Best of our wild blogs: 17 Jan 15

Sun 15 Feb 2015: 7.00am - The Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk from Habitatnews

Wandering in the Wild Wild West
from Beauty of Fauna and Flora in Nature

Purple-backed Starling feasting on salam fruits
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Upcoming workshop: Grow Your Own Natural Remedies Workshop
from The Tender Gardener

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Mixed reaction to Forest City project

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 16 Jan 14;

JOHOR BARU: There has been mixed reaction to the multi-billion-ringgit Forest City Project following the securing of approval from the Department of Environment (DOE).

While property consultants welcome the project as an iconic one for the state, other stakeholders such as fishermen have voiced their concerns about how the project would negatively impact their livelihood.

To recap, Forest City entails the reclamation and development of a large area in the Straits of Johor and entails the creation of four man-made islands with a gross development value of RM600bil over 30 years.

Johor Real Estate Housing and Developers Association branch chairman Hoe Mee Ling anticipated that it would be “an iconic development project” in the region.

“The right concept and the right marketing are needed to make it successful but the company undertaking the project must also make sure the environment is well protected,’’ she said.

KGV International Property Consultants (M) Sdn Bhd director Samuel Tan said the Forest City could be “the next Dubai of Asia” attracting the rich and famous from all over the world.

“It is quite exciting to know what in the offing especially on the four-man made islands, so I guess we all have to wait for the launch date,’’ he said.

The majority of fishermen in the Gelang Patah area, however, are no longer going out to the sea as their catch has been dwindling by days with the start of the land reclamation work for the Forest City Project early last year.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Johor Chapter advisor Vincent Chow said the marine life in the area already affected when the work started in February, last year.

But the work was stopped after a few months, as the project by Chinese developer Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV) did not get the relevant approval from the DOE.

“Now, you can imagine how bad the situation is going to be with the project getting the green light from the DOE,’’ he said when contacted yesterday.

Chow said although the multi-billion ringgit project had been scaled down by 610ha to 1,368.05ha from the initial 1,978ha, the environmental impact was still devastating.

He said despite the breeding season for prawns in the area, fishermen only managed to bring back home less than a kg of prawns daily.

“They even borrowed money from the middlemen to buy diesel to go out to the sea but the catch is not enough to pay back for what they borrowed,’’ said Chow.

He said the devastation of sea-grass in the area covering about 40ha would no longer attract fishes, prawns and crabs for spawning adding in the area is not longer suitable for marine life.

Chow claimed the state government and the DOE did not consult the non-governmental organisations and fishermen on the impact of the project.

Johor reclamation project gets go-ahead, but size reduced
Shannon Teoh The Straits Times 17 Jan 15;

Malaysian environmental authorities have approved reclamation works for the Forest City project in Johor, but for a reduced 1,386ha development instead of the initial 1,600ha.

The project had faced resistance from Singapore and Malaysians living near the site, which is close to Tuas, over fears of damage to the ecology of the waterway between the two countries.

Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV), the master developer, said in a statement yesterday that the Department of Environment (DoE) granted approval after accepting proposals in a Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment to "minimise or mitigate environmental impacts through integrated and workable solutions".

"Our next step is to ensure that all compliance monitoring, in terms of air, noise, water quality and sediment, is robustly implemented and carried out," said Datuk Md Othman Yusof, executive director of the joint venture between Johor state and Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings. "This is one of our immediate priorities - minimising the impact on the local communities and ensuring that the surrounding ecology (is) well preserved," he said in the statement.

A source familiar with the development told The Straits Times that the land reclamation was reduced to improve environmental standards, with CGPV given land on the mainland instead.

"The approved size is smaller because some of the land is on solid ground," the source said of the project whose backers include the state's sultan.

According to reports, one-third of the joint venture belongs to Esplanade Danga 88, a company in which the state has a 20 per cent interest, with the rest belonging directly to Sultan Ibrahim Ismail and royal court member Daing A. Malek Daing A. Rahaman.

Country Garden, which is China's seventh-largest property developer, had voluntarily halted land reclamation last June following controversy over the mixed development project that would include luxury homes and a new stadium for the state football team.

Forest City, which has a gross development value of RM600 billion (S$223 billion), was originally conceived as four man-made islands amounting to 1,600ha, over three times the size of Sentosa.

Initial plans had the islands built in the waters in Tanjung Kupang between south-west Johor and the north-west of Singapore.

Singapore conveyed its concerns on a number of occasions to Malaysia, asking for more information on the reclamation and construction works in the Johor Strait and that work be stopped until full studies were done.

Fishermen and fish farm operators have blamed mass fish deaths in the area on the land reclamation works, but the developer has denied this.

Apart from Forest City, the royal family is also involved in a 1,410ha reclamation project for an oil and gas hub farther west, off Tanjung Piai.

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Singapore's vessel arrival tonnage hits record high in 2014

Channel NewsAsia 16 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: The Port of Singapore continued solid growth in 2014, according to Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who announced the advance estimates of the Republic's 2014 port performance.

Annual vessel arrival tonnage reached a high of 2.37 billion gross tonnes (GT) in 2014 - a 1.9 per cent increase over the 2.33 billion GT in 2013. It is also the highest in the 2010-2014 period, according to a press release by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Friday (Jan 16).

Container ships and tankers were the top contributors, with each accounting for around 30 per cent of total vessel arrival tonnage, the advance estimates showed.

As for bunker sales, Singapore remained the world's top bunkering port last year, the press release stated. The total volume of bunkers sold in the Port of Singapore was 42.4 million tonnes, a slight dip compared to 42.7 million tonnes in 2013.

Container and Cargo Throughput and Singapore Registry of Ships showed positive performance last year too. MPA said container throughput hit 33.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2014, rising 4 per cent from 2013's 32.6 million TEUs, while total cargo tonnage handled in 2014 also rose 3.5 per cent year-on-year to reach 580.8 million tonnes.

The total tonnage of ships under MPA's register also grew by 11.7 per cent year-on-year, or 8.6 million GT, to 82.2 million GT. This consolidates Singapore's position as one of the top 10 ship registries in the world.

Singapore is home to more than 130 international shipping groups and a total of 5,000 maritime establishments. The maritime cluster employs more than 170,000 people and contributes about 7 per cent to Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), MPA stated.


Looking forward, Mr Lui said the Government remains committed to grow Singapore's maritime industry as a key driver of the economy.

The investment in port infrastructure is one example of this commitment, so the port can provide good connectivity and service levels. Work on Phase 3 and 4 of Pasir Panjang Terminal (PPT) is "on schedule", and the first two berths at PPT 3 started operations from the middle of 2014, the Transport Minister said.

He added that the reclamation works at Tuas will be underway this year and MPA will continue to work with stakeholders to test-bed new technologies for the port terminal.

Mr Lui also said it is "critical" to continually grow the maritime talent pool to support the sector. He cited the inaugural Maritime Career Fair organised last year as an example of such efforts, with more than 300 jobs offered during the fair.

"As Singapore celebrates its 50th birthday this year, we can take pride in the progress we have made since our beginnings as an entrepot. The success of Maritime Singapore would not have been possible without this close partnership between the Government, industry and the unions. We must build on this partnership to enable Maritime Singapore to scale greater heights," said Mr Lui.

- CNA/el/ac

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Jurong Port to install solar panels at cost of S$30 million

Channel NewAsia 16 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: Jurong Port on Friday (Jan 16) announced it will install solar panels on more than 95,000 square metres of warehouse roof space, which it touts would make it the largest port-based solar panel facility in the world.

The system is expected to generate 10 megawatts of electricity at its peak capacity - equivalent to the consumption of 2,800 units of 4-room Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats annually, it said in its press release.

The installation will cost S$30 million, and is a collaboration with solar leasing provider Sunseap and their partner SolarPV Exchange. The electricity generated will be used by Jurong Port, with excess electricity to be channelled into the Singapore power grid for other users, it said.

The installation agreement was inked on Friday, and works are expected to commence next month. Completion is expected in December this year, the company said.

“This project is testimony to our ongoing efforts to promote environmental sustainability,” said Jurong Port CEO Ooi Boon Hoe. “The project will help promote Singapore as a hub for green energy generation.”

- CNA/kk

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Malaysia: We do not predict floods, says weatherman


PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Meterological Department (MetMalaysia) says it has been wrongly blamed for what some say is its “failure to warn” people about the recent massive floods in east coast states.

MetMalaysia meteorological officer Ambun Dindang said the public had misconstrued the department’s role.

“Our role is to forecast the weather, which is not the same as predicting whether there will be flooding or not, or its severity, if at all.

“There’s a misconception. We are not in the business of flood prediction,” he told The Star.

Ambun said the third monsoon surge that caused major floods in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang were detected by the department on Dec 14.

As per standard operating procedures, MetMalaysia informed 11 different agencies, including the National Security Council, the police and the Fire and Rescue Department.

Ambun added that warnings were issued via e-mail, fax and short message services.

“We also informed the public via our daily live broadcast over television and public announcements over radio,” he said.

MetMalaysia’s warning are categorised as yellow, which indicates monsoon rain is expected to occur in two or three days; orange, which indicates moderate monsoon rain is currently occurring or expected to occur in the next 24 hours; and red, which means heavy widespread monsoon rain is currently occurring or expected to occur in the next few hours.

Ambun said a total of 11 yellow, 12 orange and two red stage heavy rainfall warnings were issued between Dec 14 and Dec 19.

However, he said the department was reviewing standard operating procedures to keep the public better informed of the arrival of inclement weather.

He said MetMalaysia, in collaboration with Radio Television Malaysia, would increase air time for weather forecasts over TV1 from three to four times daily during the north-east monsoon season (typically from November to March), other than posting warnings on Facebook and Twitter.

Leptospirosis cases tripled in Kelantan: Health Ministry
New Straits Times 16 Jan 15;

BALIK PULAU: The number of leptospirosis cases has tripled in Kelantan following massive floods last month, said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya.

He said between 20 to 25 leptospirosis cases were recorded in Kelantan before the floods, but the number of cases went up to 94 after floods hit the state.

“Until this month, 94 leptospirosis cases were reported which is worrying as the disease is dangerous.

“Therefore, the ministry advises the public, especially residents of Kelantan and volunteers, to be more careful and to avoid using water from unclean sources,” he told reporters after a schooling aid presentation ceremony at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seri Balik Pulau, here today.

He said symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, shaking chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dry cough and muscle pain.--BERNAMA

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2014 warmest year on record, say US researchers

Mark Kinver BBC News 16 Jan 15;

2014 was the warmest year on record, with global temperatures 0.68C (1.24F) above the long-term average, US government scientists have said.

The results mean that 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since the turn of the century.

The analysis was published on Friday by Nasa and Noaa researchers.

Last month, the World Meteorological Organization released provisional figures that predicted the past 12 months were set to be record breakers.

The long-term global average temperature is calculated from data collected between 1951 and 1980.

"This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades," said Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

"While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases," he added.

Nasa and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) maintain two of the three global datasets of global temperatures. The UK's Met Office maintains the third.

Data from all three are used by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and formed the basis of its provisional figures in December.

Talking to journalists, Dr Schmidt said the results from the two sets of data showed "a lot of warmth in the oceans".

"It shows very clearly that it has been the warmest year on record in the oceans but it wasn't quite the warmest year in the land records but combined it did give us the warmest year," he explained.

Hot water

During a presentation of the two agencies' reports, Thomas Karl, director of Noaa's National Climatic Data Center, said there was a "considerable amount of area where we saw the record highest temperature observed, such as many portions of Europe and every ocean had parts that were [the warmest on record]".

Australia was another nation to set record-breaking average temperatures.

But Dr Karl added that not all parts of the globe recorded temperatures above the long-term average.

"There were actually some areas that were cooler than average, particularly across some parts of the US that were much cooler than average," he observed.

"But that was overwhelmed by the far greater proportion of land and ocean areas that was much warmer than average or record temperatures.

"If you put it all together then it comes out as the warmest year on record."

Records stretch back to the late 19th Century when scientists began using scientific instruments to collect temperature data.

Today, as well as in-situ instruments recording information on the Earth's surface, satellites closely monitor temperatures across the planet.

During its review of extreme weather during 2014, the WMO highlighted a number of record-breaking events:

In September, parts of the Balkans received more than double the average monthly rainfall and parts of Turkey were hit by four times the average.
The town of Guelmin in Morocco was swamped by more than a year's rain in just four days.

Western Japan saw the heaviest August rain since records began.

Parts of the western US endured persistent drought, as did parts of China and Central and South America.

Tropical storms, on the other hand, totalled 72 which is less than the average of 89 judged by 1981-2010 figures. The North Atlantic, western North Pacific and northern Indian Ocean were among regions seeing slightly below-average cyclone activity.

Responding to the reports' findings, Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics, said:

"The new global temperature record announced today completely exposes the myth that global warming has stopped.

"There is mounting evidence all around the world that the Earth is warming and the climate is changing in response to rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

A small but vocal number of people maintain that the observed temperature anomalies are not the result of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities warming the planet.

It is also a view that is held by a number of politicians, making them reluctant to introduce regulations or legislation aimed at cutting emissions.

He added: "No politician can afford to ignore this overwhelming scientific evidence or claim that global warming is a hoax.

"Climate change is happening, and as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, national scientific academies and scientific organisations across the world have all concluded [that] human activities, particularly burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, are primarily responsible."

Emma Pinchbeck, head of climate and energy policy at WWF-UK, said there were reasons to be optimistic that the international community would act to curb emissions.

"There is still time to cut emissions and keep the rise in global temperature under 2C (3.6F)," she said.

"This is the year for politicians in the UK and abroad to show leadership and to deliver the global agreements and national policy we need needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."

The UN climate summit in Paris at the end of the year has become the focus for campaigners and policymakers alike.

It is being billed as the time when nations will come together to agree on a global roadmap to reduce emissions from human activities and prevent dangerous climate change.

However, many commentators refer to the 2009 talks in Copenhagen that promised so much but, in the end, delivered so little.

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