Best of our wild blogs: 3 Mar 15

Thousands of dead fishes still washing up; with otter surprise!
from wild shores of singapore

Pangolins Rise Symposium – 9 March Mon, 445pm @ LT12, NTU
from biodiversityconnections

21 Mar (Sat) Workshop: The Butterflies of HortPark
from Cicada Tree Eco-Place

Call for volunteer Site Captains to coordinate coastal cleanups in Singapore – deadline: 15 March 2015!
from News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

Scarlet Pygmy ovipositing
Bird Ecology Study Group

Red Army
from Saving MacRitchie

Read more!

Mass fish deaths raise concerns about safety

Pichayada Promchertchoo Channel NewsAsia 2 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: On Monday (Mar 2), Singaporeans woke up to find the palm-fringed beach of Pasir Ris covered with hundreds of dead fish.

Frequented by families, the long sandy stretch that separates a 70-hectare park in eastern Singapore from the sea was nearly deserted, as many visitors had been driven off by the foul stench of countless rotten marine wildlife, washed ashore the previous night.

"It's really not nice. We have a baby and we want the baby to walk on the beach. But today, we can't do that. It's very dirty and smells terrible," complained mother-of-one Christine, who said she normally visits the beach park with her young son twice a day. "This is the first time we see dead fish on the beach."


Over the weekend, mass fish deaths were reported along the eastern Johor Straits. According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), the incident is a result of gill damage caused by plankton - micro-organisms found in the seawater that can multiply quickly in a short period of time.

The phenomenon is known as "plankton boom", which can be triggered by unpredictable weather, high concentrations of nutrients in the seawater, and poor water exchange between the high and low tides.

So far, no marine biotoxin has been detected in any of the fish collected by AVA, whose laboratory tests suggested fish harvested from local farms are safe for consumption.


Still, the sight of dead marine creatures along Singapore's shoreline has raised concern about the safety of eating locally bred fish.

This morning, Mr Ramle Samaa was planning to catch some fish but had to change his mind when he spotted hundreds of dead fish lying across Pasir Ris Beach.

"My hobby is fishing. Today, I decided not to go, because when I went to the beach, I saw a lot of dead fish. So I think it's not healthy to get a fish at the moment," he explained. "It's not one, but a few hundred. So, it's not healthy"

His concern was echoed by one of the cleaners at the beach park, Mr Shafiq Daniel Lau. Although the mass mortality of fish in Singapore is nothing new to him, the number of dead fish this year has made him worried. "I'm very concerned. This year is very bad. In the last two years, I was working here but there weren't as many dead fish. This year, there are many," he said.

Local fish farmers affected by the plankton boom said this year's phenomenon is worse than that of the previous year. In 2014, 39 fish farms along the East and West Johor Straits experienced mass deaths of their marine animals, when close to 160 tonnes of fish were found dead. The deaths were reportedly caused by a plankton boom and low level of dissolved oxygen in the seawater.

Worry about marine life mounts as more fish die
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 3 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE — As fish carcasses continued to wash up on Singapore’s shores yesterday, marine enthusiasts voiced concern about the amount and variety of wild fish and other animal species affected.

They spoke of the need to boost the resilience of the marine ecosystem as some posted on social media that shore walks in recent days have allowed them glimpses of fish species they had never seen.

“It’s kind of sad that the average Singaporean is finding out about our rich marine biodiversity only after they die and get washed up,” said environmental biology undergraduate Sean Yap, who blogged about his friends seeing a large reef stonefish he had not seen before.

Ms Ria Tan, who runs the blog Wild Shores of Singapore, surveyed nine locations in north-eastern Singapore yesterday and posted on her blog: “The large numbers of wild and farmed fishes that I saw … over many locations on our north-eastern shores is worrying. I hope scientists and authorities are looking into the extent of the mass fish deaths, what is causing this and what steps can be taken to improve the health of the ecosystems to avoid a recurrence of such mass deaths.”

Since 2009, Singapore has experienced several episodes of mass fish deaths. Last year, a plankton bloom and low levels of dissolved oxygen led to more than 160 tonnes of fish lost.

Wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai said researchers could consider delving into past research and data collected. “We also need to be concerned if climate change is leading to these events on a more regular (basis) in the future,” he told TODAY, noting that from photos posted, the scale of recent deaths was the largest he had seen.

He said that while red tides, or algal bloom, usually pass within two weeks, there could be a more lasting impact on the ecosystem due to the roles played by different varieties of fish. “I’m a bit worried for birds like some of our sea eagles and otters that depend on fish for their food,” said Mr Subaraj.

Dr Lena Chan, director of the National Parks Board’s (NParks) National Biodiversity Centre, said NParks is concerned about the potential impact of this incident on marine biodiversity here. “We are consulting with other agencies and will carry out further investigations if necessary,” she said.

The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said over the weekend that going by fish samples collected from affected farms, the fish had died from gill damage caused by plankton. It said laboratory tests conducted so far have not detected marine biotoxins in the fish.

Reeling from the wipeout of his red snapper and barramundi worth about S$700,000, fish farmer Timothy Hromatka said he would have to look into relocating his farm, which is off Pulau Ubin. He had done an overall water quality assessment as part of organic certification of his farm — which he received last month — and the results were good. The assessment covered areas such as heavy metal content, but not the types of plankton found, he said.

He praised the AVA’s efforts and felt great opportunities remain in aquaculture here, but said the ecosystem needs to improve. For instance, when estuaries are converted to reservoirs, mangroves and other vegetation that serve as buffers to regulate nutrient balance in the seawater are lost, making the ecosystem more susceptible to disturbance, he said.

Meanwhile, a fish farm has resorted to crowdfunding to stay afloat. Ah Hua Kelong, which said it lost 80 per cent of its fish last Saturday and is hoping to raise US$20,000 (S$27,300) to help pay expenses for the next three months, had raised US$8,391 on Indiegogo as at 10.30pm yesterday.

A more immediate issue in the coming days is the rotting of dead marine life, said Mr Subaraj, who suggested that young children and older people should avoid contact with the dead fish.

Mr Alvin Tan, 33, who goes to Pasir Ris Park about once a month with his family, said he was aware of the mass fish deaths. As a precaution, the businessman ensures his children do not “go down to the water and beaches”. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ROBIN CHOO

See also an infographic Understing Algal Blooms by Today Online 3 Mar 15;

Also on Channel 8 News 2 Mar 15;

本地多家渔场养殖鱼出现大面积死亡 野生鱼类也难幸免
发布: 02/03/2015 19:05 | 更新: 02/03/2015 22:34
















- CH8/SS

Translation by Tan Shiaw Uen on facebook.

TITLE: Widespread of local farmed fish died, wild fish affected as well

Widespread of local farmed fish died, wild fish affected as well, marine econolgist think that the affected large area, and noting there are risks in consuming the dead or dying fish.

A large number of dead fish washed up on the coast of the Pasir Ris, the air is also filled with a smell. According to the cleaners, it takes three days to clean up the dead fish weighing 5.5 tonnes.

Cleaners, said: "Last year, only farmed fish are affected, such as grouper and catfish, this year there are a lot of wild fish."

Republic Polytechnic Marine and Aquaculture Department of 陈维龙 (Chen Wei Long) said: "Even the wild fish to be contaminated, they are not caged in the net, it can swim freely, it signals that area of the contamination of the red tides are huge. "

Fisheries of East and northeast had their fish all died overnight, consumers are all worried.

One consumer said: "Some unscrupulous merchants might take the dead fish to the market, shopers who are not aware would bu the fish and consume the fish, which could cause diseases."

Another respondent said: "Would stop eating or eat least fish temporary"

But there are also respondents said that Singapore is a very safe place, and it is still safe to eat fish.

Marine experts pointed out that if the fish are not contaminated by toxin, cooked fish are safe to be consume, but eating dead fish and dying fish harmful.

陈维龙 said: "After the fish is dead, you do not know what other microorganisms host on the dead body, they microorganisms could have toxins, if it contains toxins, even if its cooked, there will toxins accumulated in fish, which is not good to be eaten, there are tons of virus and bacterial in the fish body before they died, the risk are still high to consume the fish, even if it is cooked."

Even with AVA's strict checks, consumers must be careful so that they would not buy fish that are affected.

Chen Weilong said: "After the fish is dead for extend period, it's body began to decay, then it will stink, and it would not have spotted, the gills will look dark, fish eye is very dim. "

NTUC Fairprice said fish sold in supermarkets comes from farms certified by the AVA, fisheries will ensure that only the live and healthy fish are supply to the supermarket. Some farms have moved their fish to other area, and increased oxygen supply.

Sheng Siong told this station, most supermarkets sell live fish from imported from Malaysia, supply from local fisheries less than 5% in total, the supply has not been affected.

In addition, there are also affected fishery started online fund raising campaign to refinancing their farm, as of 19:45, S$9000 has been raised.

Fish farm goes online to raise funds to keep going
Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Mar 15;

A fish farm here has appealed for donations online, after being hit by a plankton bloom which wiped out more than 100 tonnes of fish, or 80 per cent of its stock.

Ah Hua Kelong, located off Lorong Halus on the north-eastern coast, hopes to raise US$20,000 (S$27,300) for the day-to-day running of the farm, including paying staff wages.

As of last night, the farm had managed to raise almost $8,000, which will help tide it over until it can begin producing more fish again in about two months.

Changi's coastal farms, which play a key role in helping Singapore become more self-sufficient at producing food, have been reeling since plankton blooms decimated stocks starting from Saturday.

To make matters worse, the farmers were still recovering from a similar incident a year ago - where 39 outfits lost hundreds of thousands of dollars after 160 tonnes of fish died.

This year, the 51 farms operating there could be even harder hit.

Mr Malcolm Ong, chief executive of The Fish Farmer, said: "It seems to be more severe this year. We had the aeration pumps, but it still affected us."

Mr Ong, whose farm produces about 700 tonnes of fish annually, lost about 5 per cent of his stock.

Ah Hua's business development manager, Mr Wong Jing Kai, told The Straits Times that the remaining 20 per cent of the farm's fish have been moved temporarily to his other farm in Sembawang and a friend's fish farm on Pulau Tekong.

Ah Hua Kelong wrote on crowdfunding site Indiegogo: "We are on the verge of losing the workers, the farm and everything we have.

"The farm, which opened in 2006, produces fishes such as red snappers and groupers for restaurants and households."

Even though it had installed aeration pumps to mitigate the effects of the plankton bloom, it was still "hit hard" as there was not enough time to react, said Mr Wong.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) explained that plankton found in seawater can multiply quickly in a very short period of time, and plankton bloom can be triggered by unpredictable weather, higher concentrations of nutrients in the sea water and poor water exchange during high and low tides.

When the microscopic plants use up too much oxygen, other marine life is suffocated.

Lab tests conducted so far did not detect biological toxins in the fish, and those from local farms remain safe to eat, said the AVA.

Meanwhile, other marine life such as puffer fish, horseshoe crabs and eels have also become victims of the plankton bloom, and have washed up onto the shore at Pasir Ris beach.

National University of Singapore environment biology undergraduate Sean Yap, 23, started taking photographs of the marine life along the beach at the weekend, and shared them on social media.

"We are seeing a lot of (dead) species we didn't previously see before last year, like fishfrog and eels," he said.

Dr Lena Chan, director of the National Parks Board's National Biodiversity Centre, said that the agency is concerned about the potential impact of the incident.

"We are consulting with other agencies and will carry out further investigations if necessary," she said.

Read more!

David Attenborough to narrate Singapore wildlife documentary

Eileen Poh Channel NewsAsia 2 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE: A new documentary by Channel NewsAsia offers insight into the lesser known side of Singapore - its rich and diverse wildlife. Narrated by natural history legend David Attenborough and filmed over a year, the two-episode Wild City is the channel's first documentary on the wildlife here.

The first episode will feature the wildlife found in and around the urban sprawl in Singapore, such as civets that take up residence in roof cavities, and wild otters spotted at Marina Reservoir. The second episode will take viewers to some of Singapore's hidden wildlife spots.

"I really hope that it's going to reveal a side of Singapore that even locals have never seen before, and that it shows off a wild diversity of wildlife and species that have never been documented before," said Ms Mok Choy Lin, Vice-President of Programming at Channel NewsAsia.

The two-episode documentary is produced as part of Channel NewsAsia's slate of Singapore-made documentaries in celebration of the nation's golden jubilee this year. Others include Wartime Singapore, a historical reality documentary that will take modern Singaporean families back in time to the years of WWII.

The first episode of Wild City will air next Sunday (Mar 15), 8pm on Channel NewsAsia while the second episode will be screened the following Sunday (Mar 22), 8pm.

- CNA/av

Read more!

Dry weather expected to last for 2 more weeks at least

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE - If you have been feeling hot and bothered by the weather, brace yourself for the dry streak to last for another two weeks at least.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in its latest forecast that the first half of this month is expected to have less rainfall than usual. This follows significantly low levels of rain in the previous two months.

The current dry weather is partly due to the early onset of the north-east monsoon's dry phase, which is characterised by drier weather and occasional wind.

While the dry phase typically starts in February, it began in mid-January this year, partly due to stronger winds in the region that caused the monsoon rain belt to shift away from Singapore.

The dry weather has resulted in parched grass patches by the roadside and receding water levels in lakes.

At the Botanic Gardens, the water level in the Eco Lake has fallen noticeably.

Many people, like Mr Bryan Lim, 23, are missing the rain.

"I long for the days when I'm not sweating even before I step out of the house," said Mr Lim, a part-time employee of an ice cream cafe.

But the heat has not deterred diners from eating outdoors. Six eateries contacted said their alfresco dining had not suffered.

In fact, at House @ Dempsey, manager Julian Siew said the dry weather had led to more diners choosing to sit outdoors.

"Because it doesn't rain, we can get about 40 more customers over the weekend who are willing to sit outside," said Mr Siew, 28.

Relief from the heat could come in the form of localised showers on four to six days in the next two weeks, said the NEA.

For this week, the agency is predicting short, thundery showers in the afternoon on two to three days. Still, the total rainfall for this month will be below the long-term average of 185mm if the trend of drier-than-usual weather persists.

But the situation is not as dire as in February last year, when just 0.2mm of rain was recorded at the Changi climate station, which is used as a reference station.

The NEA also said that the months of March to May have the highest average daily maximum temperatures of between 31.6 deg C and 31.8 deg C.

The dry weather has been much welcomed by ground surveyor Amir Nordin, 52, and his household of five because their laundry takes less time to dry.

"Usually, I hang the clothes at about 7am and take them in around 6pm, but for these few weeks, I've been able to take them in three hours earlier than usual because it's been hotter than normal," he said.

Additional reporting by Olivia Ho

Watch water usage, says PUB, as dry period lingers
Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Mar 15;

National water agency PUB has urged Singaporeans to conserve water even as it keeps the country's water supply healthy during the ongoing dry weather.

It told The Straits Times yesterday that it sent out circulars to 27,000 non-domestic water users - including town councils and schools - last month to encourage them to save water.

"PUB also urges people to do their part, for example, by taking one to two minutes less in the shower and running washing machines only on full load instead of half load," a spokesman said.

Households, organisations and businesses should also cut down on non-essential uses of water such as the washing of cars and common areas, she added.

All parts of Singapore had below average rainfall last month, ranging from 10mm to 150mm. The lowest recorded was 95 per cent below average.
Rainfall over the next two weeks is also expected to be below average, although showers are expected on a few days.

The transition to the inter-monsoon period at the end of the month is expected to bring more rain.

Still, the dry period is not as severe as that of a year ago, when there were two 27-day dry spells from Jan 13 to Feb 8, and Feb 17 to March 15.

As grassy patches turn brown and bodies of water recede, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said on Facebook yesterday: "Our water levels are falling. Actually, the reservoir levels would be even lower if not for the additional desalination and Newater production by PUB."

The agency said it has been injecting about 25 million to 30 million gallons of Newater per day into the reservoirs here for the past two weeks, so their water levels have remained healthy.

"We monitor the water levels in the reservoirs continuously using online water level sensors, and reservoir staff also take daily readings from level gauges," it added.

The National Parks Board (NParks), for its part, has been planting more drought-tolerant plants. To conserve water, it has not had routine watering of roadside plants for several years.

It added that "in the event of a prolonged dry spell or national water crisis, only young saplings and significant trees like heritage trees are watered selectively".

An NParks spokesman also pointed to a silver lining: "Some trees have started to flower due to the recent dry weather, including the Rosy Trumpet Tree, Yellow Flame Tree and Golden Shower Tree."

Read more!

No more bottle trees, but new park retains old charm

Melissa LinThe Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Mar 15;

A new leisure park where visitors can go fishing or prawning round the clock has opened on the site of the former Bottle Tree Park in Yishun.

Called Orto, which means garden in Italian, the park is about the size of seven football fields.

Attractions there include a fishing pond, 10 ponds for prawning, and four eateries, including Thai BBQ restaurant Mookata.

A trampoline park, a futsal pitch and a paintball field will be added to the park by its grand opening in June.

Located at 81 Lorong Chencharu, the park was opened to the public on Feb 17 and is an eight-minute walk from Khatib MRT station.

It is managed by China-based Fullshare Leisure Group, which spent $8 million and six months to revamp the place. The company secured the site lease last July with a bid of $169,000 a month.

This was more than double the $68,000 bid put in by Bottle Tree, a company that had run a rustic leisure park there since 2006. The park closed on Aug 10 last year when its lease ended.

When Fullshare won the bid, fans of the former Bottle Tree Parkwere initially worried that the place would lose its kampung feel under the new management.

Ms Yen Sim, senior manager of corporate communications and branding at Fullshare, said Orto has "maintained some good attributes" of the former park.

The 100m-by-100m fishing pond, run by Fishing Paradise, is still there, but with cleaner waters. A neighbouring pond, previously overgrown with plants, has been cleared up and converted into a lotus pond, which acts as a natural filter for the water.

The group also spent more than $20,000 buying over 70 per cent of the existing trees from Bottle Tree. These were mostly fruit trees, however, and none of the bottle trees remain.

"They don't survive quite well in Singapore weather. Only a few survived, and they were taken away by the old management," said the group's assistant general manager Samuel Liu.

Parking and entry to the attraction continue to be free.

The tenure of the site is three years, with an option to extend it until April 2020.

There are plans for a fifth restaurant, compared to two in the past. But rentals for businesses operating there are also higher, which means visitors will have to pay more for the activities.

Fishing Paradise owner Edmund Kong, 36, raised prices by 20 per cent after his rent rose by more than half. An hour of fishing now costs $12, up from $10.

"Now that we're open 24 hours, we see more crowds. Previously we closed at 3am," he said.

Despite the higher prices, visitors said they were glad the park retained its relaxed vibe.

"The place is clean and more comfortable," said production operator Nur Sofia Abdullah, 37, who lives near the park.

Read more!

Bukit Batok still plagued by rats

My Paper AsiaOne 3 Mar 15;

SINGAPORE - Rats are still running amok in Bukit Batok, invading homes, shops and even a childcare centre.

This is despite measures taken to eliminate the rodents after a major infestation reported along a slope next to Bukit Batok MRT station late last year, The New Paper reported yesterday.

In Bukit Batok Avenue 8, residents are battling the rats, some of which even breach the defences put up by residents and shopkeepers, appearing not just in dark alleys but in well-lit corridors as well.

Some residents and shopkeepers have fortified their homes and shops; building fences and setting traps while others have placed potted plants over fist-size holes in the grass patches surrounding blocks 165, 166 and 167.

A first-storey resident of Block 165 who gave her name only as Madam Devi, 62, told The New Paper: "There have been more of the rats since November. Sometimes, I see them in the day.

"From my window, I always hear their squeaks when they fight at night."

Madam Devi, who has lived there since 1984, said she occasionally replaces the acrylic board on the rear gate of her flat.

Installing the board on the inside of the gate did not stop rats from entering, so she now secures the board from outside so that the rodents cannot nudge the board or climb the gate.

Madam Devi's neighbour has also left a rat trap outside her own flat.

Madam Devi said that over the years, she has seen pest controllers cover rat burrows behind her flat.

But the rats appear bolder now, as Yvonne Ng, an incense shop retailer at Block 166, found out a few days before the Chinese New Year.
She had been fiddling with her mobile phone in her shop when she noticed something near her legs.

"I didn't notice the rat until it passed between my feet," said Ms Ng, 26.

"I jumped up from my seat and screamed. It ran into the shop and later escaped into a drain at the front of the shop."

She immediately borrowed a rat trap from a friend and placed it below some shelves in the shop, using a prayer cake for bait, but she has not caught any rat so far.

Even Appleland Montessori Childcare Centre at Block 165 has not been spared. Its principal, Jane Teo, told evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that the centre is cleaned and disinfected daily, but two rats were discovered at the centre after the Chinese New Year holiday.

The rats, which had not previously been seen at the centre, were found to have crawled into the premises through a drainage hole.

The hole has since been sealed with a lid and covered with a five-litre bottle of detergent.

The centre's supervisor, June Othman, added that she spots two or three rats scurrying past the flowerpots placed outside every morning.

Meanwhile, New Paper reporters spotted "eyes peering at us from an open rubbish chute" on a visit to the estate two weekends ago.

The 15 or so rats, which seemed oblivious to the reporter's presence, scuttled between cracks and gaps leading to the back doors of shops. The rats were observed to be frequently entering a unit formerly occupied by the Giant supermarket chain at Block 166.

A 5cm gap in the rear shutter door gave the rats easy access to leftover fruit in a red plastic bag in the unit. The rodents also left hundreds of droppings inside the unit.

Jane Lee, an ERA Real Estate senior marketing director who oversees the rental unit at Block 166, said it was vacated about two months ago. While she was unaware of the rats' presence, she said a clean-up crew visited the premises last Monday.

The estate falls under the Jurong Town Council's jurisdiction.

Ng Wee Teck, a property manager for the estate, told TNP: "On and off, in the last two weeks, we've received feedback on the rats (in the estate). But it's not a serious infestation."

Mr Ng said that if there are rat sightings, the town council will send its officers to investigate.

He added: "In such situations, we advise residents to maintain proper housekeeping and not leave food sources exposed."

One man was upset after a rat "visited" the third storey corridor of his father's unit of Block 166 on Feb 21 evening.

Max Ho, 35, said: "My father doesn't live above a coffee shop or near a rubbish collection point. So how do you explain rats coming up to the upper units? Something has to be done."

The National Environment Agency discovered about 10,000 rat burrows across the island in October and November, an increase from 6,400 in the same period in 2013.

Read more!

Foraging in the wilds of Singapore

REBECCA LYNNE TAN Straits Times 28 Feb 15;

Foraging, or the act of searching for wild edible ingredients, is catching on in the urban landscape of Singapore.

The mircrogreens that garnish dishes such as scallop ceviche, from wood sorrel to pennywort, can be found in less developed areas around the island, as well as in areas as urbanised as Dempsey Hill.

Mr Bjorn Low, 34, founder of urban farming consultancy Edible Gardens, who has a strong interest in local plants, takes The Straits Times on a hunt for plants that include peperomia, a wild pepper varietal that grows well in shaded areas, and the herbaceous and startlingly bitter King Of Bitters, an inconspicuous shrub with dark green leaves.

During low tide, one can also forage for clams and mussels along Kranji Beach. There, while digging and trudging the mud flats with foraging enthusiast Nigel Lian, 26, a communications executive, The Straits Times found native horseshoe crabs, clams, and mussels.

Join Food Correspondent Rebecca Lynne Tan as she susses out the foraging scene in urban Singapore.

Read more!

Indonesia: Mangrove clearance threatens Komodo National Park

Markus Makur, The Jakarta Post 3 Mar 15;

Komodo National Park in West Manggarai regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), is being threatened by the cutting down of mangrove trees around the park’s perimeter.

House of Representatives Commission IV members visited the park and received information from West Manggarai residents about the felling of mangrove trees.

The park office has been urged to immediately take stern measures against those who cut down mangrove trees in the park or its buffer zones as felling mangrove trees is against the law.

West Manggarai community figure Pastor Marselinus Agot, who once received an environmental award from the Forestry Ministry, told The Jakarta Post on Monday that law enforcers in the regency never took action against offenders.

Marselinus said law enforcers in the regency were reluctant to act against any officials responsible for environmental damage and instead opted to arrest civilians.

“In 2009, many residents in Nggorang village were arrested for felling trees, while there were individuals in West Manggarai who felled thousands of trees in the same location but weren’t arrested or processed according to the law,” said Marselinus.

He pointed out that cutting down mangrove trees was detrimental to the environment because mangrove forests acted as buffer zones for Komodo National Park, which was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2011.

The other six natural wonders that year were the Amazon in South America, Halong Bay in Vietnam, Iguazu Falls on the border of the Brazilian state of Parana and Argentine province of Misiones, Jeju Island in South Korea, Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Philippines and Table Mountain in South Africa.

Marselinus went on to say that if the felling of the mangroves continued, the park’s appeal would drop further and eventually it would no longer be famous and its status as a wonder of nature could be revoked.

“I am deeply saddened by those who cut down the mangrove forests in the park’s buffer zones. I appeal to every stakeholder, including the central government, provincial and regency administrations, to immediately address the problem. If local officials are involved, bring them to justice,” said Marselinus.

An activist of Sunspirit for Justice and Peace non-governmental group in the regency and member of the Bolo Lobo Community, Kris Bedha Somerpes, said he had received information that 2 hectares of mangrove forests had been deforested in Warloka, Menjaga and Macang Tanggar villages, and Sebayur Island.

Kris said Komodo National Park would no longer been known as a natural wonder if the government failed to stop mangrove deforestation and bring the perpetrators to justice.

He went on to say that there was injustice in West Manggarai in that when a fisherman felled a mangrove tree he would be immediately prosecuted while an official in West Manggarai who was involved in illegal logging would never be processed by the law.

Kris claimed that Komodo National Park had become a commodity for negotiation among political elites.

Read more!

New film on China's pollution sparks debate, seen as milestone

Alexandra Harney PlanetArk 3 Mar 15;

Could "Under the Dome", Chinese journalist Chai Jing's new documentary about pollution, become China's "Silent Spring", the 1962 book that spurred the development of the U.S. environmental movement?

Since it was released online on Saturday, the film has been viewed more than 150 million times and has sparked a national debate on environmental problems.

"Under the Dome", which explains air pollution in personal, straight-forward terms, was well-timed: this week China's National People's Congress, the country's parliament, holds its annual meeting.

China's environment minister, Chen Jining, drew parallels between Chai's film and "Silent Spring", the ground-breaking book by American journalist Rachel Carson.

"This is a remarkable milestone," Li Yan, Beijing-based climate and energy campaign manager for environmental group Greenpeace, said of the film.

Chai was a well-known journalist on state-run television before making the documentary.

Environmental awareness has been increasing in China, especially since air pollution levels in Beijing hit record highs in January 2013, a phenomenon dubbed the "airpocalypse".

The documentary has touched a national nerve.

"The difference is in the delivery," said Peggy Liu, chairwoman of Shanghai-based environmental advocacy group JUCCCE, noting Chai's storytelling abilities.

"It's not that people aren't expressing these messages already."

The film begins with Chai Jing's experience as a pregnant woman and then a mother of a child born with a benign tumor, which had to be removed. It looks at China's pollution, how it affects health, and what can be done about it.

Greenpeace's Li Yan said Chai's documentary and the public debate it has generated could help the environmental ministry garner the resources it needs to implement a new, tougher environmental protection law that raises penalties for polluters.

But obstacles to clearing China's skies are daunting.

The country is heavily reliant on coal and car ownership is growing fast.

State-owned enterprises, which dominate heavy industry, can at times be more powerful than their regulators.

The film might prove a boon to other industries.

Sales of air purifiers at the Blue Air store on, an online home electronics shop owned by Internet giant Alibaba, more than doubled the day after the documentary was released.

Wang Zhen, a public relations executive in Shanghai, said the documentary finally convinced her to buy an air purifier.

"I really need to protect my family, that's the main bottom line," she said.

(Additional reporting by Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Viral China pollution film is brave, personal and powerful
Chai Jing’s documentary Under the Dome is praised by environmentalist Ma Jun for raising public awareness of China’s air pollution crisis
Jennifer Duggan The Guardian 2 Mar 15;

A documentary about China’s shockingly high levels of air pollution that has gone viral within China is being compared to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

The self-funded documentary, Under the Dome, by former state television presenter Chai Jing, takes a stark look at China’s air pollution woes by combining personal narrative, striking imagery, on-the-the ground interviews with scientific evidence.

One of China’s most prominent environmentalists, Ma Jun, likened the documentary to An Inconvenient Truth not just in style but in the impact it will likely have. He described the powerful documentary as “one of the most important pieces of public awareness of all time by the Chinese media”.

Standing on a darkened stage in front of an audience, Chai tells how after the birth of her daughter, she suddenly became aware of and “afraid” of the pollution. “I didn’t wear a mask in polluted days before. After holding a new life in my hands, I started to worry about the air quality,” she says. The feeling of fear and worry is one that resonates with any parent living in a polluted Chinese city.

“It is powerful because it is motivated by a personal story and has got the feelings that people can relate to. It also hold to the standards of investigative journalism, it is properly vetted on the scientific and technology side, it is a powerful combination,” said Ma.

With reports of more than 100m views online, the documentary has gone viral. Friends are sharing and discussing it on the popular messaging app Wechat and it is being widely discussed and debated on social media. Today is seemed as if everyone in shops and offices were talking about it.

While air pollution is not a new topic in China, it certainly has never been addressed in such a stark but also accessible way. It answers scientific questions about what is in the smog (14 different carcinogens) and leaves no doubt as to the dangerous health implications it has. A scene from the surgery of a lung cancer patient leaves nothing to the imagination as doctors remove a blackened lymph node despite the patient never having smoked.

Under the Dome doesn’t hold back in its criticism when examining the causes of pollution. Chai is critical of a lack of oversight and calls for government action in regulating polluters. She is critical of state oil companies for not improving petroleum quality that could help to cut pollution from cars.

In a country where criticism is routinely censored, this is brave. But tellingly despite not shying away from harsh criticism, so far widespread online discussion of Under the Dome has been allowed and there appear to have been no efforts to prevent it from being shared and viewed online.

“The very fact that this gets a green light to go ahead to be aired and to allow nearly two days of intense communications, I think it already shows a willingness to face the problem rather than dodge it,” said Ma.

It has been released just days before annual meetings of China’s top political bodies and Ma hopes it leads to “more in depth discussion and more solid actions proposed” on the issue of environment and pollution.

Chai Jing's review: Under the Dome – Investigating China’s Smog 柴静雾霾调查:穹顶之下

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Deforestation could shift monsoons, leaving India high and dry

Alisa Tang PlanetArk 3 Mar 15;

Large-scale deforestation could cause monsoon rains to shift south, cutting rainfall in India by nearly a fifth, scientists say.

Deforestation has long been known to cause temperature increases in local areas, but new research published on Tuesday shows a potentially wider impact on monsoon rains.

While releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, deforestation also causes changes in how much light reflects off the earth's surface and the amount of moisture in the atmosphere from plants transpiring.

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore used a model simulating atmosphere circulation, as well as photosynthesis, transpiration, warming of the ocean surface and ice melt.

"We wanted to get a basic understanding of the effects of large-scale deforestation at different locations on monsoon rainfall," the authors said in a statement.

They performed three deforestation experiments, removing all trees in tropical, temperate and high-latitude areas to look at the impacts.

Deforestation in temperate and high latitudes caused changes in atmospheric circulation resulting in a southward shift in the monsoon rains.

This would translate to a significant fall in precipitation in the northern hemisphere monsoon regions of East Asia, North America, North Africa and South Asia, and moderate increases in rainfall in the southern hemisphere monsoon regions of South Africa, South America and Australia.

"Our study is showing that remote deforestation in mid- and high-latitudes can have a much larger effect on tropical rainfall than local tropical deforestation," the statement said.

The South Asian monsoon region would be affected the most, with an 18 percent decline in precipitation over India, the scientists wrote in the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The authors said that evaluations of the climate benefits of planting trees on bare or cultivated land or in deforested areas must include remote impacts such as rainfall.

The study noted that land used for crops and pastures has increased globally from 620 million hectares in the 1700s - or about 7 percent of the global land surface - to 4,690 million hectares in 2000, about a third of the world's land surface.

(Editing by Ros Russell.)

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EU's 2050 green goals will need radical policy shifts: report

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 3 Mar 15;

The European Union will need radical new policies to reach goals for safeguarding the environment by 2050 after limited progress in curbing pollution and climate change, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Tuesday.

"We need to start now," Hans Bruyninckx, head of the EEA, told Reuters of a five-yearly environmental report that said "profound changes" in technologies, policies and lifestyles were necessary to achieve long-term green targets.

The Copenhagen-based EEA said Europe -- backed by some of the toughest environmental legislation in the world -- had improved air and water quality, cut greenhouse gas emissions and raised waste recycling in recent years.

"Despite these gains, Europe still faces a range of persistent and growing environmental challenges," including global warming, chemical pollution and extinctions of species of animals and plants, the report said.

Europe is not on track to realize by 2050 its vision of "living well, within the limits of our planet", as agreed in 2013, it added.

The report indicated that most Europeans were using more than four hectares (10 acres) of the planet's resources each year -- more than double what it rated a sustainable ecological footprint.

Seas are suffering from pollution and over-exploitation, it said. Over-fishing has declined in the Atlantic and Baltic but 91 percent of Mediterranean stocks were over-fished in 2014.

The European Commission has estimated that a shift to a greener, low-carbon economy by 2050 will require investments of an extra 270 billion euros ($303 billion) a year, or 1.5 percent of EU gross domestic product (GDP) in coming decades.

The EEA said Europe could benefit economically from greener cities, industry, transport and agriculture. "This is not a threat to well-being ... For Europe this is a major opportunity," Bruyninckx said.

Illustrating a needed leap in thinking, he said transport policy now focused on ever tougher fuel efficiency standards for gasoline-powered cars. For 2050, the world would need zero-emissions vehicles run on hydrogen or green electricity.

Among areas of progress, the EU has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent since 1990 while achieving a 45 percent increase in economic output, the report said. The EU plans an emissions cut of 40 percent by 2030.

Bruyninckx said 2050 green goals were not about some remote future, noting that Europeans born today will be 35 in 2050 with more than half their expected lifetimes before them.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

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