the only available water sources are the dams, which collect rain water,” said Ardiwinata, calling on the city’s people to conserve water use.

Data at the tap water company show that the worst impact of El Niño occurred in 1997-1998, when no rain fell on Batam for eight months.

Prolonged drought has also caused harvest failures in 6,578 hectares of rice fields in a number of regions in Central Java, including Grobogan, Blora, Pati, Demak, Pemalang and Brebes.

“The impacts of drought are being felt in 29 out of 35 regencies and cities across Central Java,” said Prasetyo, the head of the provincial Water Resources Agency.

As well as the harvest failure, Prasetyo said, nearly 27,000 ha of rice fields in the province were also suffering lesser impacts of the drought, over 7,000 ha moderate impacts and some 2,800 ha heavy impacts.

Meanwhile, data from the Central Java Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) showed that 17 regions in the province were already in need of clean water aid: Rembang, Blora, Grobogan, Pati, Wonogiri, Sukoharjo, Klaten, Boyolali, Banyumas, Cilacap, Purbalingga, Tegal, Pemalang, Demak, Purworejo, Kebumen and Jepara.

Clean water was distributed in Kebon Taman subdistrict in Semarang city, on the border of Semarang and Demak, earlier this week.

Central Java BPBD head Sarwa Pramana said that clean water had also been distributed by the BPBD in Purbalingga, Cilacap, Purworejo, Jepara, Demak, Wonogiri, Kebumen and Blora.

“Other efforts to deal with the drought include engineering artificial rain and the distribution of clean water in affected regions,” Sarwa said.

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Indonesia: Mangroves can play big role in tackling climate change

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 31 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — Indonesia’s mangroves store large amounts of carbon, and saving them could help the country reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a new research paper has found.

Indonesia has lost an estimated 40 per cent of mangrove cover in the last three decades, but still has 2.9 million hectares of mangroves, more than any other country in the world. The mangroves store about 3.14 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to about one-third of the carbon stored in the world’s coastal ecosystems, according to the paper co-authored by scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Indonesian mangrove loss contributed 42 per cent of global annual emissions from the destruction of coastal ecosystems, including marshes, mangroves and sea grasses, the scientists estimated. Emissions from the global destruction of coastal ecosystems were equivalent to 3 to 19 per cent of emissions from global deforestation.

Halting the deforestation of Indonesia’s mangroves could cut emissions that are equivalent to 10 to 31 per cent of its emissions from land-use, including agriculture and forestry, said the scientists.

Mangrove conservation should thus be among the strategies to mitigate climate change, they said in the paper, published this week in the Nature Climate Change journal.

Mangroves have been found to store three to five times as much carbon as the same area of rainforest. They are significant carbon sinks because of high rates of tree and plant growth, as well as slow decomposition due to anaerobic, waterlogged soil. Besides storing carbon, they also help in soil formation, nutrient cycling and wood production, and serve as fish spawning grounds. Aquaculture development is the main cause of mangrove loss in Indonesia.

The scientists measured carbon stocks of 39 mangroves at eight sites, and found the lowest values for plots in Cilacap in Java, and the highest for plots in Bintuni, West Papua.

“We hope that these numbers help policymakers see mangroves as a huge opportunity for climate change mitigation,” says Mr Daniel Murdiyarso, principal scientist at CIFOR and lead author of the paper.

“But to make progress, it is crucial that mangroves are protected and managed sustainably.”

The study comes as another Asian country recently became the first in the world to comprehensively protect its mangrove forests.

In a Sri Lankan scheme announced in May, hundreds of coastal communities will help protect existing mangroves and plant new ones in nurseries in coastal lagoons.

Backed by the Sri Lankan government, and with funding from US non-governmental organisation Seacology, the communities will get small loans and training to help them set up small businesses in return.

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World unites to fight wildlife crime as UN adopts historic resolution

WWF 30 Jul 15;

Faced with an unprecedented surge in wildlife crime, the UN today adopted a historic resolution committing all countries to ramp up their collective efforts to end the global poaching crisis and tackle the vast illegal wildlife trade.

Initiated by Gabon and Germany and co-sponsored by 84 other nations, the UN General Assembly resolution, Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife, is the result of three years of diplomatic efforts and is the first time that every nation has acknowledged the seriousness of wildlife crime and the urgent need to join forces to combat it.

“The UN resolution marks a new phase in the fight against wildlife crime, which is threatening countless species with extinction while jeopardizing national security and sustainable development,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “This landmark resolution proves that ending wildlife crime is no longer just an ‘environmental’ issue and not just limited to a few countries: it has become a priority for every nation.”

With elephant populations collapsing in Mozambique and Tanzania and record numbers of rhinos being killed in South Africa, the poaching crisis is clearly undermining global conservation efforts. But the UN resolution also spells out the broader effects of wildlife crime, which undermines good governance, the rule of law and the well-being of local communities as well as financing criminal networks and funding armed conflict.

“Just weeks before the UN meets to finalize the Sustainable Development Goals, it is significant that every country has signed up to tackle the growing threat organized wildlife crime poses to sustainable development,” said Lambertini.

Recognizing that only a comprehensive approach can curb the current crisis, all 193 UN member states agreed to enhance regional and international cooperation along the entire illegal wildlife trade chain, including measures to stop the poaching, trafficking and buying.

Along with strengthening judicial processes and law enforcement, the resolution encourages countries to actively involve local communities in the fight against the illicit trade by enhancing their rights and capacity to manage and benefit from wildlife resources.

“Nepal has already proved that this comprehensive approach works, having achieved three years of zero poaching of rhinos since 2011 thanks to a combination of high-level political will, dedicated rangers, and genuine community participation – now it is up to other countries to follow Nepal’s lead and the measures outlined in this historic resolution,” said Elisabeth McLellan, Head of the Wildlife Crime Initiative, WWF International.

Attracted by the relatively low risks and high returns, organized crime networks have muscled their way into the illegal wildlife trade, bringing with them more sophisticated poaching and trafficking methods – and greater violence and corruption.

In response, the resolution highlights the transnational and organized nature of crimes that impact the environment and stresses the need for countries to counter corruption and address money laundering linked to wildlife crime.

“If countries fully implement the resolution, wildlife crime will become far riskier and far less rewarding,” said McLellan. ”The resolution’s strong reporting mechanism should ensure that real progress is made and that any critical gaps are effectively addressed.”

Starting in 2016, the UN secretary general is tasked with presenting an annual report on global wildlife crime and countries’ implementation of the resolution, together with recommendations for further action. Already lined up for debate next year is the possible appointment of a special envoy – a move that WWF believes would promote greater awareness and help hold countries to account.

“WWF has played a key role in shifting global attitudes towards wildlife crime over recent years, highlighting its impact on communities and on dwindling populations of elephants, rhinos, tigers and other species,” said Lambertini. “WWF will now focus on assisting countries in their crucial efforts to implement the resolution and help end the terrible global scourge that is wildlife crime, once and for all.”

U.N. tackles illicit wildlife poaching amid Cecil the lion uproar
Michelle Nichols PlanetArk 31 Jul 15;

U.N. tackles illicit wildlife poaching amid Cecil the lion uproar Photo: Eric Miller
Protesters hold signs during a rally outside the River Bluff Dental clinic against the killing of a famous lion in Zimbabwe, in Bloomington, Minnesota July 29, 2015.
Photo: Eric Miller

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday called on all countries to step up their efforts to tackle illicit poaching and trafficking in wildlife amid global uproar over the unlawful killing of "Cecil" the lion in Zimbabwe.

The 193-member General Assembly adopted its first resolution on the issue following a two-year campaign by Germany and Gabon.

"Like most people in the world we are outraged at what happened to this poor lion," Germany's U.N. Ambassador Harald Braun told reporters after the resolution was adopted. "Hunting activities are partly legal, partly illegal and it is this resolution which fights all the illegal aspects of it."

A Zimbabwean court on Wednesday charged a professional hunter with failing to prevent an American from unlawfully killing "Cecil," in a case that has triggered widespread revulsion at trophy hunting.

Braun said the animals most threatened by wildlife poaching are elephants and rhinos and that the money from the trade is one of the key sources of finance for terrorism. He said every day in Africa some 100 elephants are killed by poachers.

"There is a black market for rhino horn, and a pound of rhino horn today yields more than a pound of gold in this market," he said, adding that the value of ivory from poached elephant tusks was only a fraction of the value that a living elephant could provide to a country's economy through tourism.

A global ivory trade ban went into effect in 1989 after Africa's elephant population plunged from 1.2 million to 600,000. But illegal trade continues, with demand strong in China, other Asian states and places like the United States.

The U.N. resolution urges states to "take decisive steps at the national level to prevent, combat and eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife, on both the supply and demand sides, including by strengthening the legislation necessary for the prevention, investigation and prosecution."

It asks U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the General Assembly on the global status of illicit trafficking in wildlife and to consider appointing a special envoy "to promote awareness and galvanize international action."

Resolutions passed by the General Assembly are non-binding but can carry political weight.

Gabon's Foreign Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet told the General Assembly that illicit wildlife trafficking threatens the stability and economic development of many countries.

"Terrorist and armed groups operating in Africa, notably, are using poaching and illicit trafficking of wildlife to increase their incomes. ... This contributes to the proliferation of weapons in Africa," he said.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Rattled snake: Photographer caught on video hitting snake

David Sun, Ang Qing, The New Paper AsiaOne 30 Jul 15

Moving wild animals from their habitat for a photography session is frowned upon by nature lovers and professional photographers.

But that's what a group of photography enthusiasts did to a venomous snake. They even hit the reptile on the head.

Their foolhardy act was filmed and posted online.

It resulted in criticism from the public.

Last Monday, a 23-second video showing a group of photographers snapping photos of a snake at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was uploaded on Facebook.

It shows a man and a woman, believed to be part of a larger group, taking photos of a green snake coiled around a branch.

The man snaps five photos, with his camera flash on and his lens just centimetres away from the head of the snake.

The group speaks in Mandarin, discussing the camera angle and how to take the photo.

Towards the end of the video, the man picks up a stick from the ground and hits the snake on the head before moving away.

Comments on the video identify it as a pit viper, a snake species which can kill humans with its venom.

Mr Kennie Pan, 25, a wildlife photographer who uploaded the video, said the snake had been moved from its original spot by the group.

He told The New Paper he had been in the same area a few days before, on July 18.

He said: "I couldn't get good shots of it. So I decided to leave it and come back the next day to hopefully find it in a better position."


But the next day, he could not find it. This puzzled him as such snakes do not go very far. He said they usually only move higher up the trees.

He then bumped into his friend who jogs in the area frequently, and was told that the snake had been moved by a group of photographers.

Said Mr Pan: "He showed me a video he took of them, and it was very upsetting. They moved it about 5m away, and (looking at the video), it was clearly disturbed."

Mr Pan uploaded the video on his Facebook page and as of yesterday, it had been shared 370 times.

One of the shares was by the Herpetological Society of Singapore (HSS), which condemned the actions of the people in the video.

HSS is a group of enthusiasts who photograph snakes in Singapore.

Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan, 20, who is from the group, said he was outraged, describing the group's behaviour as abusive and irresponsible photography.

He said: "Imagine someone positioning you on a branch, prodding your head with a stick to make you face the right direction.

"I feel disturbed. It's an ongoing trend, to get the perfect shot. But it's not worth it to harass and unduly stress the animal this way.

"Within the nature photography community, there needs to be a code of ethics to prevent such incidents from happening."

Ms Ng Bee Choo, vertebrate study group chairman of the Nature Society Singapore, told The New Paper that such animals in nature reserves should be left alone.

"I think generally people can take pictures of them from a distance but they should not catch or touch them," she said.

Under Singapore's Animal and Birds Act, those found guilty of animal cruelty can be jailed for up to 18 months, fined up to $15,000, or both. For a second or subsequent offence, they could be fined up to $30,000, jailed up to three years, or both.

'Snakes just want to be left alone'

While on a nature walk, Mr Serin Subaraj, 20, saw a group of people trying to kill a snake with their walking sticks.

Instead of running away, he rushed forward to save it.

Mr Subaraj doesn't just love snakes, he is part of a group of snake enthusiasts, called the Herpetological Society of Singapore (HSS). Herpetology refers to the study of reptiles and amphibians.

HSS, which is unregistered, was founded in March. It currently has 21 members.

Over the last two years, its founding members - Mr Subaraj, Mr David Groenewoud, 22, Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan, 20, Mr Law Ing Sind, 19, and Mr Law Ingg Thong, 17 - would go around Singapore looking for snakes to photograph.

They search for these creatures at least once a week at places like Pulau Ubin and Pasir Ris Park.


All are students who met during nature walks. They started the group to correct misconceptions about snakes.

Mr Sankar said: "A common misconception is that snakes will come and find you. Snakes just want to be left alone."

According to the NParks website, there are more than 60 species of native snakes here. Some are venomous, such as the black spitting cobra, which is common in parks.

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), said: "People are not aware of native reptiles. Reticulated pythons are seen as anacondas. Monitor lizards are seen as Komodo dragons."

None of HSS' members has been attacked by snakes during their excursions.

Said Mr Sankar: "Snakes are beautiful and there's satisfaction in seeing an animal that's so rare.

"But we don't handle them unless there is a direct threat to their safety. For example, if a snake is crossing the road."

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Indonesia: Regents, mayors told to overcome fires, haze

Rizal Harahap and Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post 30 Jul 15;

The Riau administration has instructed 12 regents and mayors across the province to immediately overcome the land and forest fires as well as anticipate the worsening haze over the past few days.

“Regents and mayors have been asked to be quick and ready and optimize the role of district and village heads to monitor, supervise and prevent the fires as early as possible as well as to overcome the haze in their respective areas,” said the provincial administration first assistant Ahmadsyah Harrofie on Wednesday.

According to him, Governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman has also called the regional heads to ask for opinions from relevant agencies as well as guidance and existing regulations when determining the emergency status in their regions.

“An alert status must be determined through a coordinated meeting,” he added.

As of Wednesday, thick haze from land and forest fires was still blanketing a number of areas, such as Pekanbaru and Pelalawan regency, which led to limited visibility to reach only between 1.5 km and 2 km.

“Air quality is also categorized as unhealthy,” said Pekanbaru Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency (BMKG) head Sugarin.

Based on satellite images gathered by the Pekanbaru BMKG on Wednesday morning, 40 hot spots were detected in seven regencies, 20 of them in Pelalawan, five in Indragiri Hulu, five in Indragiri Hilir, three each in Dumai city and Bengkalis and Siak regencies and one in Rokan Hilir.

Based on a recap conducted by the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) and relevant agencies, areas affected by fires in Riau from June 24 to July 26 had reached 1,264.75 hectares, of which 400 ha were found in Rokan Hilir, followed by Pelalawan (232 ha) and Bengkalis (177 ha). So far, only Meranti Islands regency has been reported free of fires.

“Of the affected areas, 1,125.25 ha have been extinguished,” said Riau BPBD head Edwar Sanger.

According to Edwar, the land and aerial task forces who were deployed from the land and Forest Fire Emergency Command Station at the Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru, are still making efforts to put out the fires.

“CN-295 planes have carried out 25 sorties to scatter 55.28 tons of salt to make artificial rain and a Sikorsky and a MI-171 helicopter have continued to conduct water bombing,” he said.

Separately, in North Sumatra, a number of incoming and outgoing flights at the FL Tobing Airport in Pinangsori district, Central Tapanuli regency, have been delayed due to haze from land and forest fires in Riau.

Airport manager Ambar Suryoko said on Wednesday visibility around the airport was only 2,000 meters at noon, thus endangering flights. Consequently, Ambar added, a number of flights were postponed until visibility improved.

Kualanamu BMKG data and Information Section head Mega Sirait said nearly all regions in North Sumatra, including Medan city, were covered by haze on Wednesday. She added the haze originated from land and forest fires in Riau.

Mega said in general, the haze from Riau had yet to disrupt people’s activities in the province, apart from the FL Tobing Airport and Aek Godang Airport in Padang Sidempuan city. Mega said flights at both airports were disrupted by the thick haze as they were located close to the North Sumatra-Riau border.

“Visibility at FL Tobing and Aek Godang airports were 2,000 and 4,000 meters respectively,” said Mega, adding visibility at the Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency was very good at 8,000 meters and did not interrupt flights there.

Riau calls for private companies to help fight wildfires
Antara 29 Jul 15;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - It certainly is no easy task to break the vicious cycle of annual forest, peat land and plantation fires, which have affected Riau Province over the past 17 years.

Despite the Joko Widodo (Jokowi) administrations vow to end the misery of the people of Riau, who choke due to the smoke from haze caused by the wildfires, some 1,246 hectares of land, mostly peat land areas, was razed by fires over the last month.

Earlier this week, the acting governor of Riau, Arsyadjuliandi Rachman, reported the wildfires and the haze shrouding the provinces cities and villages to Forestry and Environmental Affairs Minister Siti Nurbaya in Jakarta.

The acting governor has urged private firms, particularly those engaged in rubber and palm oil plantations, to help douse the forest, peat land and plantation fires affecting the province at present.

"Today, we order private companies to take responsibility for the haze shrouding Riau. We are sure that their participation will help reduce the fire problem," Arsyadjuliandi Rachman, said in Pekanbaru, on July 28, 2015.

These companies must help extinguish the fires blazing in and around their areas and appeal to local residents to not set fire to land cleared for farming, he stated.

Moreover, Chairman of the Riau Chapter of the Association of Indonesian Forestry Concession Holders Ahmad Kuswara revealed that of the 58 existing forestry companies in Riau, 38 were members of the organization.

He also affirmed that these firms had been actively taking preventive measures against the fires by providing firefighting equipment.

Besides, of the existing 382 palm oil plantations in Riau, only 72 were members of the Riau Chapter of the Association of Indonesian Palm Oil Plantation Businessmen.

Furthermore, Kuswara believes that the fires were not set by companies that were members of his association, as they upheld the moral responsibility of aiding in firefighting efforts.

However, he suspects that new plantation firms that were clearing land for palm oil plantations were behind the fires.

In response to the governors appeal, PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) has deployed two helicopters and four pilots as well as hundreds of personnel to put out fires occurring outside the RAPP plantation area.

The pulp and paper industry has coordinated with the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) in the attempts to fight the fires.

Riau has declared July 1 to August 31, 2015, as a period of fire danger in all forest concession areas.

A total area measuring 1,246 hectares (ha) across Riau Province was razed by wildfires from June 24 to July 26, 2015, stated Chairman of the Riau Forest and Plantation Fires Task Force Major General Nurendi.

The worst affected district is Rokan Hilir, with 400 ha razed by wildfires, following by Pelalawan (232 ha), Bengkalis (177 ha), Dumai City (124 ha), Nurendi, who is concurrently commander of the Wira Bima 031 regional military command (Korem), noted in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau Province, recently.

The task forces personnel managed to put out fires in 1,125 ha of area, he remarked.

"However, due to the extreme hot weather and most of the affected land being peatland area, most of the fires reemerge if not supervised carefully," he pointed out, adding that he ordered his personnel to closely supervise the affected peatland areas.

In Gambut Jaya Kumpeh village, Muarojambi District, for instance, some 200 hectares of peatland have been razed by fires, which are now approaching residential areas.

The task force comprises joint teams from the Riau administration, the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI), the National Police, the Riau disaster mitigation office, and the Riau meteorology and climatology office.

According to Chief of the Riau disaster mitigation office Edwar Sanger, the office has deployed two helicopters: Mi 17 and Sikorsky to conduct water bombing activities over the fires. Sikorsky has a capacity to carry up to four tons of water during each sortie.

Besides this, a Hercules aircraft has also been deployed to conduct cloud seeding to produce artificial rains by using weather modification technology in Riau, which is currently being hit by El Nino-induced drought.

Sanger said the number of hotspots in the province has decreased thanks to rains and efforts to put out the fires.

In the meantime, the Terra and Aqua satellites detected 308 hotspots indicating wildfires on Sumatra Island, on July 26, 2015, Head of the Pakanbaru meteorology, climatology and geophysics office (BMKG) Sugarin said.

Riau was the largest hotspots contributor with 122 hotspots, followed by South Sumatra (59), Jambi (58), North Sumatra (25), West Sumatra (19), Bengkulu (10), Bangka Belitung (nine), Lampung (five), and Riau Islands (one), according to him.

In Riau Province, 44 hotspots were found in Pelalawan District, 17 in Bengkalis, 16 in Kampar, 14 in Indragiri Hulu, eight in Indragiri Hilir, seven in Dumai, five in Rokan Hilir, four in Kuantan Singingi, and two in Rokan Hulu.

On July 28, the number of hotspots across Sumatra, decreased to 148, including 45 in Riau.

The visibility in Pekanbaru on July 26 morning reached only one kilometer, which is the minimal safety limit for flights.

The air quality in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau, was categorized as unhealthy due to the haze arising from the wildfires.

In Riau province, some 1,022 people fell ill because of air pollution.

Authorities have urged local residents, particularly expecting mothers, children and the elderly, to stay indoors as they are more prone to be affected by haze.

The health office of Riau province has distributed 3,000 medical masks to residents of Pekanbaru.

Dr. Yohanes of the health office said recently that the masks were given to passersby and motorcyclists in three locations---in front of the Riau governors office and the heroes cemetery, as well as at the SKA Mall.

The province currently has a stock of 20,000 masks.

"The public must get enough rest, eat nutritious food and drink adequate amount of water because haze can reduce our immunity," he pointed out.

The Indonesian government is gearing up to face the effects of El Nino, which could reduce precipitation by 40 to 80 percent.

This natural phenomenon is affecting the provinces of Sumatra, East Java, Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara, and Papua in particular, from June to November this year.

Indonesia: New forest fires threaten Indonesia’s protected areas
Tjokorda Nirarta Samadhi Jakarta Globe 30 Jul 15;

Extreme haze caused by forest and bush fires throughout Sumatra and Kalimantan has been a perpetual problem affecting the quality of life and economy of local residents and neighboring countries.

As this year’s dry season approaches, the fires are just starting to pick up, especially in the fire-prone province of Riau in Sumatra, but they are already threatening some of the most biodiverse and carbon-rich ecosystems in the country — protected forests and peatlands.

According to NASA’s Active Fire Data on the Global Forest Watch Fires (GFW Fires) platform, half of the fire alerts in Riau are occurring in protected areas or those where new development is prohibited under Indonesia’s national forest moratorium.

And an alarming 38 percent of Riau’s fires are burning on carbon-rich peatlands, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and fueling global climate change.

During 2013-2014, fires in Indonesia brought about a haze crisis in Sumatra, Malaysia and Singapore, sparking a call for greater accountability from companies and the Indonesia government and resulting in Indonesia signing the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. With the dry season just starting in Sumatra, we are just beginning to see fire alerts increase. The World Resources Institute (WRI) will watch the situation closely over the coming months to see whether Indonesia’s commitment to reducing fires and haze pollution will be met.

As was the case last year, the greatest concentration of fire alerts is in Riau, which is among the top producers of palm oil and timber in Indonesia, and has one of the highest rates of deforestation.

In Riau, fire has long been used as a fast and inexpensive way to clear land and prepare it for planting. Research conducted by David Gaveau of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) indicated that determining the exact cause of the fires is complex, as they often occur outside of concession boundaries or in concession areas operated by smallholder farmers.

A large number of fire alerts are concentrated in Riau’s Tesso Nilo National Park, which has been significantly damaged by illegal encroachment in recent years. The approximately 83,000-hectare park lost more than half of its tree cover from 2001-2013, according to GFW data. The park is a habitat for critically endangered Sumatran elephants and tigers.

In the past week, 69 hotspots were detected in Tesso Nilo, of which seven were likely to be associated with forest clearing. Other active fires that did not meet the high confidence fire criteria are still likely to be fires, but are more likely associated with burning fields/grass or other conditions that result in lower-temperature fires. While we have yet to see a major spike in fire alerts in Riau, where the alerts are located thus far reveals regulatory and enforcement weaknesses.

As part of the national forest moratorium, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono prohibited the issuance of new development licenses in key forest areas, a commitment extended this year by current President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Despite the ban, the vast area of protected and moratorium forest is a de facto no-man’s land. The absence or inadequateness of the government’s capacity to monitor and protect the landscape resulted in many encroachments and illegal occupation that eventually increase the risk of forest degradation and fires.

Plus, the moratorium has known loopholes, such as allowing for the clearing of moratorium areas for food and energy crop development.

Inadequate oversight of protected areas is also a pervasive problem in Indonesia and has been particularly devastating to Tesso Nilo National Park. The government’s ambitious overhaul of the forest management system by setting up local forest management units (KPH) is one step in the right direction, but is not likely to have a significant impact without more capacity and resources to prevent such massive encroachment.

A prerequisite for good land-use management is an up-to-date, accurate and consistent geospatial information system; and unfortunately, Indonesia still lacks one.

Indonesia has launched an initiative to remedy this — the widely touted One Map initiative. To have a unified map that is up-to-date, accurate and agreed to by all key stakeholders is one tremendously difficult task in a country where concessions as large as tens of thousands of hectares are allocated based on a hand-drawn map.

One Map is not the goal, but more of a means to have a common “language” between conflicting and competing forest stakeholders and to employ data-driven, land-use policy making.

It is imperative for the government to accelerate and scale up the One Map process if Indonesia wants to gradually improve its land-use management and achieve more sustainable development.

Responsive action from the Environment and Forestry Ministry as well as the National Disaster Management Agency is needed to curb the already increasing number of fire hotspots.

But in the longer term, what is really needed is better, more strategic forest management. That means strengthening enforcement in protected areas, closing loopholes and accelerating the One Map process.

The writer is the director of World Resources Institute (WRI) Indonesia. The article was written with additional reports by WRI experts Lisa Johnston, Susan Minnemeyer and Nigel Sizer.

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Indonesia: Widespread crop failures as drought continues in Central Java

Suherdjoko, 29 Jul 15;

Thousands hectares of rice and corn in Central Java have experienced crop failure following the long dry season, an official said on Wednesday.

Central Java Plantation Agency’s agriculture subagency head Nuswantoro said crop failures had hit 6,578 hectares of paddy fields in Grobogan (2,322 ha), Blora (1,589 ha), Pati (717 ha), Demak (584 ha), Pemalang (188 ha) and Brebes (380 ha) among other areas.

“Minor, moderate and severe levels of drought have affected rice fields in 29 out of 35 regencies and cities during this year’s dry season. The drought also hit corn and soybean fields,” Nuswantoro said.

He said that 26,977 ha of rice fields are experiencing a minor level of drought, 7,672 ha are at moderate level and 2,845 ha at severe level.

Fifty-three ha of corn fields also experienced crop failure, while some 215 ha were experiencing a minor level of drought, 25 ha are at moderate level, and 54 ha at severe level.

Meanwhile, some 103 ha of soybean fields were experiencing minor drought and 134 ha at moderate level.

Also on Wednesday, Central Java Disaster Mitigation Agency stated that 17 areas in Rembang, Blora, Gorbogan,Pati, Wonogiri, Sukoharjo, Klaten, Boyolali, Banyumas, Cilacap, Purbalingga, Tegal, Pemalang, Demak, Purworejo, Kebumen, dan Jepara were facing clean water crises.

The National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) had that Indonesia would suffer the worst drought in the past five years in 2015.(+++)

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Best of our wild blogs: 29 Jul 15

Herps in the Sky? – Part 1
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Nesting bulbul: 3. Adult feeding 5 days old chick
Bird Ecology Study Group

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Progress on haze monitoring system slow: Balakrishnan

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 29 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE — Progress on the regional haze monitoring system has been very slow, but concrete steps can be taken through information sharing between governments, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said today (July 28).

Given that Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have raised legal difficulties in making land concession maps public, Dr Balakrishnan said he has “counter-proposed” an exchange of information on a government-to-government basis. Concession maps show the tracts of land companies have been allowed to develop.

The haze monitoring system was adopted by five Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) members — Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand — nearly two years ago in October 2013, but is lacking the concession maps that, together with satellite images of hot spots, would help track down parties responsible for transboundary haze.

Dr Balakrishnan, who was in Jakarta for a meeting of the ASEAN Sub Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution, said the risk of haze remains if the El Nino weather phenomenon brings about prolonged drier and warmer weather in the second half of this year.

“If we can establish this system in which we can directly exchange this information, facilitate investigations, adduce evidence that can be offered in the court of law, I think we’ll increase considerably the accountability for companies that start such fires,” he said.

Errant companies could be in breach of both Indonesian laws and Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act. “So even while we try to overcome the hurdles with the publication of concession maps, I’m hoping we can still move and take concrete steps on a bilateral government-to-government basis,” he added. Yesterday’s meeting was constructive “but there’s still a lot more that we need to do”.

The Indonesian authorities have stepped up efforts on the ground and there have been fewer hot spots in the first six months of this year, he noted.

Separately, Singapore-headquartered pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited launched an initiative today to prevent fires in nine villages in Riau province in Sumatra. The programme, led by its operations arm and done with partners such as non-governmental groups, includes community incentives to not burn, air quality monitoring and sustainable agricultural alternatives. APRIL’s manufacturing operations are in Pangkalan Kerinci in Riau.

Singapore proposes information sharing with ASEAN to tackle haze
Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan says he hopes that through the process of "ground truthing", the Indonesian government will share the identity of the company responsible for a hotspot.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 28 Jul 15;

JAKARTA: The Republic has proposed to ASEAN member states that information be shared on a government-to-government basis as part of efforts to tackle transboundary haze in the region.

Speaking at the end of a one-day ASEAN meeting on transboundary haze in Jakarta on Tuesday (Jul 28), Environment Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishan said this information can help confirm the presence and severity of a fire after satellite pictures indicate a hotspot.

Dr Balakrishnan said he hopes that through this process of "ground truthing", the Indonesian government will then share the identity of the company responsible for that hotspot. “So if we can establish this system in which we can directly exchange information, facilitate investigation, produce evidence which can be offered in the court of law, we will increase considerably the accountability for the companies that started the fires,” he said.

Dr Balakrishnan made this proposal to Indonesia at the meeting after seeing "very slow progress" on the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System (AHMS).

ASEAN member states - namely Indonesia and Malaysia - have been reluctant to share land concession maps citing security concerns. The concession maps are a key component required by the system.

Indonesia has said it will study the proposal and Dr Balakrishnan said he is convinced that the current Indonesian government is serious on overcoming transboundary haze in the region.

During the meeting, Thailand offered to host a workshop to draft a roadmap on ASEAN cooperation towards haze pollution control next year. The Thai government has said it hopes to promote the sharing of experiences and lessons learned to achieve the goal of haze-free ASEAN by 2020.

- CNA/dl/al

South-east Asia sees little progress on haze as fires rage
Straits Times 28 Jul 15;

JAKARTA (AFP) - South-east Asian nations meeting on Tuesday to discuss the problem of haze that shrouds the region's skies every year made little progress, as the number of smog-belching forest fires was on the rise in Indonesia.

Environment ministers from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore met in Jakarta to discuss the issue.

The haze mostly comes from forest fires on Indonesia's western island of Sumatra, many of which are deliberately lit to clear land for plantations.

Pressure to resolve the problem has increased since 2013 when South-east Asia suffered its worst smog crisis for more than a decade, with haze levels hitting a record high in Singapore.

Nevertheless, collaborative efforts by the 10-member Asean to resolve the problem have been slow, with Singapore's calls for the adoption of a regional haze monitoring system making little headway.

The proposed system would use satellite data and maps of forest concessions to identify firms responsible for fires, and use this evidence to prosecute them.

But Indonesia and Malaysia, which is also home to palm oil plantations, have been reluctant to provide such maps.

There were no concrete developments at the two-day Jakarta meeting, prompting Singaporean Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan to lament "very slow" progress despite many meetings.

"The human, social and economic cost of haze in our part of the world has been too high, and been going on far too long," he told reporters.

Singapore has passed legislation allowing authorities to fine companies that cause or contribute to haze, regardless of whether they have an office in the city-state. But officials say they still need evidence from the ground.

The number of fires on Sumatra rose steeply in recent days, with state-run Antara news agency reporting over 300 "hotspots" - either forest fires or areas likely soon to go up in flames - detected on the island at the weekend.

Ministers agree to share hot spot info
But Jakarta again fails to agree to map-sharing request from S'pore
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 29 Jul 15;

Environment ministers from five Asean nations agreed yesterday to sharing information on a government-to-government basis that would help identify plantation companies on whose land fires start and cause haze.

The agreement, however, fell far short of the longstanding request by Singapore that Indonesia publicly share maps on agricultural concessions owned by oil palm, timber and other commodity companies, which are often blamed for starting the fires, particularly in neighbouring Sumatra.

"We decided to share hot spot information first - to make such data reach all parties as quickly as possible," said Indonesian Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar at a joint press conference after the meeting in Jakarta.

Representatives from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Thailand attended the meeting.

Asean previously agreed to create a regional haze-monitoring system, with a computer system developed by Singapore that uses satellite images and hot-spot data to pinpoint fires that lead to haze.

Development of the system has progressed slowly as it awaits the concession maps from Indonesia and Malaysia to identify which companies are responsible for the land plots where fires occur.

Plantation companies have often been blamed for some of the fires that burn on their concessions although, in some cases, the fires are started outside their lands or by farmers who are encroaching or living on their concessions. Many large plantation companies also have fire crews to protect their oil palm trees, timber or other assets.

One problem is that these companies generally do not share concession boundary data and the Indonesian government has struggled to create accurate concession maps.

Another issue is that Indonesian laws ban the government from sharing concession maps, Ms Siti said.

The information on hot-spot locations, though, would reveal the truth and help with the investigation and prosecution of errant companies, said Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

"It would allow us to do 'ground truthing', meaning, if we see a hot spot on a satellite that is verified on the ground, we could, hopefully, exchange information on which companies are responsible for that piece of ground on which the fire has started," Dr Balakrishnan said at the joint press conference.

Singapore passed legislation in August last year that would allow criminal and civil prosecution against Singaporean as well as foreign companies involved in illegal burning outside Singapore. But regulators would still need evidence and cooperation from the authorities on the ground.

Dr Balakrishnan also said he was convinced Indonesian President Joko Widodo was serious about overcoming the haze problem. He noted that the number of hot spots this year has been much lower. But he lamented the slow progress of the Asean haze talks.

"Despite multiple meetings... the progress has been very slow," he told reporters in Jakarta.

"I would say this is a problem that has gone on for too long. We need to solve it now. We are not moving as quickly as I would have hoped but nevertheless, there is some progress and, more importantly, there are signs of progress on the ground, certainly in Sumatra, and particularly in Riau."

Singapore upset by RI’s haze
Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 29 Jul 15;

While President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was on a state visit to Singapore on Tuesday, on the same day in Jakarta a Singaporean minister expressed his country’s growing impatience with Indonesia’s slow progress in controlling the annual forest fires.

Speaking during a meeting in Jakarta with five ASEAN country members about the haze issue, Singapore Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that the goal of a haze-free ASEAN by 2020 was not good enough for Singaporeans as the country had suffered too long from the air pollution.

“As far as Singaporeans are concerned, we want a haze-free ASEAN now, not in 2020. We want it now. The human, social and economic cost of haze in our part of the world has been too high and been going on for far too long,” he said in front of his counterparts, including Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

The meeting was the 17th of its kind held by the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on transboundary haze pollution, attended by senior officials from five Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand.

Annual cross-border air pollution caused by uncontrolled land clearing on Indonesian plantations has been a source of discontent among Indonesia’s neighbours since the 1990s.

In 2013, smoky haze wrought by forest fires in Indonesia spread to Singapore and Malaysia, causing Singapore’s worst air pollution in 16 years.

This year, the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has warned that the dry season could last longer than in previous years because of a weather phenomenon known as El Niño, which affects temperatures and rainfall.

A total of 4,763 hotspots, indicating wildfires, were detected across Indonesia during the period between Jan. 1 and July 23 this year.

Singapore has repeatedly urged Indonesia to provide data on companies and concession maps to enable it to act against plantation firms that allow slash-and-burn farming, saying that it will send an unequivocal signal that ASEAN countries are prepared to be transparent and hold individual companies accountable for their actions.

“Despite multiple meetings, to be honest with you the progress is very slow. The key hurdle is due to the separate regulatory and legislative systems in Malaysia and Indonesia, which until today have prevented them from openly publishing the concession maps for the ASEAN Haze Monitoring System [AHMS],” Vivian said.

The AHMS is a computerised system developed by Singapore in 2012 to enhance hotspot monitoring by combining hotspot data, high-resolution satellite pictures and land concession maps.

Minister Siti, however, countered Vivian’s statement by saying Indonesia would fulfill Singapore’s demand for the list of companies.

“In Indonesia, we have a law on public information access. In that law, there are some documents [that could be published], except for those that have to be kept secret. So we haven’t been able to say that all data is legitimate. We have to verify it first. We still have to [share it] through the G2G. We’re not using a multilateral approach in this case,” Siti said.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Siti said she could not understand what the Singaporean minister meant by saying that Indonesia was too slow in making progress.

“I don’t know what he’s saying, in which time frame, because as you’ve mentioned, this is already the 17th agenda,” the minister responded.

Siti emphasized that the government was obliged to protect the environment not for other countries, but for its own people. “You know what we are doing is not only for other people, but it is in our Constitution that we have to provide a good environment for our people. So in anycase we have to do [it].”

Faizal Parish, senior technical advisor for the ASEAN Peatland Forests Project (APFP) and director of the Malaysia-based Global Environment Centre, said Singapore should be more sensitive to other countries’ problems.

“It’s a sensitive issue because people think Singapore will be [the environmental] police for Asia who will prosecute all companies [regardless of their nationalities],” he said on Tuesday. “But it will be unwise for Singapore to prosecute

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Pair receive awards for smart farming solutions

Madeleine Lim Straits Times 28 Jul 15;

SINGAPORE - Two Singaporeans received local awards from Minister of State Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman at the Youth SG-Summit Awards Ceremony on Tuesday.

Koh Shao Cong and Oh Su Chin will represent Singapore at next month's Youth AG-Summit, themed "feeding a hungry planet", in Canberra, Australia.

Along with 100 counterparts from 33 countries they will look at how agricultural research and development can boost food productivity, quality and safety.

The local duo were selected by a panel of judges from the National Youth Achievement Council and pharmaceutical giant Bayer.

As Singapore imports most of its food supply, 24-year-old Ms Oh, a food science graduate working in the Agri-Food Veterinary Authority, believes it is essential to improve local food production.

Undergraduate Mr Koh, 25, added: "With agro-technology farming system, rooftop hydroponics and vertical farming, we can optimise land use and make urban farming possible in Singapore."

A special award was also presented to late student Toh Jun Pen, who died aged 17 after he submitted his entry. The award was received by his father and members of ITE College (West).

The late Mr Toh was recognised for a smart automated rice farming system which he developed with his team from ITE College (West) to cultivate rice in urbanised Singapore. His prototype consists of a fibre tank, a basic pump, solar panels, soil, a school of small fish and rice plants.

The hydroponic paddy field is stacked vertically to save space. The fibre tanks can be re-used after each rice harvest, making the system environmentally friendly.

Dr Maliki said: "Food security and food supply resilience are issues close to our hearts, and vital to our survival."

According to the United Nations, the world's population increases by 233,000 people every day and by 2050, it has been estimated that there will be 9 billion people.

In light of the growing challenges of global food security, Dr Maliki said: "It is important for our next generation to develop interests and capabilities in safeguarding our food security, and contribute to the global conservation and sustainable agriculture."

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Indonesia: First fire-prevention plan in Riau

Zubaidah Nazeer Straits Times 29 Jul 15;

Acting Riau Governor Arsyadjuliandi Rachman yesterday launched the province's first fire-prevention programme in collaboration with local government, police and a major pulp and paper company, in a bid to stem forest fires that cause haze.

The programme, initiated by pulp and paper firm April, involves nine villages on the periphery of its plantation in the town of Kerinci in Pelalawan regency where it operates its mill.

April's strategic fire manager Craig Tribolet said this involves identifying a representative from each village to be a fire crew leader with whom it will coordinate communication and training of villagers and arrange the lending of firefighting tools. April has also trained 70 policemen in basic firefighting.

"We need to move beyond putting out fires to preventing them, because when we put the wet stuff over the red stuff, it is often too late," Mr Tribolet said, referring to dousing of fires.

Mr Arsyadjuliandi, whose province was the epicentre of the worst haze in 16 years in 2013, says such collaboration was crucial to achieve the no-haze goal he pledged last year when he took office. He told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the event: "Frankly, we do not have the resources and we need big companies like April to help push through such programmes and lend us equipment and help with monitoring and training."

The programme reflects the higher level of collaboration happening in this province, with the police and military also roped in to battle the haze. Ironically, yesterday's event took place on a day that saw visibility in Riau drop to 1.5km in its provincial capital Pekanbaru, prompting officials to distribute masks to schoolchildren.

Pekanbaru's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency recorded 148 hot spots across five provinces in Sumatra yesterday - 55 in South Sumatra, 45 in Riau, 35 in Jambi, nine in Bangka Belitung and four in Lampung.

It also comes as Asean ministers met in Indonesia's capital Jakarta to affirm their commitment to battling transboundary haze.

Back in Kerinci town, Mr Tribolet, an Australian firefighter hired to design the fire-prevention programme, said he found most of the residents had no malicious intent in burning land. "They simply have no other alternatives, and it costs next to nothing to clear by burning," he said of the traditional practice.

The villages, within a 3km-radius outside the company's plantation, were selected based on how fire-prone and influential they are.

April conducted dialogues with the villagers and also tapped NGOs. "We need to build networks and relationships with them, and hope the remaining villages could follow," said Mr Tribolet.

Mr Amirul, 30, who goes by one name, owns 2ha of land in Sering village. He said the villagers accepted April's offer to lend them excavators to clear their land, even though it will take up to a month more than simply burning, because there is now a higher level of scrutiny among villagers who are encouraged to report fires.

For his part, Mr Arsyadjuliandi set up a 24-hour fire-prevention post in Pekanbaru to monitor fire updates twice daily and assign officials to fire-prone areas.

Despite such efforts, fires are still common. Along the stretch of road in Kerinci, a large swathe of land was seen smoking, freshly burnt three days ago, residents said.

Haze may force authorities to send students home
Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 28 Jul 15;

Thick haze caused by lingering forest and land fires in Riau province may force local authorities to send students home due to poor air quality.

Based on a report from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Pekanbaru station, thick haze has for the last two days contaminated Pekanbaru and Dumai’s atmosphere, leading to visibility of only 2 to 3 kilometers.

“The air in Pekanbaru and Dumai is not healthy,” station head Sugarin said, adding that the haze was thickest in the morning and evening.

He blamed the haze on forest and land fires in a number of regencies and cities in Riau.

He said the Terra and Aqua satellites on Monday morning detected 25 hotspots. Of them, 12 were detected in Indragiri Hilir, seven in Indragiri Hulu, three in Bengkalis, two in Dumai and one in Pelalawan.

“Of them, 20 were fire spots with 70 percent reliability, indicating that there were already forest and land fires there,” he said.

Responding to the decrease in air quality, the Riau provincial administration distributed 2,000 face masks to people for free.

“We also instructed health agencies in regencies and cities with unhealthy air quality to mobilize all the community health centers in their respective regions to distribute masks to people,” Riau Health Agency head Andra Sjafril said.

The provincial health agency, according to Andra, also issued a warning for schools and parents to protect children from the impacts of haze.

“They are strongly recommended to wear masks while participating in teaching and learning activities,”
he said.

Andra recommended that schools send their students home should the air quality continue to decrease and endanger the health of students.

“If the situation does not get better tomorrow, students must stay home. If the conditions are the
same as today, they may go to school but must put on masks to protect them from the dangers of the haze,” he said.

According to provisional data, 1,022 people have suffered from health problems because of the haze since the beginning of July. Of them, 757 suffered from acute respiratory infection, 160 from skin irritation, 50 from eye irritation, 29 from asthma and 26 from pneumonia.

Andra said the figures had increased over the last few days as the air quality in the region worsened. Most of the sufferers live in regions with numerous hotspots such as Bengkalis, Rokan Hilir, Dumai city and Pekanbaru.

“That’s why we do not tire of reminding people to reduce outdoor activities while the haze is still there,” he said.

Separately, Pekanbaru Regent Firdaus said it was not yet time for him to issue a policy on sending students home, arguing that the haze was still at a tolerable level.

However, he acknowledged the dangers of haze and its impacts on people’s health and children’s intelligence.

“The impacts may not be directly visible but will emerge in 15 to 20 years,” he said.

He therefore called on parents to take good care of their children during the haze. “It’s no use if schools send them home but they are let outside in the haze to play.”

Thick haze blankets Pekanbaru 28 Jul 15;

Several tall buildings in Pekanbaru, Riau province, were blanketed by thick haze on Tuesday morning.

According to, buildings along Jl. Soebrantas Panam and Jl. Jenderal Sudirman were blanketed in smoke at 7 a.m. with visibility around 1.5 kilometers, with the smoke getting thicker at noon.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Pekanbaru has reported 148 hotspots spread over five provinces in Sumatra on Tuesday morning: 55 in South Sumatra, 45 in Riau, 35 in Jambi, nine in Bangka Belitung and four in Lampung,

“The hotspots have developed in ten regencies in Riau,” said Head of BMKG Pekanbaru Sugarin as quoted by Antara news agency.

The thick haze, which was caused by forest fires in Pekanbaru, affected students' first day of school on Monday. To reduce its effect, the Riau Public Health office distributed medical masks to the students. (edn)(++++)

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Malaysia: Sarawak to be more ape-friendly

YU JI The Star 29 Jul 15;

KUCHING: The Sarawak Government will embark on an orang utan-led environmental policy, promises Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

Aside from not approving any new logging licences and approvals for plantations, the ape-friendly policy should lead to there being more totally-protected and communal conservation areas at newly-found orang utan habitats.

Adenan, in a taped speech presented at the Great Apes Survival Partnership (Grasp) meeting in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, said the Batang Ai and Lajak-Entimau protected areas that border West Kalimantan, Indonesia, would likely be expanded based on new sightings.

The Chief Minister, who in the recording described himself as an “amateur naturalist” and a fan of BBC documentary maker Sir David Attenborough, pledged to “make decisions that are in the favour of nature”.

“I am very concerned about the state of our orang utans and other mammals in Borneo. I am a naturalist by inclination and have made concrete decisions with regard to conservation of our natural resources, especially with regard to fauna,” Adenan said during the Grasp South-East Asia meeting.

“With regard to orang utans, we have happily discovered a few more areas of habitat. In fact, over and above the present ones at the Batang Ai and Lanjak Entimau landscape, they have discovered quite a few more in nearby areas. We will preserve those.”

Adenan said the state would totally prohibit commercial dealings in known orang utan habitats.

His speech was contained within the keynote address of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Malaysia director, Dr Melvin Gumal.

Gumal told The Star that he was convinced that Adenan’s pledge around orang utans was one of the strongest made in the world.

“This is really good news because it means, from now on, wherever orang utans are found in non-protected areas, the consideration to conserve will be real.

“It also means non-consumptive activities such as eco-tourism would be prioritised. We already know there are new plans that consider these alternatives,” Gumal said.

Portions of Batang Ai are currently in a national park, while the Lanjak Entimau area is a wildlife sanctuary.

Joint public-private survey findings that ended in May last year have uncovered the existence of about 200 orang utans in and around Ulu Sungai Menyang, which is south of the existing protected areas.

The boundaries of Batang Ai National Park could also be widened westwards, where two other surveys have shown an estimated over 120 orang utans.

In a report in The Star a year ago, illegal logging was detected by indigenous communities living near the national park and staff of an international hotel chain that operates a five-star resort in the area. The report led to swift enforcement.

In March this year, the Sarawak Government announced a revised target of creating 1.5 million hectares of totally protected areas, which is slightly above 10% of the state’s landmass.

In the pipeline are some 20 new national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, including extensions on current ones like Kubah National Park, home to some of the world’s smallest frogs.

Earlier in the speech, Adenan also said a new scheme would welcome more foreign researchers and scientists into Sarawak.

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The Malayan tiger is officially Critically Endangered

WWF 28 Jul 15;

28 July 2015, Kuala Lumpur: The Malayan tiger is now officially listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the world’s most comprehensive source of information on wild animals and plants and the level of threat they face.

Recognised as a new sub-species just over a decade ago, these tigers of Peninsular Malaysia were once estimated to number around 500. However as of June 23, they have been placed in a category of wildlife that face highest risk becoming extinct in the wild.

The Malayan tiger qualifies for this category because the best available evidence indicates that the number of mature individuals is likely less than 250 animals and has declined by more than 25% in one generation (seven years).

It also meets a second criteria - there are no pockets of forest in Malaysia with an estimated population of 50 or more mature tigers.

The decline was first brought to national attention by Perhilitan and the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) last September when studies across three major tiger landscapes in Peninsular Malaysia between 2010 and 2013 suggested that there may only be 250-340 wild tigers left.

“This acknowledgement of our research is sadly, a tacit recognition that our tigers face a bleak future,” said MYCAT General Manager, Dr. Kae Kawanishi.

With the exception of the announcement of a national survey to produce a more accurate population estimate of the Malayan tiger, little has changed since last September.

“We appreciate that the country has been absorbed with a host of economic and political issues in recent months, but we cannot carry on with this level of inaction and disinterest,” said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Programme Manager, Kanitha Krishnasamy.

“The concerted efforts of all parties are crucial, from governmental bodies to NGOs to members of the public. All of us need to acknowledge the seriousness of this issue and act fast as the tiger’s extinction is not an option for Malaysia,” said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO Dato’ Dr. Dionysius Sharma.

MYCAT reiterates the call for a high-level national task force to plan and manage the recovery of wild tigers. We stress the urgency for new tiger patrol units to strengthen protection against poachers. An honest and thorough review of the National Tiger Conservation Action Plan and the determined implementation of the Central Forest Spine Master Plan must take place soon. It is the least we can do for one of our own.

MYCAT also calls on the Malaysian public to voice their concern and show their support for their wild tigers. To say no to the use of tigers as medicine, exotic meat or pets; to report wildlife crime to the Wildlife Crime Hotline (019-356 4194), and to let their elected representatives know that this is a problem they want to see action on.

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Jurong West resident shocked by the sight of red water flowing in the drain

AsiaOne 28 Jul 15;

Photo: Shin Min Daily News

SINGAPORE - The sight of a "bloody river" on Sunday (July 26) got residents at Jurong West worried and shocked.

Stomp contributor, Shahira, noticed the sight of red water flowing in the drain along Jurong West St 62 and St 64 at around 3pm.

She said this was unusual as there were no factories nearby and called it both surprising and scary.

The bright red drain also caught the attention of many residents in the area.

When Shin Min Daily went to investigate later that evening around 7pm, the drain was still flowing with bright red water.

36-year-old resident Mr Min noticed the unusual waters when he was bringing his kids out for a walk. He was worried that the water supply might be affected.

Another resident, Mr Sun, told the Chinese daily that he has never seen such an occurrence in the five years that he has been living here.

He said the drain does get dirty but never to this state.

According to the Shin Min, the waters in the drain flowing along blocks 662D to 666A are affected.

Spanning around 800m in length, the "reddest" area is nearest block 664B which could be the point of origination.

Public Utilities Board (PUB) was alerted to the sighting at 3.15pm on Sunday.

It started investigations at 3.30pm and found the source to be at Jurong West St 62, near Jurong West Primary School. Sand bags were deployed to prevent the further flow of the red water.

PUB also discovered that the red water has also affected block 650B and a sample of the liquid has been taken for laboratory testing.

Serious action will be taken if the drain has been deliberately polluted. If the public have any information, they can call the 24-hour hotline 1800-2255-632 or 1800-284-6600.

- See more at:

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Malaysia: Wildlife trafficker trapped

SIMON KHOO The Star 28 Jul 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: They had set up a meeting at a hotel via social media, hoping to lure a trafficker of illegal wildlife into their trap.

To convince the 35-year-old mastermind of their keen interest in buying a pair of orang utan babies, the Perhilitan officers even flashed him the cash they were carrying.

Their ruse was worth it because the officers nabbed the man and his accomplices and rescued the babies.

Appearing dehydrated but otherwise in good health, the babies Bobby and Citra, which were supposed to end up as pets at a home, are now being cared for in a rescue centre in Perak.

When rescued during the undercover operation on Friday, both orang utan had been kept inside a bag by their captors and were supposed to be sold for a sum of RM40,000.

Peninsular Malaysia Perhilitan enforcement director Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said four men were detained during the operation at a hotel in Bandar Bukit Tinggi, Klang.

Abdul Kadir said the mastermind had been active for the past two years, trading in protected species such as python, fox and birds via social media.

“Our officers pretended to be keen buyers and set up a meeting with him at the hotel through Facebook.

“We even showed him some cash to mean business before he led us to the orang utan, both less than a year old,” he said here yesterday.

Abdul Kadir said initial investigations showed that the orang utan were smuggled in by sea from Medan, Indonesia, adding that a special permit was required to keep these animals as pets.

“We have a special team to monitor social websites and chanced upon the offer to purchase orang utan. An operation dubbed Ops Taring III was activated to nab the syndicate members,” he said.

Abdul Kadir said besides the mastermind, they detained his accomplice, aged 54, and two Indonesians, both 29.

The four suspects would be investigated under the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 for hunting and keeping protected species, importing and exporting protected species without a special permit and abusing wildlife species.

All three offences carry a jail term and a fine.

“We will continue to work closely with Interpol to address cases of transborder wildlife smuggling, including sharing of information.

“It is an offence to trade illegally in wildlife species and stern action could be taken under the laws,” he said.

Buying protected animals just a screen tap away
TASHNY SUKUMARAN The Star 28 Jul 15;

PETALING JAYA: Owning a trafficked animal is just a Whatsapp message away in the age of smartphones and social media.

Checks by The Star showed that listings for ball pythons, Indian star tortoises and slow lorises – which are either protected or endangered – are posted on Facebook as well as buy-and-sell sites such as, and

These transactions are usually carried out via e-mail or WhatsApp, with the animals being either transferred in person or, when possible, via PosLaju.

Often, these animals endure horrific conditions on their way to the buyer, including being packed into too tight spaces or being de-fanged or de-clawed.

A small ball python goes for as little as RM300 while larger females can sell for around RM700.

Asked on the availability of star tortoises, one seller asked: “If my supplier can find without a licence, do you want?”

Further questioning revealed that many sellers also have slow lorises for sale at around RM500.

“But quietly lah, don’t let people know,” one seller said.

Another method used is to ask which “gene”, the code for whether the buyer is looking for a captive bred or wild animal.

Besides live animals, animal by-products are also easily acquired.

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Indonesia: Riau firefighters extinguish 60 wildfires during January-July period

Antara 27 Jul 15;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - During the January-July 2015 period, Riaus firefighters have put out 60 fires that have razed forest, peatland, and plantation areas.

Of the 60 cases, two were very difficult, and it took days to extinguish them, Head of the Pekanbaru disaster mitigation and fire brigade office Burman Gurning stated here on Sunday.

The two reported wildfires gutted down peatland areas in Parit Indah and Payung Sekaki.

"The depth of peatland in the two locations reaches up to seven meters," he revealed.

In fact, the fire razing the 2.5-hectare peatland area in front of the Payung Sekaki sub-district heads office has not yet been totally put out, he noted.

In the meantime, Acting Governor of Riau Arsyadjuliandi Rachman earlier this week reported about the situation of the wildfires to Forestry and Environmental Affairs Minister Siti Nurbaya in Jakarta.

Rachman met the minister on July 24 to report about the condition of the wildfire-hit province, Darusman, the spokesman of the Riau Province administration, noted here, Sunday.

Over the past week, Pekanbaru city, the capital of Riau, was shrouded by haze arising from Jambi.

Some 200 hectares of peatland in Gambut Jaya Kumpeh village, Muarojambi District, have been razed down by fires, which are now approaching residential areas.

In Riau Province, more than one thousand hectares of forest area were gutted down by fires, and some 1,022 people fell ill due to air pollution.

Edward Sanger, the head of the Riau disaster mitigation office, stated that the number of hotspots in the province has decreased due to the rains and efforts to put out the fires.

A Sikorsky helicopter has arrived to assist in the efforts to extinguish the wildfires, he noted, adding that two major plantation companies have also provided assistance in tackling the blaze.

Russia-made helicopter deployed to extinguish Riau wildfires
Antara 27 Jul 15;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has rented a Russian-made Sikorsky helicopter to strengthen its efforts to put out wildfires in Riau Province.

The helicopter arrived at Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base here on Saturday (July 25) and started dropping water bombs on the fires on Sunday, Edward Sanger from the Pekanbaru disaster mitigation office stated.

In addition to Sikorsky, the office has already deployed an MI-17 helicopter in an effort to extinguish the blaze.

Sikorsky has a capacity to carry up to four tons of water during each sortie.

In the meantime, the Terra and Aqua satellites detected 308 hotspots indicating wildfires on Sumatra Island, Sunday, Head of the Pakanbaru meteorology, climatology and geophysics office (BMKG) Sugarin stated.

Riau is the largest contributor, with 122 hotspots, followed by South Sumatra (59), Jambi (58), North Sumatra (25), West Sumatra (19), Bengkulu (10), Bangka Belitung (nine), Lampung (five), and Riau Islands (one), according to Sugarin.

In Riau Province, 44 hotspots were found in Pelalawan District, 17 in Bengkalis, 16 in Kampar, 14 in Indragiri Hulu, eight in Indragiri Hilir, seven in Dumai, five in Rokan Hilir, four in Kuantan Singingi, and two in Rokan Hulu.

Of the total 122 hotspots in Riau, 71 had the accuracy rate of above 70 percent, thereby confirming the emergence of wildfires in the province.

More wildfires are likely to occur in Riau as the temperature in Riau reached 34 degrees Celsius, and the humidity was 97 percent.

The visibility in Pekanbaru on Sunday, at 7 a.m. local time, reached only a kilometer, which is the minimal safety limit for operating flights.

Based on the Air Pollution Standard Index monitoring data, the air quality over Pekanbaru City was at a moderate level despite haze shrouding the capital of Riau Province.

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Indonesia: Prolonged drought hits areas in Java, Sumatra

Arya Dipa and Ganug Nugroho Adi, The Jakarta Post 27 Jul 15;

Prolonged drought has caused a number of regions on Java to suffer from water scarcity and has increased hot spots on Sumatra.

In West Java, drought has threatened 101,000 hectares of rice fields. The head of the provincial Agriculture and Crop Agency, Diden Trisnadi, said that 49,000 hectares of fields had already dried out, although the plants still looked green.

“If rain doesn’t fall within the next week [the plants] will eventually also dry out,” Diden said over the weekend.

Drought has also caused harvest failure in at least 121 hectares of rice fields in Subang and Cianjur. Unless something is done for the dried fields, the regions would suffer from losing the production of 35,537 tons of unhusked rice.

Diden said drought was threatening 20 regencies and cities across the province, with the most suffering areas being 5,041 hectares in Indramayu, followed by Bogor (1,000 hectares), Subang (584), Cianjur (573) and Bekasi (475).

According to Diden, only some 25 percent of the affected rice fields could possibly be saved. The situation, he added, was similar to what happened in 2012 when the province could only produce 11.2 million tons of unhusked rice, a decrease from 11.63 million tons the previous year.

The problem was, Diden said, the areas suffering from drought this year are twice as large compared to those of 2012.

Erma Yulihastin of the climate variability team of the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space’s (Lapan) atmosphere technology and science center predicted that the drought would last until the end of this year.

“El Niño will continue strengthening until December 2015. Mitigation on the prolonged drought is needed,” she said, adding that mitigation could be done by, among other things, conserving water use for daily needs.

She also warned that prolonged drought could cause a significant drop in agricultural harvest yields, which later might influence the national food stocks.

“We recommend that no new planting is conducted at this point of time.”

In Wonogiri, Central Java, drought has caused 29,233 residents of 30 subdistricts in seven districts in the regency to suffer from clean water scarcity for the last two months as springs and other water resources, including dams, are drying up.

The 30 subdistricts are located in the southern parts of Wonogiri in the districts of Giritontro, Pracimantoro, Paranggupito, Manyaran, Eromoko, Giriwoyo and Nguntoronadi.

Wonogiri Regent Danar Rahmanto said the regions had indeed been recurrently hit by drought. “We will prioritize on clean water aids, especially to regions that have been completely dried such as the Paranggupito, Pracimantoro, Eromoko, Manyaran and Giritontro districts,” Danar said, Sunday.

Meanwhile in Riau, more than 100 hotspots are reported to have appeared in the province by the last week of July.

Data obtained by the Pekanbaru station of the Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) from the Terra and Aqua satellites showed that 122 hotspots were detected in 10 regencies and cities across Riau.

The most number of hotspots, 44, were detected in the Pelalawan regency, followed by 17 in Bengkalis, 16 in Kampar, 14 in Indragiri Hulu, eight in Indragiri Hilir, seven in Dumai, five each in Rokan Hilir and Siak, four in Kuantan Singingi and two in Rokan Hulu.

“Of the hot spots, 71 were identified as fire spots with a reliability level of over 70 percent, indicating that there were already forest and land fires,” BMKG Pekanbaru head Sugarin said.

Sugarin said that the hot spots in Riau were the highest in number across Sumatra Island where a total of 308 hot spots had been detected. Hot spots were also detected in South Sumatra (59), Jambi (58), North Sumatra (25), West Sumatra (19), Bangka Belitung (9), Lampung (5) and Riau Islands (10).

Rizal Harahap also con-tributed to the article from Pekanbaru.

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