Best of our wild blogs: 24 Jan 15

Kusu Island with sea snake
from wild shores of singapore

Saving our bees
from The Long and Winding Road

Green Drinks February – Co-Opertition: Why Your Biggest Competitor Is Your Green Best Friend
from Green Drinks Singapore

Spider Creates Fake Spider Using Trash
from Macro Photography in Singapore

Sign up, Round 1!
from BES Drongos

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Need to look into water conservation in case of another dry spell: Dr Balakrishnan

Channel NewsAsia 23 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: February of 2014 was Singapore's driest month in 145 years. With this year's dry spell taking place earlier, the Government will need to carefully plan public education efforts on the possible implications of droughts, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. He made this point in a discussion with Government officers and the public, on water issues on Friday (Jan 23).

"We need to very carefully, plan public education, so that people know the facts, and know what could happen, and maybe even more important than just doing a water rationing exercise, maybe we need to start planning the scenarios, so after one month of drought, what's going to happen, after two months, what's going to happen, after three months, and maybe we'd start having that serious scenario planning, contingency exercises," he said.

"Then in schools, even the students can start to look at, calculate the figures, and even for businesses in Singapore, so that you don't get shocked and don't get surprised if and when a crisis erupts."

Dr Balakrishnan said this would also be one of the key elements in his ministry's Budget speech. Thus, there is a need to look into water conservation measures, in case of another dry spell.

Participants at the discussion touched the value of having water rationing exercises. "From the industry's point of view, there will be a lot of shut down, and inconvenience and even probably loss of business," said Director of Tiong Seng Contractors Andrew Khng. "But the thing is that we have a population to take care of, so basically, if we are mindful of such a natural calamity, then of course, we have to really think about how we make use of or optimise our water in the long run."

Mr Wilson Ang, Founder and President of ECO Singapore said: "We've been so good at making sure that water is enough for us and it's not so expensive, not so costly, that we take it for granted." He added that a water rationing exercises could help neighbours bond.

From now to mid February, five more sessions will be held to gather feedback from the public, community leaders, businesses and non-governmental organisations. The ministry is expecting 300 participants over the six sessions. It will take into account their views in its speech for the Committee of Supply debate, which will take place in March. During the session, the Singapore Parliament will discuss the estimated budgets of the Ministries and their plans for the financial year.

- CNA/ly

Firms may need better incentives to recycle water: Dr Balakrishnan
JOY FANG Today Online 24 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — With good-quality water in Singapore priced relatively low, there is little incentive for businesses to revamp their mode of operations to save and reuse water, especially if they have already spent large sums on their current machines, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan. Some form of regulation in the recycling of water for businesses may be needed, he added.

Speaking yesterday in the first of six pre-Committee of Supply consultation sessions on water conservation, the minister was responding to an audience member who suggested legislating the recycling of water in certain industries for new factories.

Yesterday’s session involved 23 members of Water Network, an advisory group comprising water-related companies, non-governmental organisations and public agencies.

Dr Balakrishnan said the suggestion to have some form of regulation was something that would have to be considered carefully. Incremental efforts are already under way, such as the recently introduced Water Efficiency Management Plan for the non-domestic sector, which requires high water users to install private water meters within the premises to monitor consumption.

“The problem is that even though we price it at what we believe is the correct price, it still works out to a very small number. And that’s why for most companies, water is not your main focus because it’s a small fraction of your total cost of doing business,” he said. “And therefore, businesses are not sufficiently incentivised.”

Water agency PUB said water consumption is expected to almost double in 2060, with the non-domestic sector taking up 70 per cent of the pie. Still, such regulations would need to be accompanied by support and incentives, noted Dr Balakrishnan.

Micron Semiconductor Asia managing director Lee Kok Choy said a strong helping hand, such as subsidies, from the Government is needed to make it more doable for high water usage businesses here to recycle water.

Yesterday’s discussion came in the wake of Singapore’s record 27-day dry spell early last year.

Dr Balakrishnan said in 2002, Singapore had no recycling or desalination facilities. In only 12 years, those plants now meet 55 per cent of demand. If the country did not have these plants during the dry spell, the situation may have been quite different. But Singaporeans have “almost taken it for granted that we have water security”, he added.

Yesterday, members called for more drastic measures to drive the conservation message, such as implementing dry spell surcharges.

Dr Balakrishnan has already hinted that a water-rationing exercise could be on the cards this year.

However, Professor Peter Ng, head of Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, said starting with water rationing in households would only create an unnecessary backlash. Such exercises should start, and perhaps work best, in institutions such as schools and army camps, where the message can be driven home without causing as much inconvenience to people.

For households, the authorities can minimise the pinch by reducing water pressure to some degree for a short time as part of the exercise, he added.

Dry spell ahead may see water rationing
Industry players tap ways of conserving water in coming weeks
AUDREY TAN Straits Times 24 Jan 15;

Water rationing could be one way for Singapore to deal with a predicted dry spell over the coming weeks.

Government agencies, environmental groups and representatives from the water industry yesterday held a discussion, chaired by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, in which they examined how the nation can do more to conserve and appreciate the resource.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Thursday said total rainfall for this month and the next is expected to be below average, due to the early onset of the dry phase of the north-east monsoon.

Such weather events could increase in frequency and intensity as a probable consequence of global warming, said research scientist Erik Velasco of the Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modeling at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.

To help tide the country over the upcoming dry phase, participants discussed ways to save water, including increased outreach and public education and more government incentives to help businesses adopt water-saving technology.

The participants - from the public sector, water-related businesses and green groups - were taking part in the first of six Pre-Committee of Supply (COS) consultation sessions organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

Other sessions, covering topics such as smoking and dengue, will be held until the middle of next month to seek feedback before the COS debate for the ministry, which is expected to be in the second week of March.

Dr Balakrishnan told participants: "If in 2014 we did not have the desalination and recycling plants, which were working at practically full steam during the dry spell, what do you think would have happened early last year?

"The truth is, we wouldn't be talking about a water rationing exercise - it would have been a very real prospect."

Last year Singapore experienced a record-breaking dry spell that lasted from mid-January to mid-March. Last February was the country's driest month in 145 years.

"Because (national water agency) PUB, in 12 years, managed to ramp up the (water) supply... we have almost taken it for granted that we have water security," Dr Balakrishnan said.

He was responding to concerns raised by the participants about the possibility of public backlash, should water rationing be implemented.

The immediate past president of the Singapore Contractors Association, Mr Andrew Khng, said: "After hearing from the minister... we probably need to seriously look at (water rationing) and get ourselves ready.

"Because if this dry spell is prolonged, it is not just the individual contractors who will face issues, the whole industry will be affected."

Although the NEA had said the upcoming dry period is not likely to be as bad as last year's drought, experts have warned that the haze could come earlier this year, if the dry weather in Malaysia should trigger wildfires there and winds bring the smoke to Singapore.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's geography department said: "Lower air quality arising from the haze might occur during the forecast dry period if other non-weather factors come into play, such as more wildfires from Peninsular Malaysia resulting in the winds transporting the smoke over."

Dr Velasco agreed, saying: "The dry spell last year had triggered wildfires in Malaysia and produced moderate smoke- haze episodes in Singapore."

They added, however, that Singapore is unlikely to be affected by the haze from Sumatra that occurs usually in June, as the predominant wind direction would keep it away.

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How Singapore Makes Biodiversity an Important Part of Urban Life

Inside a city that works hard at keeping the jungle in "urban jungle."
GRACE CHUA CityLab 24 Jan 15

A blue heron flies over Singapore's Marina Bay. Singapore works hard at fostering connections between people and nature. (Xinhua/Then Chih Wey/Landov)
SINGAPORE — When it comes to discovering plant and animal species, this densely packed metropolis of more than 5 million people is full of surprises.

A year ago, a slender woody tree known as Alangium ridleyi, which was believed to have been lost to development, was discovered hiding in plain sight in the middle of Singapore’s heavily visited Botanic Gardens. (A dry spell triggered the tree to put out its small and delicate yellow flowers.)

Then in May, researchers found a species of shrub brand-new to science called Hanguana neglecta, a shin-high spray of blade-like leaves. It was spotted right beside a footpath in a nature reserve.

And Singapore’s last remaining patch of swamp forest, where mineral-rich, tea-brown water flows through small streams, was found to harbor a strangler fig thought to be locally extinct. Also found was a mud-snake species not recorded in Singapore before.

The discoveries not only delighted biologists here. They also captured the imaginations of city dwellers who were fascinated to find amidst their “urban jungle” new signs of actual jungle.

It didn’t happen by mistake. Singapore may take biodiversity more seriously than any other city in the world. And while a tropical location gives it something of a biological advantage, the city works hard at establishing connections between built-up urban environments and nature. Add up the forest preserves, undeveloped scrublands and the manicured street trees in developed areas, and half of Singapore’s 716 square kilometers (276 square miles) is under some sort of green cover.

And the city-state’s leaders want more. They think fostering a host of plant, animal and even marine life is not only a key part of Singapore’s natural and national heritage, but also makes the city more livable and attractive to global firms looking for a place to set up shop.

“Singapore has done more to conserve our natural heritage than a nation our size might be expected to do,” Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said last July. At the time, he was announcing the launch of Singapore's first marine park, a 40-hectare (100 acre) area encompassing the land and waters surrounding a pair of small islands known as Sisters’ Islands and some nearby reefs. Boat trips, guided walks and underwater dives are planned.

Singapore's decision to set aside land for nature reserves and parks — even while intensifying land use elsewhere — is a conscious choice, he said, “one which is never easy, especially when you consider the competing uses for housing, industry, defence and transport infrastructure. We consciously do so for the benefit of all Singaporeans, because a connection to nature is a must-have, not a good-to-have.”

An index for the world’s cities

First on the list of Singapore’s innovations in this area is something called the City Biodiversity Index, commonly known as the Singapore Index. It’s a set of indicators to measure and rate how cities are increasing their native plant, animal, and other species; protecting habitats from development and fragmentation; and involving municipal agencies, local companies, schools and the public in biodiversity-awareness programs, among other things.

The index dates back to 2008. At a conference of the parties to the international Convention on Biological Diversity, Singapore's then-minister for national development, Mah Bow Tan, suggested a biodiversity index specifically for cities. At the time, few environmental indices had much of a biodiversity component, and none looked just at cities. The suggestion was taken up by the international convention, whose parties formally endorsed the index in 2010.

“People were beginning to realize that biodiversity doesn't exist only in protected areas,” says Lena Chan, director of the National Biodiversity Centre at Singapore's National Parks Board, or NParks, which manages nature reserves, parks and street-side planting. “It's good if you actually safeguard it in protected areas, but biodiversity conservation has to be applied in a broader landscape.”

Even then, Singapore was rediscovering species thought to be lost. Through research surveys, Singapore was taking new steps to systematically catalog and protect wildlife. The idea for the index was that rating cities on their biodiversity efforts might spur some friendly rivalry among them. It would encourage the island-state and other cities to swap ideas on how to give wildlife a boost.

It’s working. The Singapore Index is used by 80 cities around the world, from chilly Edmonton, Canada to subtropical Curitiba, Brazil. It allows cities to benchmark their progress toward protecting biodiversity. It also gives them a tool to close management gaps and work out their conservation priorities.

“For the last 20 years, we have been looking at biodiversity, so we had a lot of data on that,” says Machteld Gryseels, a director in the City of Brussels’ environment department, Belgium. But using the Singapore Index “showed we lacked precise data on how many programs and visits to nature areas that we have.”

An evolution of strategies

You could say that Singapore’s approach to nature got started in 1963, when then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew planted a sapling in a traffic roundabout. It was the beginning of a tree-planting campaign that lined major avenues and quiet residential streets with thick green Rain and Angsana trees, as well as Mempats with their spectacular pink blooms.

Then, the strategy was mostly about aesthetics. Lee argued that creating a garden-city image would convince visitors and investors that Singapore, emerging from colonial rule, was a well-governed place subject to the rule of law. Planting trees island-wide also countered an inequity of British rule, when only wealthy areas enjoyed gardens.

Singapore took some steps backward. In 1986, a major highway was built between two nature reserves, despite an outcry from researchers and nature groups. The highway caused a phenomenon known as habitat fragmentation, which happens when natural areas are cut up by roads or blocked off by buildings, harming species that range far and wide to feed and breed.

But planners came around. Today, Singapore has a deliberate strategy to restore connections: In 2009, planners began re-linking the two nature reserves with a large forested bridge over that highway. Two years ago, another effort began cultivating “nature ways” — strips of native vegetation along roadsides or canals that enable the movement of birds and butterflies. Recent surveys of these plantings found that forest-edge species like the Horsfield’s Baron Butterfly and the Common Gliding Lizard were present where they were not commonly seen before.

Today, Singapore is also using geographic information systems, genetics and other technologies to map the best thoroughfares for specific species, from birds to coral larvae. For example, research models suggest that the currents around Sisters' Islands make for a good source for coral larvae to be dispersed through local waters. That’s a big reason why Singapore sited its new marine park there.

Increasingly, Singapore is looking to integrate nature into its very skyline. NParks helps fund the cost of installing green roofs and walls to temper air quality and insulate high-rise buildings from harsh tropical heat. Experts suggest Singapore is in a unique position to do research on these types of solutions and show other cities what works. As urban sustainability expert Peter Newman of Australia’s Curtin University says, “I think that we need a city like Singapore to show some scientific leadership by seeing how the new structures created around high-rise buildings provide opportunities for biodiversity that cannot be created by the normal landscape between buildings.”

Lots of research is going on. Today, National University of Singapore landscape architect Hwang Yun Hye is studying whether leaving strips of greenery less-managed can lead to richer biodiversity on those patches while also cutting maintenance costs. “It's not just letting it grow,” she says, “but a different style of maintenance and management.”

You can't save what you don't measure

Another thing Singapore puts a lot of effort into is wildlife surveys — that’s one reason for all the recent species discoveries. Surveys are the clearest way to collect some of the data required by the Singapore Index.

In colonial times, amateur naturalists made Singapore's tropical forests some of the most heavily-collected in the world. After independence, when the island was more focused on city-building, nature surveys fell off the radar. A comeback came in the early 1990s with the first survey of two major nature reserves. One of them had been set up primarily to serve as a water catchment area to help Singapore wean itself off water imports. The survey discovered that a number of forest species had regenerated and taken root.

In 2010, Singapore began a comprehensive survey of its marine life, after civil-society groups had pushed for one as part of a marine conservation plan. To date, the survey has found dozens of species possibly new to science, such as a distinctive red-lipped anemone and an orange-clawed mangrove crab. That's on top of the more than 250 hard corals — a third of the world's species — that call the port city's waters home.

An important recent development in Singapore’s strategy is to involve the public and companies in some of its surveys. For example, NParks invited volunteers to participate in a recent island-wide survey of herons — birds whose presence is an indicator of water quality and environmental health. Wong Tuan Wah, conservation director for NParks, says the baseline data from volunteers helps guide habitat-enhancement schemes.

On a cool Sunday morning recently, more than 100 volunteers fanned out across the island to spot and count the big birds.

Volunteer Ricky Seah, 62, was one of them. He first did a Heron Watch survey with his firm as part of its corporate volunteer schemes in 2014. This year, he came back of his own accord to volunteer to count birds at Jurong Park, a large public park near his home. He's counted a whole tree full of grey herons, a common species. Participating in the survey gives him a connection to nature that he enjoys, he says. “And it gives me a reason to get out early and get some exercise and fresh air.”

Singapore’s tight quarters will always put pressure on wild spaces. Creating gradual buffers between wild areas and urban ones is key, says Shawn Lum, ecologist at Singapore's National Institute of Education and president of the Nature Society. But there’s not always space for buffers in a tightly packed city like Singapore. On the other hand, Lum says, well-planned urbanization can be an effective strategy for saving biodiversity.

“By deciding to build upwards, we were able to keep the green spaces,” he says. “The question is how you transform that into a policy for long-term management.”

“For me at least, biodiversity is part of our heritage,” Lum says. “From a cultural, ethical or moral perspective, I think we have a duty to learn to live with it and manage it.”

This story originally appeared on Citiscope, an Atlantic partner site.

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Man jailed for smuggling 190 endangered turtles

ELGIN CHONG Today Online 23 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE — A 42-year-old Indian national was sentenced to 19 months jail total for animal cruelty and the smuggling of 190 endangered turtles through Singapore, said the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) in a statement today (Jan 23).

The man had attempted to smuggle three luggage bags stuffed with the live turtles at Changi Airport on Jan 7. He was detained by Certis CISCO aviation security officers after 190 Black Pond turtles were found in the bags.

The turtles — which are critically endangered — are estimated to be worth almost S$100,000, and are believed to be in high demand in the exotic pet trade.

When found, the turtles were severely dehydrated and in “very poor condition”, the AVA said. The luggages had been lined with diapers and cloth by the culprit to absorb their waste.

The turtles were subsequently sent to Wildlife Reserves Singapore to be monitored. However, all 190 turtles died, or had to be put down due to welfare considerations, the AVA said.

Investigations revealed that the accused had been approached by a friend to deliver the turtles to Indonesia, which would be passed to an unknown man. The bags had arrived on a flight from Bangladesh’s Dhaka International Airport in transit to Surabaya via Singapore.

“The Singapore Government has zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts and products,” said the AVA. “We will not hesitate to take harsh enforcement actions against any person or company that smuggles wildlife through Singapore.”

Smuggler of endangered turtles jailed
Channel NewsAsia 23 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE: For trying to smuggle 190 endangered turtles in luggage bags through Singapore, a man from India was sentenced to 16 months' jail, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Friday (Jan 23).

The man was also given a three-month jail sentence for animal cruelty. Both sentences will run concurrently.

All 190 Black Pond turtles died or had to be put down as a result of severe dehydration, AVA said. They had been stuffed into three luggage bags, and were found by Certis CISCO aviation security officers at Changi Airport on Jan 7.

The bags had arrived from Dhaka International Airport in Bangladesh, and were in transit to Surabaya in Indonesia, via Singapore. The culprit had lined the luggage with diapers and cloth to absorb the turtles' waste. AVA said they were in "poor condition" when discovered.

The turtles in question are from a critically endangered species, and are estimated to be worth S$100,000. They are believed to be in high demand in the exotic pet trade, AVA said.

The 42-year-old man was immediately detained at Changi Airport. Investigations revealed he had been approached by a friend to deliver the turtles to another man in Indonesia.

"The Singapore Government has zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts and products," AVA said. "We will not hesitate to take harsh enforcement actions against any person or company that smuggles wildlife through Singapore."

- CNA/xk

Man jailed for smuggling 190 endangered turtles through Singapore
AsiaOne 23 Jan 15;

SINGAPORE - An Indian national was sentenced to 16 months in jail today for smuggling 190 endangered turtles through Singapore.

He also received a jail term of three months for animal cruelty to the turtles. Both sentences will run concurrently.

The 42-year-old had been approached by a friend to deliver the turtles from Bangladesh to an unknown man in Surabaya.

He was detained while in transit at Changi Airport on Jan 7, after three pieces of his luggage were found to contain live turtles during screening by aviation security officers.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) investigated and found them to be black pond turtles, a critically endangered species of which international trading is prohibited.

"The turtles arrived severely dehydrated and were in very poor condition. They were sent to Wildlife Reserves Singapore to be monitored and have since died or had to be put down due to welfare considerations," the AVA said in a statement today.

It added that the 190 black pond turtles were estimated to be worth almost $100,000 and are believed to be in high demand in the exotic pet trade.

The accused could have been fined up to $50,000 per scheduled species, but not exceeding a maximum aggregate of $500,000, and jailed up to two years for infringing the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act.

For animal cruelty, he could have been fined up to $10,000 and jailed up to 12 months.

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Malaysia: New JB waterfront city facing Singapore

Reme Ahmad The Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Jan 15;

Chinese state-owned developer Greenland Group is investing RM2.4 billion (S$889 million) to build "a waterfront city" near the mouths of two rivers that flow into the Johor Strait - the latest in a line of massive developments facing Singapore.

The deal to construct the Tebrau Bay Waterfront City in eastern Johor Baru was signed in Shanghai yesterday by Greenland and its Malaysian partner, Iskandar Waterfront Holdings (IWH).

The 15-year project, partly on reclaimed land near the mouths of the Tebrau and Pelentong rivers, will showcase a "snow-world theme park", an opera house and a hospital specialising in traditional Chinese medicine, the companies said in a statement.

Greenland Group, a Fortune 500 company, is controlled by the Shanghai state government. IWH is partly owned by Johor's investment arm, Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

They did not say what types of residential or commercial projects would eventually be built. The first phase will be on 52ha of land - about the size of 74 football fields - and is slated to begin this year.

Unlike most other projects announced in recent years in Nusajaya or around downtown Johor Baru, the Greenland-IWH development is in Permas Jaya on the eastern corridor of Johor Baru heading towards Pasir Gudang.

The project site faces the Admiralty Road area in Singapore between Senoko power station and Sembawang Park.

Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who was present at the Shanghai signing ceremony, said there are about 13 Malaysian and foreign companies involved in Danga Bay projects on the western corridor from Nusajaya to JB. "I now want to develop the eastern corridor of Johor Baru stretching from Tebrau Bay to Pasir Gudang," he said.

Mr V. Sivadas, executive director of PA International Property Consultants, said the snow-world theme park could be a major employment and tourism generator.

The Tebrau Bay Waterfront City joins other projects announced along the Johor Strait.

Last week, Malaysia approved the Forest City project to be built by China's Country Garden Holdings and a Malaysian partner. The project involves four man-made islands totalling 1,386ha - nearly the size of three Sentosa islands.

Malaysia also okayed reclamation of two pieces of land totalling 31.7ha on both sides of the Causeway. The Princess Cove development is backed by China's R&F Properties.

There has been concern that these projects, along with other residential developments in Danga Bay and Nusajaya, will cause a massive glut in property in the coming years.

Mr Wee Soon Chit, executive director of Landserve consultancy in Johor, said that as of last November, 548,295 residential units will be available in southern Johor by 2017. These include about 117,155 high-rise apartments.

"We have more than adequate residential stock. Unless developers are able to get foreign buyers to come in, it will not be easy to find takers," he added.

Mr Wee said that assuming Johor's population grows at 5 per cent a year, its two million population in 2017 would need just 500,000 units at a ratio of four people to a home.

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Malaysia: Environmental court being considered for Sabah

Nathaniel Gitom Sario Borneo Post 24 Jan 15;

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah High Court is considering setting up a specialized environmental court for civil cases, said Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum.

During his speech at the Opening of the Legal Year 2015 which was carried out at the Kota Kinabalu Courthouse here yesterday, Richard said that an environmental court would help to expedite the disposal of environmental cases at the High Court and Lower Courts.

“The Chief Judge of Malaya and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak will conduct a study to assess the need for such courts in the respective High Court,” he said.

According to him, the fact that the Green Court was established shows that the Chief Justice is very serious on the issue of protecting the environment.

Adding to this, he said that in Sabah and Sarawak, the judicial officers have been working closely with relevant agencies that deal with the protection of the environment.

“We need to create public awareness on the importance of protecting the environment and this includes wildlife and marine animals,” he explained.

Richard added that the core mission of the Judiciary was to serve the public in the best way they can.

Professionalism, he said, is understood to be at the heart of being an ethical judge and an ethical lawyer and the basis upon which the court upholds public confidence in the justice system.

He added that justice is not served after a sentence is imposed on the guilty, especially young offenders who have fallen into crime due to the force of circumstance.

Hence, he said, they should be helped and a program should be set up to monitor whether their rehabilitations are beneficial to them, as there were lawyers in Sabah and Sarawak who have agreed to do follow-ups with their young clients.

Richard also stated that judges are entitled to expect that counsel will treat the court and each other with fairness, courtesy and candour.

“It is time therefore that the Bench brings pressure to bear on any infractions made by members of the bar,” he said in regards to the fact that the Bench has been tolerant of the somewhat declining standards and profesionalism of a small number of members in the profession.

Adding to this, he stated that it is essential that the judiciary is defended as judicial ethics constrained the ability of the Judiciary to respond.

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Malaysia: Time to fight the timber thieves

Victoria Brown The Star 23 Jan 15;

SARAWAK’S forests are not only home to some of the state’s rural communities, but also home to several endangered animals such the orangutan, Borneo pygmy elephant, proboscis monkey and rhinoceros, all of which are at risk due to rampant logging.

As environmental activist Mutang Urud writes in the forward of book Money Logging: “Our ancestral land has been desecrated, our history erased, the very memory of our origins lost.”

He continues: “Close to 90% of Sarawak’s ancient forest is now gone. Only 11% of the primary growth remains. How did it disappear?”

It’s a sad reality that while some people are selfishly using Sarawak’s timber as a means of lining their pockets, few are giving the environment a second thought.

Malaysia Nature Society (MNS) Kuching chairman Anthony Sebastian claims to have witnessed firsthand the destruction caused by illegal logging.

According to him, the Samunsam wildlife sanctuary is one example of a place that has been “completely decimated” by illegal loggers over the past 10 years.

“The entire sanctuary is gone, all that’s left are its borders. That should not be happening,” he says.

Even though Samunsam wildlife sanctuary is still listed as a sanctuary on paper, in reality Sebastian says that it is a destroyed forest, with most of its key assets (like Sarawak’s most viable, and studied, population of proboscis monkeys) lost.​

Santubong national park is another area that’s been hit by illegal logging.

“We have some pictures of illegal loggers in the area taken by some MNS members, as recently as November last year,” Sebastian says.

Illegal logging can have dire consequences to our environment, wildlife, culture and economy.

Sebastian says, however, that even though some of our “most vital areas” have been logged, our forests will eventually regenerate in around 60 years.

“But our forests will never be the same. We have already lost so many species and we will lose more,” he says.

He continues: “An ecological functioning forest provides food, water, medicines for not only for the indigenous people but also the whole state.”

Our forests also act as a buffer against rainfall.

“Everyone knows when you clear forests, water flows faster which can results in flash floods with the increasing rainfall,” said Sebastian.

But despite all these, illegal logging is still takes place.

In the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, Malaysia scored 1.68 out of a hundred and ranked 129 out of 137 countries for the change in forest cover.

The score factors in areas of forest loss (including deforestation), reforestation (forest restoration or replanting), and afforestation (conversion of bare or cultivated land into forest).

Malaysia is one of the countries that has experienced great forest loss, and that is a worrying fact.

I sincerely hope that the Government takes aggressive action against illegal logging so that we do not lose any more of our trees and wildlife.

Yes, we have laws to punish illegal loggers. But that’s not enough. Enforcement needs to be stepped up and timber thieves need to be prosecuted without prejudice.

Something must be done before it is too late.

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Indonesia: Belitung boosts tourism with mangroves

The Jakarta Post 23 Jan 15;

The Forestry Office of Bangka Belitung Province is developing 500 hectares of mangrove forests on Belitung Island to conserve the areas and boost ecotourism.

“This year, we are developing the mangrove forest areas in Selat Nasik, Pengantungan, and Tanjung Pandan,” Nazarliyus, the head of the forestry office, said in Pangkalpinang on Thursday.

He said the mangrove forests on Belitung Island are still not affected by offshore lead mining and encroachment activities.

“We are managing the mangrove forests and building the facilities, so that visitors can enjoy the beauty of the island,” Nazarliyus said as quoted by Antara news agency.

According to him, the mangrove forest areas in Belitung are still well-conserved, as the administration has formulated policies to protect its biodiversity potential.

In contrast, the mangrove forests on Bangka Island have been severely damaged.

“The mangrove forests on Bangka Island are damaged because of offshore lead mining and land conversion for residential and industrial areas,” Nazarliyus said.

The mangrove forest development plan is part of the green city program to protect natural habitat and to increase green open areas in the coastal region, he added.

“I hope that by developing the mangrove forests, we can protect the natural resources and increase the tourist arrivals and improve the local people’s welfare,” he said. (***)

- See more at:

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