Best of our wild blogs: 24 Feb 15

The Wild Side of Singapore (SG50) Trailer
from Bugs & Insects of Singapore

Monitor Defence
from Go Wild Now!

The Florescent Green Snake
from Nature's Amore

Pellets from Tuas: 2. Bone fragments in the pellets
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Babbler’s Banquet
from Saving MacRitchie

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Urban farmers

Tay Suan Chiang and Rachel Loi The Business Times AsiaOne 23 Feb 15;

BT Weekend talks to homegrown tillers who are sowing the seeds of the future of farming in land-scarce Singapore.
Edible Garden City

Most people would baulk at the idea of giving up a well-paying job to toil under the sun as a farmer, but not Thomas Lim.

The Singaporean was working in Hong Kong in the finance industry for five years, before joining Edible Garden City as an urban farmer in 2012. The company champions the "Grow Your Own Food" movement in land-scarce and import-dependent Singapore.

"The pay was good, and the job had glamour and prestige, but I didn't fully enjoy it," says Mr Lim, 31, who started thinking about what else to do with his life. "Back then, I had no interest in farming or gardening at all."

During his time in the finance industry, he had the opportunity to travel for work and leisure to developing countries in Asia, such as Nepal, Bhutan and Mongolia. Mr Lim saw first-hand how life in the rural areas was so different from city life and he began thinking about social, health and environmental issues.

"I thought about farming and food, and how people who were farming were living healthier and happier," he says.

Upon his return to Singapore, he decided to do something related to food, and joined Edible Garden City.

As an urban farmer, he does foodscaping for clients - using food plants to landscape a space. "The result is a garden that is beautiful, and also effective," he says. Some of the food plants that he grows are herbs, vegetables, medicinal plants and fruit trees.

A food garden can be grown anywhere, on roof tops, on the balcony and on the ground. Mr Lim will advise on maintaining the garden, touching on issues such as soil, water, sunlight and dealing with pests.

He's currently working on a rooftop garden for Spectra Secondary School, as well as a rooftop garden at Wheelock Place for the Tippling Club. Being a farmer is a lot of physical work, sometimes it involves "carrying tonnes of soil up the stairs" and often under the sun. Mr Lim's tanned skin and well-defined biceps are testament to that. "I'd rather use my strength and body to do something useful, than to just lift weights," he quips.

Mr Lim's job requires him to clear the land, sow seeds, add compost to the soil, harvesting and prune the crops, and "also letting nature do its job", he says, adding that he still relies on traditional tools, such as the changkol.

On rainy days, he works indoors, replying to e-mail and working on proposals. "I see farming as a lifestyle. It is a hobby and an exercise rolled into one - and at the same time, it produces food," he says.

Apart from foodscaping, Mr Lim is also an urban beekeeper. "It is part of my interest in growing food," he says. He has beehive boxes in the corner of his grandmother's garden, and one in Kranji. He says that beehive boxes are common in cities such as London and New York, but are still very rare in Singapore. He reads up online about beekeeping, but says that he has been stung before.

The honey that is produced is shared with friends. "It tastes different from store-bought ones. The honey that I get has a more distinct floral scent," he says. Mr Lim doesn't think that more Singaporeans will become farmers like he has, but he hopes that more people would be interested in growing vegetables, "even through a community garden".

His family found it hard to believe when he told them he wanted to be a farmer. "My grandma asked me: 'Why do you want to hold a changkol, when you can hold a pen instead?'"

Mr Lim admits that he doesn't earn as much as he used to, and now spends less on dining out. "But I don't see these as sacrifices. I'm happier with less."

Ruling the roost at family farm: Lian Wah Hang Farm

It is a funny yet heartwarming sight: a grown man running after a two-day old quail chick and then catching the bird in his hand, and putting it back in the cage.

"This little one was trying to run away," says William Ho, 49, owner of Lian Wah Hang Farm, one of two quail farms in Singapore. His father, Ho Seng Choon, began farming in 1954, and now the farm is run by his son. Mr Ho recalls when he was a child, his mother would bar him from going to the farm, because he was the youngest in the family. Back then, Lian Wah Hang was a chicken farm.

"By the time I was in secondary school, I was allowed to take the bus on my own, and my first bus ride was to the farm," he says. "I found it to be the most wonderful place, where I could climb trees, catch spiders and crickets, and also watched my father and brothers working in the farm."

His father soon got him helping out at the farm. "I was made to clear chicken poop, which was a terrible chore to do as it was so smelly," he says. He later learnt that it was an important task, as from analysing poop, he would be able to check on the health of the birds.

And when his father later asked him to take over the farm, Mr Ho agreed - giving up his dream of working for the Singapore Air Force as an engineer. He learnt animal husbandry from a farm supervisor and was later made farm manager, where apart from managing the farm, he also took on the role of educating children about farming. "The farm was open to visitors, which gave us exposure and revenue," he says. ""It was our way of showing kids where chickens came from."

Later when the farm had to move from Choa Chu Kang to Lim Chu Kang, Mr Ho decided to go into quail farming instead. "Rearing chickens was not a competitive business," he says. Unlike chickens which take 21 days to incubate, quails needed only 16 days for incubation, and 42 days to mature. Once mature, they can lay eggs. For city folk who may not know, a bird lays only one egg a day.

Mr Ho has 150,000 quails on his 2.7-hectare farm, and he collects about 30,000 to 40,000 eggs a day. "Quail is a white meat and more tender than chicken," he says. "Contrary to what people think, quails eggs are actually low in cholesterol." The eggs are sold to egg wholesalers before they are sold at supermarkets.
As quail eggs are a popular ingredient for steamboat, the eggs are flying off the shelves during this period. But during low seasons, extra eggs (S$1.40 for 15) are sold at Farmart Centre, a retail space for local produce in the Sungei Tengah area. Mr Ho also sells his quails, at S$1.80 each there, mostly to housewives. His produce are sold under the "Uncle William" label.

He rears quails but also eats them. "As a farmer, I don't associate produce with pets." Apart from running the farm, Mr Ho also conducts tours for school kids at Farmart Centre, teaching them about quails and frogs. Time is running out for the farm in its present location, as its lease will not be renewed. Lian Wah Hang Farm and its neighbours will have to make way for army training grounds. The quail farm has about 21/2 years lease left.

Mr Ho reckons he will need at least S$5 million to invest in a new farm. He is open to investors coming in. "But in the worst case, I may pull out of quail farming, or go into vegetable farming, which requires lesser capital."

He doesn't see farming as a sunset industry, but rather, "it will be the next big industry".

He adds, "I want to be there when it happens, so I'm holding onto what I can."

Home to 15,000 American bullfrogs: Jurong Frog Farm

She's no fairy-tale princess but Chelsea Wan has kissed many frogs and has no intention to stop. Ms Wan, a "frog-o-logist", as stated on her business card, works at Jurong Frog Farm, which is owned by her family.

The sprightly 31-year-old has been working on the farm for the past nine years. She has an older sister and a younger brother, both of whom are not keen to work on the farm. But even in the early days, her father would give her a part-time job, to help run farm tours.

"Perhaps, because I'm independent and have always been left on my own, which is why I don't mind taking over the farm," she says. "Plus, I don't want my parents' efforts in building the farm to go to waste." She adds that she has never been scared of frogs or their sliminess.

Jurong Frog Farm was started in 1981, by her father Wan Boon Thiaw, who foresaw the potential of farming American bullfrogs. The farm, the only one of its kind in Singapore, has about 15,000 frogs.

There are workers on the farm involved with the farming of the frogs, but Ms Wan will also chip in to help. She has never dissected a frog, but plays a part in helping to debone the frogs and to sort out the meats.

Having lived on the farm since she was 14, the vast space of the farm appeals to her. "Two days after moving into our apartment, I told my husband I couldn't live in it anymore," she says. "It is just so tiny."

There are rows and rows of tanks on the 1.1 hectare farm. A few of the tanks are filled with tadpoles, while some others have froglets in them, and the remaining house the grown frogs, staring at anyone who walks by.

When she is not helping with the processing of the frog meat, Ms Wan takes charge of the branding for the company. The farm is open to the public only on weekends, where customers arrive to buy frozen frog meat and frogs' legs. Jurong Frog Farm also sells its produce to restaurants and supermarkets. But acknowledging that the farm is not centrally located, three months ago, Ms Wan started The Royal Frog Shop Online, so that customers can buy the produce without having to trek across the island. She has also refreshed the company logo into a cuter one of a frog peeping out of the water.

Conducting tours remains a part of Ms Wan's role. But unlike before when it was a simple one around the farm, now "it is more interactive", says Ms Wan, who graduated from the National University of Singapore.

For example, Ms Wan teaches primary school kids who join the tour the fine art of telling the difference between toads and frogs. There are also hands-on tours with live displays and demonstrations. For example, visitors will be able to hand-feed the frogs, learn how to differentiate between a male and female frog and see how frogs camouflage themselves in their natural environment.

Nothing gets her going more than receiving positive feedback from visitors who join the tours. "It is also great when the kids keep coming back to the farm for more," she says. Like some other farms in the area, the lease for Jurong Frog Farm will not be renewed. The farm will have to move in the next 21/2 years. "All we know for now is that we have to move. We don't know how big the new plot of land will be," says Ms Wan.

Naturally, she hopes to carry on running the farm. "But this will depend on how much capital is needed to rebuild the farm," she says.

Villas amid edible gardens: D'Kranji Farm Resort

How long does it take for a corn plant to be ready for harvesting? Ryan Ong, 22, director of D'Kranji Farm Resort, an agri-tainment farm would know. "It takes 65 days," he says, adding that a stalk of plant will have two ears of corn. There are about 9,000 stalks of corn on the farm resort, and Mr Ong himself participates in the harvesting. After harvesting, he helps chop the corn plants down. All this is done by hand, and Mr Ong can chop about 300 stalks in an hour. "The corn can be fed to animals. But we also sell it to restaurants within the resort," he says.

While most young people his age may be more comfortable working in an office in town, Mr Ong's office is out in ulu Lim Chu Kang area, amid five hectares of land.

At 16, he worked part-time at the farm resort, helping to plan events to draw the crowds in. After graduation, where he studied business management, Mr Ong returned to the company last year. D'Kranji Farm Resort is managed by HLH Group, of which Mr Ong's father, Johnny, is the executive deputy chairman.

As director, Mr Ong's role now is to ensure that operations run smoothly. At times, he is required to get his hands dirty, when he has to work out in the fields, sometimes ploughing the land. He is happy both out in the sun, and in the office. "I'm a hands-on person. I like to step into the mud, even in my office wear," he says. Walking past a greenhouse, Mr Ong proudly says that he installed pipes by hand, so that the plants can be automatically watered instead of relying on workers to do it.

The resort farm, at 10 Neo Tiew Lane 2, has Singapore's first and only drive-through check-in villas. There are 35 such villas. The company owns the villas, and also some fruit and vegetable plots. Produce that's grown include corn, ladies fingers, papaya, longan, guava, starfruit and rambutans, which are sold to the public.

There are other facilities in the resort, such as restaurants, a spa, beer garden, a swiftlet museum and a pond for prawn-fishing. These are all run by tenants.

Mr Ong works seven days a week. Half a work-day is spent in the office, while the other half is spent outdoors doing harvesting or planting.

Since he took over, he has increased villa sales by 150 per cent. In 2013, another 15 rooms were added, boosting the total to 35. The villas were refurbished, and sheltered walkways were added in. Occupancy rate is at 75 per cent.

With its off-the-track location, being at the resort affords visitors the feeling that they are no longer in Singapore. But unless you have a car, getting to the location can be a problem. "A lack of public transport is our biggest challenge," says Mr Ong. To entice more people to come to the area, the resort recently held a weekend farm fair which attracted about 2,000 visitors.

While the other farms in the Lim Chu Kang area have been told they'll need to move, the lease for the land on which the resort sits on only expires in 2027. "It is too far ahead to think about plans for the future," says Mr Ong.

Mr Ong's friends think that it is cool that he is a modern farmer. "They all want to come to work here as well, but they cannot do that yet, as they still have to go for National Service," he says.

Heeding the call of the sea: Tim's Farm
By Rachel Loi

TIMOTHY Hromatka begins his mornings just like any other parent: he wakes up early, washes up, and drops his two kids off at school. The rest of his day however, is a bit different - it involves driving to Lorong Halus, hopping onto his boat, and heading out to his kelong fish farm near Pulau Ubin.

"Back in Minnesota, people have cabins out on the lakes. Here, how do you get out of the city? You fly to another country, or for me, I go to my kelong," says Mr Hromatka, who came to Singapore in 1997, and is now a permanent resident.

He recalls how the sea "called out" to him five years ago, when he was working from home one day in his sea-facing HDB flat in Pasir Ris. "I thought. 'Wow, isn't that romantic?'" All those guys out there have such a high quality of life, I'd much rather be sitting out there," he says.

With that, he decided to apply for a licence with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, largely motivated by his roots in rearing sheep on a farm when he was growing up in Minnesota. He then spent the next six months out at sea, building his fish farm with little knowledge beyond a degree in biology and a master's in environmental management.

Now, Tim's Farm specialises in breeding organic-certified red snapper and sea bass (barramundi), and churns out about 30 tonnes of fish in a year. For retail, the barramundi are sold at S$15 per kg for whole fish and S$20 for two packs of two fillets, while his snapper will be sold at about S$20 per kg once they are mature.

His fish are fed a special fish feed made up of 50 per cent organic vegetable protein such as soyabean meal, rice and wheat flour, and 50 per cent sustainable ground-up fish meal - a recipe he made himself at a supplier in Thailand.

The fish feed is just part of his organic certification, says Mr Hromatka. The other parts include regular water tests, stocking the fish in low densities (he puts about 2,000 fish in about 100 cubic metres of water) so they aren't stressed, and not using chemicals such as antibiotics. "There's an analogy - at a conventional farm they spray, at an organic farm, we pray," Mr Hromatka says, laughing.

Of course, not everything is left to prayer, or the hand of Mother Nature. Instead, he has what he calls a "dirty net policy", and illustrates this by pulling up one of his fish nets and running his hand across a thick carpet of green algae. "One of the things about going organic is that I create a natural ecosystem by keeping the nets dirty and letting algae grow. Plus, I cultivate mussels in the net and around the whole farm - they help filter water and balance the carbon exchange," he explains.

Pointing to the water at two small moving shadows, Mr Hromatka adds that every net also has 120 "workers" that don't require levies or CPF contributions - lobsters, which he introduced to balance the ecosystem by eating barnacles and mussels.

"They aren't an automated net-washing machine or anything fancy like that, but it's just kind of going backwards and working with nature," says Mr Hromatka, who admits the industry is tough because it is capital-intensive. Still, he doesn't intend to change jobs anywhere in the near future.

"People come out here not to make a fortune - you go to the city for that. People come out here because of a lifestyle choice. The rule of thumb is if you last two years here, you're in it for life. Me, I've been here for five. You do the math," he says with a chuckle.

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Malaysia: Housing glut worries over Johor's mega projects

Reme Ahmad and Rennie Whang The Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Feb 15;

MALAYSIA'S biggest reclamation project is raising concerns over a potential oversupply of homes in Johor, marine environmental damage in the Strait of Johor and the effect it may have on the livelihood of hundreds of fishermen.

At Kampung Pok, tucked under the Second Link that connects Johor to Singapore, some residents are making known what they think of Chinese developer Country Garden's ambitious plan to raise four islands that total nearly three times the size of Sentosa at their doorstep.

The massive site will house thousands of luxury homes, if artists' impressions provided by the developer are any indication.

"Villagers protest that the route to Forest City passes through our area," reads a banner in Malay hung along the only road in the area.

Millions of tonnes of sand to shape the four islands will be transported by barges from eastern Johor. Lorries preparing for the mega project have already begun plying the narrow two-lane road in the village to the edge of the reclamation project.

"Why are they using our only road to do this? Everything is dusty and busy, and things will get worse," said villager Mohamad Zain.

The project is to resume at full speed after the Chinese New Year, now that the Department of Environment has given its go-ahead. That is likely to mean a clogged village road as trucks and vans deliver workers, bricks and metal bars, food and cement.

Acting village chief Abu Bakar Mohd Ali, who has a restaurant beside a jetty lined with fishing boats, said the project has caused unhappiness and uncertainty among fishermen and villagers, but he also sees it as "inevitable development catching up with the area".

The villages are bordered by mangrove swamps and the Strait of Johor on one side and hectares of mostly empty land in Nusajaya on the other. The edge of the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia's biggest container port, is just 1km away.

"Sure, there are concerns about the environment and the future, but things have cooled down as the developer has talked to us," said Mr Abu Bakar.

Mr Abdul Malik Sabtu, head of the fishing community in southern Johor, said about 245 full-time fishermen received between RM3,000 (S$1,120) and RM6,200 last year through a government agency to compensate them for a drop in their earnings after reclamation work began last year.

"We have been affected, so the compensation has helped," Mr Abdul Malik said. "We don't know what the future holds."

The future, as gleaned from the rush of developers into the southern Johor investment zone Iskandar, is one of luxury homes in gated communities. The projects are targeted at the wealthy, including Singaporeans, and some units have been sold to buyers from China.

"With all the new projects, I don't think it will be as easy to get tenants as before," said a Singaporean resident of Causeway View, an estate just 600m from the Causeway. He had previously bought a condominium unit in Johor for RM250,000 and rented it out, but he has since sold it.

Recent changes to the vehicle entry permit, toll charges and the minimum property purchase price of RM1 million for foreigners are also a put-off, he added.

Statistics on the number of housing units coming up are not kept by a Johor or federal government agency, as building approvals are granted by the local authorities, such as the Johor Baru City Council and the Central Johor Baru Municipal Council.

A Malaysian real estate consultant said the JB authorities have approved the construction of 80,900 high-rise units, of which 8,000 are being built.

Mr Samuel Tan, executive director of KGV International Property Consultants, said about 90,000 units are expected to be built by 2017. "Many developers in the area are already pulling their brakes. Some may cancel their plans," he said.

The Forest City developers envision four islands totalling 1,386ha that will be joined by roads to one another and to mainland Johor. Artists' impressions on the website of the master developer, Country Garden Pacificview, show dozens of towers of luxury condominiums and landed houses.

The project is a partnership between China's Country Garden Holdings and a company linked to Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ismail.

Country Garden's Danga Bay project had set off alarm bells over a potential glut of units when it launched a whopping 9,400 homes for sale in 2013. Since then, more Chinese developers have unveiled plans for mega projects.

On the JB side of the Causeway, China developer R&F Properties is reclaiming both sides of the Strait of Johor for its development.

The 47.1ha project offers what it calls a "hopsca" lifestyle - hotels, offices, parks, shopping malls, clubhouses and apartments. Dozens of tower blocks are being planned.

China's Greenland Group, which has a development in Danga Bay, recently announced another large project.

The Tebrau Bay Waterfront City in eastern JB is expected to be built partly on land already reclaimed at the mouths of two rivers. The first phase promises a snow world theme park, an opera house and a hospital specialising in traditional Chinese medicine.

However, Johor MP Liew Chin Tong from the opposition Democratic Action Party said: "There is already massive oversupply of high-end housing in Iskandar.

"This massive reclamation is going to accelerate the burst of the bubble... it doesn't make economic sense."

Two Malaysian developers with projects in southern Johor declined to comment on whether the large projects are building up to a glut. One said things still remain murky as developers of some coastal projects have not confirmed how many units they plan to launch.

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Malaysia: Air polluters will feel the heat - Ministry

The Star 24 Feb 15;

PETALING JAYA: There will be tighter enforcement against air polluters during the current hot and dry spell, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.

He said the authorities would go after those whose vehicles emitted excessive smoke, and who released dust from earthwork and smoke from industrial premises.

“With the current weather being hot and dry, I have directed the close monitoring of peat land, particularly in areas susceptible to fire. I also urge the public to refrain from carrying out any open burning,” he said in a statement.

Palanivel said landowners should also ensure their properties were not trespassed upon by irresponsible parties which could lead to open burning.

He called on public co-operation to put out small fires and report such incidents to the Fire and Rescue Department and the Department of Environment.

Malaysia is expected to experience hot and dry weather with low amount of rain until early April due to the equinox phenomenon, where the sun crosses directly over the Equator.

The Health Ministry advised the public to take extra precautionary measures against such weather which could affect water sources, resulting in increased cases of water-borne diseases, as well as their respiratory and cardiovascular health.

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Indonesia: Hot spots on the rise in Sumatra

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 24 Feb 15;

Unlike some parts of Java where it is still raining, a large section of Sumatra is approaching the dry season.

If earlier hot spots were only widespread in Riau, they have now appeared in a number of other provinces.

“The number of hot spots has increased by more than 100 percent because only 12 were detected in four regencies a day earlier,” said the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Pekanbaru station data analysis staffer, Yudhistira Mawaddah, on Monday.

Based on satellite images gathered by BMKG Pekanbaru on Monday morning, 67 hot spots were detected in Sumatra. Riau still dominates with 26 hot spots, followed by North Sumatra with 20 hot spots.

Hot spots in Aceh and West Sumatra, provinces that were earlier free of hot spots, have appeared in eight and seven places respectively. Another province in which hot spots have been detected is South Sumatra with six hot spots.

“Yesterday, there were only 15 hot spots in Sumatra. The increase in the number of hot spots is due to the minimal rainfall,” said Yudhistira.

For Riau, hot spots have spread from seven to 12 regencies and cities. Based on the latest observation, Rokan Hilir regency is recorded to have the most number, with seven hot spots.

Hot spots have also appeared in Bengkalis (5), Dumai (5), Pelalawan (5), Siak (2), Indragiri Hulu (1) and Meranti Islands (1).

“Many of the 13 hotspots in Riau have been confirmed as fires, with a likelihood of over 70 percent. Fires have also been confirmed in Rokan Hilir, Dumai, Bengkalis, Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu and Meranti Islands,” he added.

Despite the presence of additional hot spots, regions hit by land and forest fires have so far not yet been affected by haze. According to Yudhistira, visibility recorded by four observation posts was still between 5 and 7 kilometers, or still categorized as normal.

“Air quality earlier touched 124 PSI, categorized as unhealthy, on Sunday evening, but today it has improved and dropped to 53 PSI, or a medium level,” he added.

“Haze covering Pekanbaru originated from land and forest fires in Dumai, Bengkalis and Rokan Hilir, as the wind direction is currently blowing from the northeast to the south. Moreover, Pekanbaru is currently free of land and forest fires,” said Yudhistira.

He did not dismiss the notion that the haze covering parts of Jambi province most likely came from land and forest fires in Pelalawan and Indragiri Hulu.

“Wind blowing at a speed of up to 29 km/hour might have carried haze from forest fires in Riau to neighboring provinces,” he said.

The BMKG Pekanbaru station has warned every party to remain alert as the temperature, ranging from 31.5 to 33.5 degrees Celsius, would potentially trigger land and forest fires.

“The weather in Riau is generally cloudy, and light intensity rain will fall sporadically in the afternoon and evening. Regions where rain is likely to occur are in the western and southern parts of Riau, such as Kampar, Kuantan Sengingi and Rokan Hulu,” he said.

Separately, Riau Environmental Office head Yulwiriawati Moesa said the Riau provincial administration was currently making technical preparations to ask the central government to assist in weather modification technology to make artificial rain.

The Riau governor will also propose that the central government provide firefighting helicopters and aircraft at the haze emergency command post at the Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru.

- See more at:

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Floods, storms and heat projected to cost SE Asia $34 billion per year

ALISA TANG Reuters 23 Feb 15;

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Falling crop yields, damage to infrastructure and heat-related illnesses brought on by climate change could cost the four Southeast Asian countries of the lower Mekong River basin $34 billion per year, researchers say.

Southeast Asia is one of the regions hardest hit by the impacts of climate change, such as floods, typhoons, droughts and saltwater intrusion - when seawater flows up rivers, threatening agriculture and infrastructure.

A report released on Monday found that climate change could cost Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam $16 billion per year in lost worker productivity, crop production and natural resource assets, plus $18 billion in infrastructure damage because of flooding, storms and extreme heat.

The report - by the Washington-based World Resources Institute think tank - drew findings from a 2013 USAID analysis that forecasts higher temperatures, more rainfall and sea level rise for the region by 2050.

Worker productivity is projected to suffer heavily, costing $8 billion per year in lost work days due to illnesses such as heat rash, fatigue and stroke, particularly among farmers and construction workers.

"There are tens of millions of open-air workers likely to experience greater levels of heat stress and heat-related illnesses when temperatures start rising above 40 degrees Celsius," report author John Talberth said in a statement.

"So much of the Lower Mekong Basin's economy is based on outdoor labour, worker productivity should be front and centre for any adaptation plans, and fast-tracked."

The report suggests preventive actions such as changes to working hours and redirecting spending on urban growth towards greener cities "to make life more hospitable as temperatures rise".

The cost of falling crop yields due to storms, rising sea levels, flooding and higher temperatures was projected at $2.5 billion, and $430 million for hydroelectric power production.

Most Mekong River tributaries have dams in place or planned, with 71 projects expected to be operational by 2030, the report said, identifying 11 hydropower facilities in locations of projected increases in temperature and potential drought.

An aim of the analysis is to help governments make plans and investments to avoid exposure to climate risks.

"If we address the problem early enough - and it is still early enough - we can make investments that are likely to pay off many times over," Talberth said.

(Reporting by Alisa Tang, Editing by Ros Russell.)

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