Best of our wild blogs: 11 Feb 15

Talk by Dr Vilma D’Rozario on Environmental Stewardship – 13 Feb, 6pm @ NUS
from biodiversityconnections

Year-Round Coastal Cleanups (YRCC) in 2015 begin!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

A dragonfly feasting on another dragonfly
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Singapore Green Landscape 2015
from Green Future Solutions

Another facelift for German Girl Shrine
from Pulau Ubin Stories

Malaysian authorities failing to take action against poachers
from news by Rhett Butler

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Environmental CSR must make business sense: Vivian Balakrishnan

Haikal Latiff Channel NewsAsia 10 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) focusing on the environment must make business sense if more companies are to adopt such sustainable approach, said Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday (Feb 10).

The minister made the point at a consultation session with about 30 representatives from large corporations and small- and medium-sized enterprises in the private sector. The session focused predominantly on waste management as participants shared their views on their experiences and challenges instilling such practices in their corporate culture.

One company that has been able to carry out the 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle - effectively is City Developments Limited (CDL). It had engaged tenants to recycle paper in all buildings and continuously promote environmental awareness and eco-friendly habits through projects and campaigns. The company was awarded the Best Environmental Disclosure Award in 2014.

But adopting such an approach comes with its challenges. Ms Esther An, CDL's Chief Sustainability Officer, said that most stakeholders question the benefits they can derive from creating green products, which depends largely on their demand. Consumers therefore play an important role as drivers for CSR to take root effectively, she added.

Dr Balakrishnan agreed and said that empowering consumers to get sustainable solutions depends largely on public education.

Some also called for more ways to involve SMEs in taking up CSR. SMEs tend to concentrate solely on sustaining their business, and have no luxury or time to afford such a practice. One of the ways that was proposed during the discussion was MNCs stepping in to help these businesses. A team of experts can also be put together to assess and provide these businesses with sustainable solutions.

- CNA/kk

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Share views for a more walkable city

Janice Heng The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Feb 15;

THE paths and preferences of 1,000 pedestrians could help to make the city centre a better place to walk.

In the coming weeks, researchers will hit the streets to survey them about their chosen routes, including how long they thought the walk took and the actual time taken.

These, combined with data from an online survey, will be used to create a virtual model of the city centre.

It can be used to see how the differences in actual and perceived walking time correspond to physical details such as greenery, wheelchair accessibility and traffic crossings.

So, planners can see whether widening a pavement, for example, makes a walk seem less time-consuming. Initial findings are expected by April.

Dr Alexander Erath, a researcher from the Singapore-ETH Centre's Future Cities Laboratory, which is working with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on this project, said: "We are also interested in quantifying the variety and type of destination that can be reached on foot in different areas of the city centre."

It will help planners identify places that lack particular amenities, he said.

In the online survey, participants choose between hypothetical routes: for instance, a longer walk along a shop-lined underground passageway versus a shorter walk in a park, on a sunny day.

The public can sign up for this at

The "walkability analysis tool" created from the results of both polls will show, on a map of the city centre, how physical characteristics affect a walk's perceived length.

For a given point in the city, the map will show surrounding areas that are colour coded based on perceived distances.

Planners can use it to test how possible changes will affect perceived walking distance, and identify specific areas for improvement, such as where to add more greenery or shelter.

The URA said: "By improving walkability, we hope to encourage more people to walk, take public transportation, experience the city and neighbourhoods at a closer distance and also promote vibrancy in our streets."

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Stand up for what matters

Ignatius Low The Straits Times AsiaOne 11 Feb 15;

It is the morning of Labour Day in 2013 and, in Hong Lim Park, there are beginnings of a little picnic carnival. There are ice cream carts and machines making popcorn and cotton candy. Musicians are playing ukeleles, and people are holding cupcakes and balloons.

But there is no money changing hands here. Instead, the organisers have invented a currency.

One point if you tell a stranger your favourite story of the youngest person you know. Another if you share food with someone. Yet another if you make a "pinky promise" pledge that "no matter how bad things get, I will still..."

Each picnicker can get only a maximum of six points, so it is going to take an awful lot of positivity to access the big bouncy castle that can be "unlocked" only with an eye-watering 400 points. Normally bashful adults rush around and start talking. Eventually, with a loud shudder of its motor, the slumbering giant comes to life.

"The big idea was really about building capital," says 41-year- old Tong Yee, one of the event's organisers. "The more conversations you have, the more capital you have; and somewhere there is a tipping point where the abundance starts to flow. That's what everyone got in the experience."

Singapore turns 50 this year, and when I was asked to start an interview series featuring people that might redefine the next 50, I could not think of a better place to start than StandUpFor.SG, the architects of this madcap hippie- gamification mashup.

There are apparently 11 core members in this mysterious collective, but it is its two frontmen I meet early one Monday morning at DBS' trendy new "social hub" in Marina Bay Financial Centre. Mr Tong runs a well-known clutch of social enterprises known as The Thought Collective, while the younger, Mr Wally Tham, 38, operates his own business - a production company named Big Red Button. The two met when Mr Tham randomly walked into Mr Tong's Food for Thought restaurant one day and told him how he could improve his companies' social media presence.

Perhaps because of his business experience, Mr Tham is the man in charge of communications, but today he says he would be the first to admit that there is no clear explanation as to exactly what the group is trying to do.

"I think we come across like Care Bears, so it's very hard to craft a story for the papers," the plump, baby-faced entrepreneur says sheepishly.

But I persist and it is through the story of the group's formation that a picture starts to form in my head.

It was some time in June 2012 when a friend six months into her pregnancy burst into a Christian cell group meeting that both men were attending. She was 40 minutes late and felt angry and upset, having just been on a crowded train where no one would give up their seat for her.

The group decided there and then to do something about it. About a dozen people passed the hat around, raising about $20,000. With the money, they produced social media videos and printed T-shirts and fliers, plotting what they called a "movement". They named themselves after a famous national song that was a clever tie-in to the cause.

"We thought the best time to launch would be Aug 9, and we've since decided that each time we run a movement, it has to be on a public holiday," says Mr Tong.

That National Day, about 400 volunteers fanned out across the nation's train network, giving out fliers and talking to strangers about graciousness on public transport. The message on the fliers would become something of a hallmark of StandUp - trying to communicate that everyone on the train was somehow connected to everyone else, that a commuter could very well be your grandmother or someone you know.
The response was mixed.

"I think we knew that - that Singaporeans don't really like to talk to strangers," says Mr Tham.

"So even in our videos, we tell people that if you want to make a stand, you've got to stand out. You must be willing to take that risk, talk to a stranger and get a 'no', a 'go-away' response.

"But we did see a lot of folks responding, too. It's very hard to be angry with a young person who wants to be friendly."

Mr Tong adds that the big takeaway from that first event was not about the public becoming more gracious on trains. What was instructive was the reaction of the volunteers, who were mostly young people.

"At the end of the day, the whole feeling was: When's the next event?" says Mr Tham. "There was a momentum that we caught and we asked ourselves, where was this coming from."

Feeling encouraged, the group went a little further with their next "movement" on Christmas Day, mounted in response to online anger with China bus drivers who went on strike.

Volunteers boarded buses across the nation, but instead of just giving out fliers, they asked commuters to write little thank- you notes to their drivers for working on a public holiday.

The success of that event then emboldened the group's members even more, which is why - instead of going to the public - they asked the public to come to them for the infamous May Day picnic in Hong Lim Park. Both men say they really were not sure if people were going to turn up. But in the end, about 400 did - including many new faces.

Since then, StandUp has held two more events. In May last year, the More Than A Miracle picnic at the Asian Civilisations Museum focused on nothing more than just being thankful for what Singaporeans have.

"For some time now, there has been a growing sentiment that Singapore is not enough," said the event's explainer note.

"Whether they are issues of housing, transport or cost of living, it just seems that in focusing on what we do not have, we have forgotten what we do."

Mr Tham sums it up like this: "It's the opposite of the Lego song: Everything is not awesome. But we believe it is, and it is a choice to see it that way."

The following month, the group organised The Secret Bongga Picnic at the Botanic Gardens, in response to what it saw as rising online hostility towards foreign workers in Singapore. The word "bongga" is not easy to translate from Filipino Tagalog, but it means stylish, even (yes) awesome.

Now, there is nothing new in turning one's cause into a celebration peppered with smiling selfies and inspirational video messages, as the organisers of the annual Pink Dot event will tell you.

But what stands out in the case of StandUp seems to be the lack of a clearly defined cause. The Pink Dot movement lobbies for the decriminalisation of same-sex relations, but this group does not seem to be agitating for any specific change in legislation, public policy or the political leadership.

Yet Mr Tong maintains there is an underlying focus to the group's events, and slowly rattles off a series of declarative statements.
"Singapore is a miracle, it needs to be protected. We can be grateful for each other. Community is abundant," he says.

"There is all this talk about us being self-flagellating and we don't give ourselves enough credit. I think someone needs to start standing for that."

That is still a little too slippery for most cynics, which is why the group has been accused online of being secretly affiliated with the ruling People's Action Party (PAP). StandUp's critics say the link is obvious as the party also wants voters to be grateful for what they have.

This is especially since the Hong Lim Park party was held on the same day as a big anti-government rally on the same grounds protesting against the findings of the Government White Paper on Population. That document forecast, among other things, that the foreign worker population will have to grow further in order for Singapore to sustain economic development.

"It looked as if we were sabotaging their event, that we were bringing too many unicorns at a time where people wanted to be angry," says Mr Tham, recalling the online battering the group took.

"We attracted some of the keenest critics - Martin See, Alfian Sa'at, Joshua Chiang... everyone had an opinion about the picnic.

"They were saying that Hong Lim Park is a place for free speech and what we were doing was not free speech. What I was concluding was that free speech looks a certain way, and it doesn't include being grateful or appreciating each other."

For the record, StandUp says its political leanings are "very diverse within the core group". "Everyone voted every which way," claims Mr Tham.

The incident, however, made the group think harder about the optics of its events.

"We're very careful about the brand," says Mr Tong, adding that the group considers sponsorships carefully. "We have already said no to People's Association twice and NTUC once. Singapore Kindness Movement I think is okay. SG50 is okay and we have taken funding from them to run the next three events this year. Clearly in the public eye, some things come with an agenda and some things don't."

But surely not everything is within the group's control, I contend. What if politicians come to a StandUp event?

"I think it's part of our value that we don't want to live in fear of that," says Mr Tham. "We trust the people who come to be part of our community. So if the PAP and Workers' Party show up, we would probably put them on the same picnic blanket and have them talk."

Mr Tong adds: "We've never excluded anybody as that would be hypocritical on our part... Honestly if you took a conversation like 'what's your favourite memory of Singapore' and turned it into a political one, then that says something about you... you showing up and not being able to be anything else but a politician."

Of course, these issues of screening sponsors and agendas presuppose that a movement like StandUp has the potential to grow in the new Singapore of the future.

I tell the two men that I am optimistic, but they themselves seem much less sure.

"We are not in the realm of excitement or anger," notes Mr Tham. "It's hard for me to tell you about being grateful because immediately I become paternalistic. I can be angry about dolphins and whales, but I can't talk about gratitude easily and have it spread."

The self-professed Care Bear adds pensively: "Most folks attending the events don't even know why they are there until they are there... It's the worst kind of movement."

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No litter, seniors leave dinner venue spick and span

My Paper AsiaOne 11 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE - Senior citizens have been praised for cleaning up after themselves at a dinner event on Sunday - a contrast to the litter younger partygoers left behind at Clarke Quay over the weekend.

After a Changi Simei Golden Jubilee Dinner on Sunday, elderly folk who attended the event cleared their own tables, said a contributor to citizen journalism website Stomp, who wanted to be known only as Tay.

"Proud" of what the seniors did, Tay said that the floor was left "spotlessly clean" too.

The dinner, held at the open field next to Eastpoint Mall, was open to Simei residents who paid a fee of $5, while those from the pioneer generation paid a discounted price of $2, Shin Min Daily News reported yesterday.

It is understood that some 500 people were there for the dinner.

Tay said that what the seniors did "should put the young fans at the Laneway Music Festival at Gardens by the Bay to shame".

At last month's music festival, an appalling amount of rubbish was left behind by about 13,000 concertgoers.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said that it was good to see senior citizens being conscientious at the dinner event.

"When attending events, we should not dirty the venue. We should clear the trash we create," Mr Baey told Shin Min. While there were cleaners at Sunday's event, the seniors still helped to clear their tables, so this made what they did even more significant, he added.

But the same cannot be said of those at Clarke Quay.

Last Friday night and Saturday morning, many irresponsible partygoers left behind trash at Read Bridge, The New Paper reported yesterday.

The paper observed that many people drank and left bottles, cans and plastic bags after they were done.

For cleaner Keria Peli, it is not uncommon for him to collect 50 bags of litter in one night on the bridge and its vicinity.

On bad days, Mr Keria, 49, can collect 30 bags just from one round of cleaning the bridge. This is despite there being at least five dustbins there.

Going by the photos of the litter, it did not seem much had changed after last month's Laneway "meadow of trash" incident.

At the time, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Facebook that Singaporeans should pick up their own litter so that the country could move from a "cleaned city to a truly clean city".

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong later said that without foreign workers, "Singapore is likely to become a 'garbage city'".
But their words may have fallen on deaf ears.

At Clarke Quay, many partygoers appeared to think nothing of littering and assumed someone would clear the rubbish for them, The New Paper said.

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SG Heart Map collects more than 43,000 stories in three months

Sentosa, Orchard Road are most-shared places with 2,100 and 700 stories, respectively
MATTHIAS TAY Today Online 10 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE — Having spent most of her life living in Toa Payoh, Mrs Chia-Nge Tak Heng, 54, has watched it flourish and grow into the bustling estate that it is now from the time when she arrived at age seven in 1967, when it was still a small town of vegetable and fish farms.

In 1988, she got married and left Toa Payoh for Bukit Panjang to build a new home with her husband. Nine years later, despite the high prices that Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats were fetching at the time, the couple returned, with two young daughters in tow, to the estate that had always felt like home to her.

For Mrs Chia, Toa Payoh is filled with unforgettable memories — such as the days she spent playing along the common corridor outside her family’s rented flat, or those times when she watched the lorries roll by with materials to build the next generation of flats that would eventually replace the farm next-door.

Mrs Chia’s story is among the more than 43,000 stories — and counting — that have been shared by Singaporeans across the island from all walks of life, as part of the SG Heart Map initiative’s efforts to trace and celebrate the nation’s transformation over the past 50 years.

Launched in November, the organisers have been collecting such stories with the help of roving vans that have travelled to 79 locations islandwide in three months. Online submissions can be made at and at booths at MRT stations, shopping malls and community centres.

“The stories showed our common identity and bond as Singaporeans. As each generation showed its preference for special places, we find many common threads that weave our stories into a rich tapestry of an amazing SG Heart Map,” said Minister Grace Fu, who co-chairs the SG50 Environment and Infrastructure Committee overseeing the project.

The initiative received strong support from Singaporeans across generations with close to half the contributions coming from those below the age of 30. Those aged between 10 and 19 made up 30 per cent of the total entries.

One of the most-shared places to date is Sentosa, which was featured in more than 2,100 stories. Orchard Road came in second with 700 stories, while Toa Payoh had 500 to its name.

Toa Payoh literally means “Big Swamp” in Hokkien. Built in 1968, Toa Payoh New Town estate was one of the earliest satellite public housing estates in Singapore and it gained popularity due to its centralised location and accessibility to town.

Mrs Chia’s love for the estate was most evident when she talked about the variety of food available to its residents. Gushing excitedly, she described the stalls that have been selling all-time-favourites such as fried oyster omelette and fried kway teow for more than a decade. “I used to buy from these stalls for my father’s supper when I was younger,” she said.

But the excitement in her voice began to fade when she was asked to name one thing she wished was still around. “I miss my old schools,” she said. Mrs Chia enrolled at First Toa Payoh Primary in Primary Two and later studied at First Toa Payoh Secondary. Both schools have since moved.

“I am sad that I don’t get to see my old school any more. But such changes are inevitable because the country is constantly moving forward,” said Mrs Chia.

More than 43,000 stories contributed to SG Heart Map since launch
Channel NewsAsia 10 Feb 15;

SINGAPORE: Since the launch of the SG Heart Map on Nov 14, 2014, more than 43,000 stories have been contributed by Singaporeans from all walks of life, according to a media release by the organisers on Monday (Feb 9).

The map seeks to "weave memorable past places, meaningful new places and aspirations for future places into a collective map through the shared stories of Singaporeans", they said.

The public can contribute their stories through the web portal, or through roving vans that have travelled to 79 locations island-wide in the last three months.

In the stories contributed to the SG Heart Map so far, three locations re-appear repeatedly, and were revealed to be some of the currently most cherished places so far – Sentosa, Orchard Road and Toa Payoh.

From the stories collected, a selection of 50 places that hold special meaning for Singaporeans will be highlighted in mid-2015, in celebration of Singapore's 50th birthday.


There are more than 2,100 stories from children, youth and even the pioneer generation that say Sentosa is a place of fond memories.

For Mr Tan Wee Kiat, 35, Sentosa is special to him because it was the location of his first date with his wife along Siloso Beach. A year later, they were also back for their wedding photo shoot. Many, like Mr Tan, highlighted the Siloso Beach as a dating hospot for its ambience.

Meanwhile, the younger generation said Sentosa is the perfect setting for family bonding and fun times with friends.


Orchard Road is dear to Kelly, 22, because it was where she had many firsts – from her first dress to her first job. While Mrs Poh Kim, 66, says Orchard reminds her of “her grandchildren and seeing their happy faces”.


Toa Payoh town received more than 500 contributions, detailing childhood moments, favourite food hangouts and memories of special occasions. The public library and the Toa Payoh Stadium were among the few listed.

Mrs Chia-Nge Tak Heng, who lived in Toa Payoh Town back in 1973, recounted the times she would sit along the corrector and watch the construction sites. “It was a really pleasant and memorable experience as we watched the building of HDB blocks, from nothing to something,” she said.


The public can read more contributions at, as well as share their own. The website also has a schedule if contributors wish to enter their stories through the roving vans.

All the contributions will be curated into a giant composite SG Heart Map, which will be unveiled at the finale in November 2015, say the organisers.

- CNA/ek

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Indonesia: Jakarta Flooded? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, Officials Say

Disaster management agency says the epic flooding across Jakarta on Monday was caused by only ‘moderate’ rainfall
Lenny Tristia Tambun, Rangga Prakoso & Bayu Marhaenjati Jakarta Globe 10 Feb 15;

Jakarta. Scenes of apocalyptic inundation that paralyzed much of Jakarta on Monday could play out again over the next three weeks, with officials predicting more heavy rains and tidal floods.

Monday’s flood, triggered by nearly 24 hours straight of rain in Jakarta and upstream area of Bogor, where all major waterways cutting through the capital originate, was only “moderate,” said Denny Wahyu, the head of the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency, or BPBD.

More showers are expected to hit the region from Wednesday through to Feb. 20, he said. The rainy season is expected to peak between Feb. 21 and March 2, with heavy showers expected in 80 percent of the capital as well as north and west Bogor, Denny said.

“During this period, the weather agency is predicting high seas,” he said. “This is a concern. We must take measures to anticipate more flooding toward the end of February.”

The government’s Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, or BPPT, has proposed that the Jakarta administration turn to cloud seeding to diffuse the intensity of the rains.

“It’s important to redistribute the rains [elsewhere] to minimize the flood potential in Jakarta,” said BPPT cloud seeding division chief Tri Handoko Seto. “It’s best that we conduct [cloud seeding] within the next few days.”

A surge of cold air from the north is to blame for this month’s heavy rainfall, Tri said, which in some areas amounted to 100 millimeters. “This is no small-intensity rain,” he said.

The BPPT, Tri added, has since January sought authorization from the Jakarta administration to carry out cloud-seeding exercises, in an effort to make rain fall over the Java Sea instead of the capital.

“We’re ready. But there hasn’t been any instruction [from Jakarta],” he said.

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said cloud seeding was not yet necessary, adding that his administration was confident that any further flooding in the immediate future would be “modest and still manageable” by comparison to Monday’s inundation. “Cloud-seeding efforts will be taken if Jakarta is in a state of emergency,” he said.

Basuki noted that water levels in areas affected by Monday’s flood had receded as of Tuesday morning, an indication that flood systems in the capital were working.

And while the intensity of the flooding in some spots, including in the area around City Hall and the State Palace, was worse than usual, the extent of the inundation was not as widespread as in previous years — 307 areas were designated flood-affected zones on Monday, compared to 634 at this point last year, said the BPBD’s Denny.

“Hopefully that number doesn’t go up,” he added.

Blackout blamed

One of the worst-affected municipalities this year is North Jakarta, where the problem was compounded by the floodwaters flowing in from the rest of the city, and tidal flooding that kept much of the water from draining into the sea.

Basuki said the flooding would not have been as bad if state-owned electricity company PLN had not cut power during the peak of the rains in several areas of North, West and Central Jakarta.

That outage meant officials at the Pluit polder in North Jakarta were unable to run all 12 of their pumps to channel the water out to sea, Basuki said.

“The polder couldn’t hold the water. You know why? PLN cut off the electricity, that’s why the pumps didn’t work,” he said on Monday night. “And because they didn’t work and the rain continued to pour, the water level rose.”

The utility has acknowledged cutting off the electricity supply to the area, but has rejected the notion that it was to blame for exacerbating the intensity of the flooding.

“It wasn’t PLN’s fault,” Kusdianto, a spokesman for the company, said on Tuesday. “We would only cut the power if we consider the situation has become critical and dangerous for both the public and the electrical installations.”

PLN said power was shut off at 11:38 a.m., but the pumps were operating again by 1:15 p.m.

“For all we know, the blackout in the morning wasn’t PLN’s fault. Maybe the water did reach a high level or there might have been circumstances beyond our control,” Kusdianto said.

He promised, though, that PLN would try to maintain the electricity supply to all public offices, hospitals and flood control pumps, of which there are 38 throughout the capital.

Basuki, who claimed on Monday that flooding in the city center should never have happened because the waterways in Pluit were working better than ever, said he was puzzled by PLN’s decision.

“They said they didn’t want anyone to be electrocuted, but it wasn’t even flooding” in some of the areas where the power was shut off, he said.

After hearing about the outage, Basuki said he ordered the Jakarta Water Agency to turn on a generator on at the polder, but it could only supply enough power to run two pumps.

“The Pluit polder is the key. I’ll ask the police and army to guard it if needed,” the governor said.

He also shared his frustration with President Joko Widodo on Tuesday morning during a visit to the State Palace.

“I asked the president to help me in telling PLN that there must always be electricity available for the pumps in North Jakarta,” he said.

Poor system

Basuki Hadimuljono, the minister of public works and housing, blamed the severity of Monday’s flooding on Jakarta’s poor drainage systems.

“The rain intensity is high while the drainage capacity is low,” he said.

Agus Priyono Jendro, the head of the city’s water management agency, agreed that it was a problem of the flood systems being overwhelmed.

“When we designed it, we thought the drainage system would be able to cope with large volumes of water,” he said. “However, we fail to anticipate the subsidence of the ground surface, which causes the drains to overflow quickly. We’ll evaluate this matter.”

Experts have for years urged the Jakarta administration to fix the capital’s failing infrastructure, including its drainage system, while revamping the city’s canals.

As the rainy season peaks, flash floods increase in both frequency and severity, causing destruction of property, disrupting schools and forcing more and more people to evacuate their homes, said Nirwono Yoga, an urban planning expert at Trisakti University in West Jakarta.

This latest flood severely underscores the city’s infrastructure shortcomings, he added.

Due to the poor construction of Jakarta’s riverbanks, urban planners say major failures in the system are leading to further damage and disasters, he said.

Nirwono worries about the future of the capital’s buildings, with most rainwater going straight into Jakarta’s drainage system rather than into the ground.

“The government should move toward an eco-drainage system, allowing water to soak into the ground as soon as possible, instead of lining the city’s riverbanks with concrete. The government should think more toward the future,” he said.

Drastic and immediate improvements are needed in the capital’s drainage system, only 33 percent of which are still functional, he said.

He also called for the “normalization” of rivers, which involves dredging and widening waterways to increase water flow rates, and which is still ongoing along the Pesanggrahan and the Ciliwung rivers, to be speeded up.

But Nirwono underscored in particular the need to develop more open green spaces to act as water catchment areas.

Less than 10 percent of the capital’s land area consists of parks or open spaces, while spatial planning statutes mandate at least 30 percent for such space.

Flood continued

As of Tuesday afternoon, close to 6,000 people had evacuated from their flood-hit homes to 14 city-sanctioned shelters across North, West and East Jakarta.

Some 2,500 of the 6,000 refugees were in North Jakarta, where 14 of 32 wards were inundated.

East Jakarta, the capital’s biggest municipality by area, saw 27 of 65 wards flooded and 1,800 people forced to evacuate, most of them from the Cipinang and Kampung Melayu areas.

Twenty-three of 56 wards in West Jakarta were also affected, forcing close to 1,700 people to evacuate.

“Two other municipalities, Central and South Jakarta were also affected, but there are no evacuees,” Denny said.

Eight and 21 wards were affected in Central and South Jakarta, respectively.

On Tuesday, flooding was also reported in parts of the satellite cities of Tangerang and Bekasi, to Jakarta’s west and east, respectively.

In Tangerang, some areas were inundated in up to 1.5 meters of water. Access to the capital was also cut off as the Angke River overflowed, leaving sections of the main artery, Jalan K.H. Hasyim Ashari, under a meter of water.

The water finally drained enough to allow traffic through by the afternoon.

The Jakarta Police, whose jurisdiction also covers Tangerang, said the Total Persada Jatiuwung housing complex there was particularly badly hit by the flood, with some homes immersed in up to two meters of water.

Also heavily affected is Kampung Pulo in East Jakarta and Cipulir in West Jakarta, where water levels also reached up to two meters.

The police, military and the National Search and Rescue Agency, or Basarnas, have deployed nearly 2,000 personnel in total to help in the BPBD’s relief efforts.

Jakarta Police Deputy Chief Brig. Gen. Nandang Jumantara said police were also deployed to secure homes left by occupants fleeing to higher ground.

“We need to secure the homes and belongings left behind by their owners. The military has also pledged some security assistance to prevent any looting,” he said.

In Bekasi, floodwaters have receded in some areas, while others are still under up to a meter of water.

Officials from the local search and rescue agency and military were seen patrolling affected neighborhoods on board inflatable rafts to look for people trapped inside their homes.

However, some residents, particularly those in two-story houses, refused to evacuate, citing security concerns.

The Bekasi Health Office, meanwhile, is on high alert for flood-related ailments such as skin rashes, diarrhoea and high fever.

“It’s advisable not to be in contact with floodwater for very long,” said health office chief Koesmedi. “Always clean up after if you do.”

Health officials are also bracing for an expected surge in post-flooding diseases such as dysentery, leptospirosis and other water-borne illnesses.


The floods caused gridlock throughout much of Jakarta on Monday, with the TransJakarta bus network forced to shut five of its 12 corridors because of heavy flooding along the routes, with service along five other corridors severely disrupted.

The routes that were shut on Monday were Pulogadung-Harmoni; Kalideres-Harmoni; Lebak Bulus-Harmoni; Cililitan-Tanjung Priok; and Pluit-Tanjung Priok.

The Kampung Melayu-Ancol and Pinangranti-Pluit corridors were shortened due to flooding.

TransJakarta director Antonius N.S. Kosasih said the company had suffered serious financial losses as a result of limited bus operations. But the flood has proved a boon for state-owned railway operator Kereta Api Indonesia, with many stations in the Greater Jakarta area having to open up additional ticket counters to serve passengers fearful of getting stuck in gridlock or floods on the roads.

“A lot of people switched to taking the train, maybe because of the rain and flooding,” said Eva Chairunisa, a spokeswoman for KAI Jakarta.

One such passenger Agus Sutoyo, who said he normally commuted to work by car, opted to leave his car at home after hearing reports of vehicles getting caught in the flooding and stalling.

All train operations in the Greater Jakarta area network were back to normal by Tuesday after disruptions on Monday, except for services to Kampung Bandan station, located near the heavily flooded Mangga Dua area straddling West and Central Jakarta.

“Kampung Bandan is still inundated in 20 to 30 centimeters of water,” Eva said.

She said KAI Jakarta was forced to shut down much of its operations on Monday due to flooding in Bukit Duri, which connects Bogor and Bekasi to the city center. Sections of track between Jatinegara and Manggarai stations were also damaged because of the floods.

“We managed to fix the broken tracks on Monday night, so [Tuesday’s] operation ran smoothly,” Eva said.

Jakartans evacuate, more rain in store
Sita W. Dewi and Dewanti A. Wardhani, The Jakarta Post 11 Feb 15;

Nearly 6,000 Jakartans were forced to leave their inundated homes on Tuesday, following incessant rainfall the previous night. Authorities predict the capital will experience the peak of the rainy season on Thursday and Friday.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) reported that at least 5,986 residents had to evacuate to 14 different shelters, while a total of 15,517 residents in 33 districts were affected by floods.

The BNPB has established 28 tactical posts across Jakarta tasked with evacuation and logistics distribution, spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

West Jakarta saw the highest number of evacuees, with 1,660 residents relocated to temporary shelters during the flooding, according to the Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD).

However, many of the evacuees left the temporary shelters in the afternoon as the rain stopped and floodwater started to recede in some areas.

“Most evacuees have left the temporary shelters. Only some — mostly the elderly — remain,” East Cengkareng subdistrict leader AgusMulyadi told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, adding that at least 1,000 of his residents had evacuated to nearby shelters.

Agus said temporary shelters in his subdistrict would be on standby to anticipate more floods. He said 14 out of 17 community units in his subdistrict were inundated by floodwater up to 1.5 meters deep in the morning, but the water receded halfway by the afternoon.

BPBD Jakarta head DennyWahyu claimed the number of areas affected by the floods was lower compared to last year.

“Last year, 634 community units were affected. Now the figure is 307,” he said.

He also warned that Jakarta would experience the peak of the rainy season this week.

“The rainfall will peak on Thursday and Friday,” he said.

Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama went to the State Palace on Tuesday to meet President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to discuss the issue.

“The President will hold a meeting with state-owned company executives and relevant ministers for the technicalities,” he said.

The governor said he had asked to take over the management of the capital’s thoroughfares — which were inundated by floodwater — from the central government to simplify maintenance procedures.

“When the flooding is over, I hope the city administration can take over the management of the thoroughfares so we can immediately fix the problem once it occurs,” he said.

Ahok said the city’s flood mitigation infrastructure could cope with the rain as long as it did not last for 24 hours.

“If the rain continued non-stop for 10 days, that would be a real problem. At the moment, we can optimize the pumps in Ancol and I hope [state-owned power company] PLN won’t shut off the electricity supply to the pump houses,” he said.

Ahok admitted that flooding had affected economic activities in the capital.

“I apologize to the business community for the economic losses caused by the flooding,” he said.

Indonesia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) Jakarta chapter deputy chairman Sarman Simanjorang predicted that 75,000 stores located in shopping centers across the capital had suffered losses due to the floods.

“If one shop generates an average of Rp 20 million [US$1,572] a day in revenue, it means Jakarta loses at least Rp 1.5 trillion per day each time there’s flooding,” Sarman said in a statement.

He added that many employees could also not go to work due to the flooding.

The city administration set aside Rp 2.7 trillion this year for flood-mitigation projects, comprising
Rp 700 billion for land acquisition, with the remainder for infrastructure projects.

Jakarta inundated, again
The Jakarta Post 10 Feb 15;

February has always given Jakarta a reason to be happy with the new lunar year arriving, but at the same time concerned with seasonal floods in many parts of the capital as happened Monday.

Thousands of people were displaced and many roads became inaccessible as a result of incessant rain that hit Jakarta and its southern neighbor, Bogor, over the last few days. Flooding does not discriminate, as it also affected the State Palace, which is supposed to be one of the most protected places in the country.

The bad news is the worse has not yet come. The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) forecast said torrential rain in the capital and the upper areas would continue in the coming days. If the prediction materializes, the horror of major flooding in 2007 and 2012 will recur.

Rated as the worst in the last 100 years, the 2007 floods sank about 60 percent of the city’s territory. It killed at least 80 people, displaced 320,000 people and caused some
Rp 4.3 trillion (US$344 million) in losses due to the damage of property and infrastructure.

In the short term, the city administration certainly needs to improve flood mitigation infrastructure once the current situation is over. For the time being, however, all resources should be dedicated to efforts to ease the misery of those affected by the flooding. Given its frequent occurrence, there is no reason for relevant city agencies to not do their best to organize emergency relief for the flood victims, who are in urgent need of shelters, meals and healthcare.

The city administration, in cooperation with the central government, has long sought avenues to improve flood mitigation infrastructure. The most recent endeavors included dredging major rivers dissecting the city, expanding water reservoirs and installing of more water pumps in many parts of the city.

Previously, the city managed to develop the East Flood Canal, which eased the impact of flood in the eastern part of Jakarta.

All these projects, however, remain a small part of the giant effort that Jakarta will have to carry out to protect its people from the tormenting floods. Alas, the fast-growing population has and will impede mitigation efforts.

The unfinished business includes flood prevention projects that have to involve Jakarta’s West Java neighbors, particularly Bogor and Depok, where the rivers blamed for the floods originate. The vital flood mitigation project includes a reforestation project in the Puncak area and the development of giant dams in Bogor. The projects are pressing to reduce the volume of water flowing through the rivers.

This is where the central government has to play a key role to speed up the implementation of the elusive projects.

Reducing the impact of the floods was part of now President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s campaign when he ran for governor. Although he is no longer the city leader, his moral obligation to fulfill his past promise to Jakarta remains.

Govt to speed up flood-control projects
Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post 10 Feb 15;

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo says the government will speed up flood-control projects that have laid siege to the capital city and many other regions in the past few days.

Speaking to national media upon his arrival at Halim Perdanakusumah Airport in East Jakarta on Tuesday, the President stressed that the government would expedite the development of two giant reservoirs in Ciawi and Depok, West Java, and of the underground tunnel connecting the Ciliwung River in Jatinegara and the East Flood Control Canal (KBT) to reduce flooding.

“The deep-tunnel project is expected to reroute some of the water from the Ciliwung River to the East Flood Control Canal during the rainy season, in order to minimize floodwater in Central Jakarta — especially the Presidential Palace and surrounding areas,” Jokowi said.

However, he said the reservoir-development projects in Ciawi, Depok and Jakarta could not be completed in a short timeframe.

“I just received a short message system [sms] from Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama to discuss the handling of floodwater in the capital, including the Presidential Palace. I will invite Pak Governor tomorrow as I have yet to receive detailed information on the flood issue,” he said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Separately, Ahok said that besides revitalizing North Jakarta pump houses that pump water into the sea, the city administration would also repair the aging drainage systems in flood-prone areas.

“The floodwater has caused inundation in a great number of areas, party because the pump houses in Manggarai, Gunung Sahari, Ancol and Pluit do not function well, and partly because of the poor drainage system that has to be repaired,” he said.

The incessant rain on Sunday and Monday inundated sections of at least 49 main arteries in Jakarta grinding land transportation — including commuter trains and Transjakarta — to a halt.

The traffic woes are expected to continue over the next few days as weather analysts forecast more rain.

Meanwhile, Yayat Supriatna, a public infrastructure analyst, said that flooding was caused not only by incessant rain, but also by the poor drainage system.

“The city administration has to run faster by repairing the poor drainage system to allow a smooth flow of rainwater to all rivers; and also the pump houses, so that floodwater can be pumped out to the sea rapidly,” he said. (***)

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Australian mammals on brink of 'extinction calamity'

Helen Briggs BBC 10 Feb 15;

Australia has lost one in ten of its native mammals species over the last 200 years in what conservationists describe as an "extinction calamity".

No other nation has had such a high rate of loss of land mammals over this time period, according to scientists at Charles Darwin University, Australia.

The decline is mainly due to predation by the feral cat and the red fox, which were introduced from Europe, they say.

Large scale fires to manage land are also having an impact.

As an affluent nation with a small population, Australia's wildlife should be relatively secure from threats such as habitat loss.

But a new survey of Australia's native mammals, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests the scale of the problem is more serious than anticipated.

Since 1788, 11% of 273 native mammals living on land have died out, 21% are threatened and 15% are near threatened, the study found. Marine mammals are faring better.

Shy species
"No other country has had such a high rate and number of mammal extinctions over this period, and the number we report for Australia is substantially higher than previous estimates," said conservation biologist John Woinarski, who led the research.

"A further 56 Australian land mammals are now threatened, indicating that this extremely high rate of biodiversity loss is likely to continue unless substantial changes are made.

"The extent of the problem has been largely unappreciated until recently because much of the loss involves small, nocturnal, shy species with [little] public profile - few Australians know of these species, let alone have seen them, so their loss has been largely unappreciated by the community."

In time, iconic species such as the koala will also decline, said the researchers, from Charles Darwin University, Southern Cross University and the Department of Parks and Wildlife in Wanneroo.

The prospects for Australia's wildlife can be improved but is "a very formidable challenge", they added.

It is estimated there are between 15 and 23 million wild cats living on the continent.

Practical measures to protect native species include boosting biosecurity on islands off the mainland, which have fewer feral cats and foxes.

The islands could also act as arks for endangered species, while more careful use of fire and control measures to wipe out foxes and feral cats are also being considered.

But the researchers warn that Australians may ultimately need to consider the way they live on the land to stem the loss of natural assets.

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Japan sees 50 percent chance of El Nino re-emerging by summer

Osamu Tsukimori PlanetArk 11 Feb 15;

Japan's weather bureau said on Tuesday it sees about a 50 percent chance that an El Nino weather pattern, linked to heavy rainfall in some regions and drought in others, may re-emerge by summer after it subsided over spring.

The Japan Meteorological Agency forecast said an El Nino, which emerged last summer for the first time in five years, has been easing.

The El Nino weather pattern - a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific - can trigger drought in Southeast Asia and Australia, and floods in South America, hitting production of key foods such as rice, wheat and sugar.

(Editing by Richard Pullin)

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Scientists urge global 'wake-up call' to deal with climate change

Climate change has advanced so rapidly that work must start on unproven technologies now, admits US National Academy of Science
Suzanne Goldenberg The Guardian 10 Feb 15;

Climate change has advanced so rapidly that the time has come to look at options for a planetary-scale intervention, the National Academy of Science said on Tuesday.

The scientists were categorical that geoengineering should not be deployed now, and was too risky to ever be considered an alternative to cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

But it was better to start research on such unproven technologies now – to learn more about their risks – than to be stampeded into climate-shifting experiments in an emergency, the scientists said.

With that, a once-fringe topic in climate science moved towards the mainstream – despite the repeated warnings from the committee that cutting carbon pollution remained the best hope for dealing with climate change.

“That scientists are even considering technological interventions should be a wake-up call that we need to do more now to reduce emissions, which is the most effective, least risky way to combat climate change,” Marcia McNutt, the committee chair and former director of the US Geological Survey, said.

Asked whether she foresaw a time when scientists would eventually turn to some of the proposals studied by the committee, she said: “Gosh, I hope not.”

The two-volume report, produced over 18 months by a team of 16 scientists, was far more guarded than a similar British exercise five years ago which called for an immediate injection of funds to begin research on climate-altering interventions.

The scientists were so sceptical about geo-engineering that they dispensed with the term, opting for “climate intervention”. Engineering implied a measure of control the technologies do not have, the scientists said.

But the twin US reports – Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration and Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool the Earth – could boost research efforts at a limited scale.

The White House and committee leaders in Congress were briefed on the report’s findings this week.

Bill Gates, among others, argues the technology, which is still confined to computer models, has enormous potential and he has funded research at Harvard. The report said scientific research agencies should begin carrying out co-ordinated research.

But geo-engineering remains extremely risky and relying on a planetary hack – instead of cutting carbon dioxide emissions – is “irresponsible and irrational”, the report said.

The scientists looked at two broad planetary-scale technological fixes for climate change: sucking carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere, or carbon dioxide removal, and increasing the amount of sunlight reflected away from the earth and back into space, or albedo modification.

Albedo modification, injecting sulphur dioxide to increase the amount of reflective particles in the atmosphere and increase the amount of sunlight reflected back into space, is seen as a far riskier proposition.

Tinkering with reflectivity would merely mask the symptoms of climate change, the report said. It would do nothing to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

The world would have to commit to continuing a course of albedo modification for centuries on end – or watch climate change come roaring back.

“It’s hard to unthrow that switch once you embark on an albedo modification approach. If you walk back from it, you stop masking the effects of climate change and you unleash the accumulated effects rather abruptly,” Waleed Abdalati, a former Nasa chief scientist who was on the panel, said.

More ominously, albedo modification could alter the climate in new and additional ways from which there would be no return. “It doesn’t go back, it goes different,” he said.

The results of such technologies are still far too unpredictable on a global scale, McNutt said. She also feared they could trigger conflicts. The results of such climate interventions will vary enormously around the globe, she said.

“Kansas may be happy with the answer, but Congo may not be happy at all because of changes in rainfall. It may be quite a bit worse for the Arctic, and it’s not going to address at all ocean acidification,” she said. “There are all sorts of reasons why one might not view albedo modified world as an improvement.”

The report also warned that offering the promise of a quick fix to climate change through planet hacking could discourage efforts to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

“The message is that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is by far the preferable way of addressing the problem,” said Raymond Pierrehumbert, a University of Chicago climate scientist, who served on the committee writing the report. “Dimming the sun by increasing the earth’s reflectivity shouldn’t be viewed as a cheap substitute for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It is a very poor and distant third, fourth, or even fifth choice. |It is way down on the list of things you want to do.”

But geoengineering has now landed on the list.

Climate change was advancing so rapidly a climate emergency – such as widespread crop failure – might propel governments into trying such large-scale interventions.

“The likelihood of eventually considering last-ditch efforts to address damage from climate change grows with every year of inaction on emissions control,” the report said.

If that was the case, it was far better to be prepared for the eventualities by carrying out research now.

The report gave a cautious go-ahead to technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the air, finding them generally low-risk – although they were prohibitively expensive.

The report discounted the idea of seeding the ocean with iron filings to create plankton blooms that absorb carbon dioxide.

But it suggested carbon-sucking technologies could be considered as part of a portfolio of responses to fight climate change.

It would involve capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and pumping it underground at high pressure – similar to technology that is only now being tested at a small number of coal plants.

Sucking carbon dioxide out of the air is much more challenging than capturing it from a power plant – which is already prohibitively expensive, the report said. But it still had a place.

“I think there is a good case that eventually this might have to be part of the arsenal of weapons we use against climate change,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University, who was not involved with the report.

Drawing a line between the two technologies – carbon dioxide removal and albedo modification – was seen as one of the important outcomes of Tuesday’s report.

The risks and potential benefits of the two are diametrically opposed, said Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and a geoengineering pioneer, who was on the committee.

“The primary concern about carbon dioxide removal is how much does it cost,” he said. “There are no sort of novel, global existential dilemmas that are raised. The main aim of the research is to make it more affordable, and to make sure it is environmentally acceptable.”

In the case of albedo reflection, however, the issue is risk. “A lot of those ideas are relatively cheap,” he said. “The question isn’t about direct cost. The question is, What bad stuff is going to happen?”

There are fears such interventions could lead to unintended consequences that are even worse than climate change – widespread crop failure and famine, clashes between countries over who controls the skies.

But Caldeira, who was on the committee, argued that it made sense to study those consequences now. “If there are real show stoppers and it is not going to work, it would be good to know that in advance and take it off the table, so people don’t do something rash in an emergency situation,” he said.

Spraying sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere could lower temperatures – at least according to computer models and real-life experiences following major volcanic eruptions.

But the cooling would be temporary and it would do nothing to right ocean chemistry, which was thrown off kilter by absorbing those emissions.

“My view of albedo modification is that it is like taking pain killers when you need surgery for cancer,” said Pierrehumbert. “It’s ignoring the problem. The problem is still growing though and it is going to come back and get you.”

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