Best of our wild blogs: 25 Mar 15

lone otter @ pasir ris - March 2015
from sgbeachbum

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Malaysia: Chant questions Middlebank reclamation by state government

MELISSA DARLYNE CHOW New Straits Times 24 Mar 15;

GEORGE TOWN: An environmental interest group here questioned the state government's insistence in going ahead with the Middlebank reclamation, with the knowledge that it could destroy the ecosystem of the seagrass bed there.

Speaking in a press conference today on the matter, Citizens Awareness Chant Group (Chant) adviser Yan Lee said the Penang government should explain why it insist on reclaiming the Middlebank area, when there are so many other places to be reclaimed.

"Choose somewhere else that is feasible. The ecosystem on the seagrass bed has to be a priority," he said in a press conference here.

Lee claimed that reclamation in the area would change the whole system and water flow in Penang, affecting fish farmers from the island to Nibong Tebal, and cause siltation.

Lee cited the Forest City project in Johor as an example of how such a seagrass bed should not be touched for development. He said the Johor Department of Environment (DoE) had not allowed the Forest City developer to reclaim areas that have a large amount of seagrass.

The 50.6ha seabed in the Middlebank, located between the first Penang Bridge and the Sungai Pinang river mouth, is the second largest in Peninsular Malaysia after Merambong in Johor.

It was reported that the state government planned to reclaim the area under the proposed RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan.

The Penang Development Corporation (PDC) had called for a Request for Proposal (RFP) to reclaim the area, and ended on Feb 23.

When contacted by the New Straits Times, state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said nothing has been decided yet on the project.

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Malaysia: Forest city to create 250,000 jobs

JASSMINE SHADIQE New Straits Times 25 Mar 15;

THE Forest City project is expected to create some 250,000 job opportunities, besides offering free education to locals via its vocational and technique schools, to equip them with skills upon its completion in 2045.

The ultra-mega Forest City project will create four man-made islands with a gross development value of RM600 billion over a period of 30 years.

It developer and operator Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd is committed to complete the project according to the necessary rules and regulations, including adhering to the detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) necessities.

Country Garden Pacificview's executive director Datuk Md Othman Yusuf said Johoreans and Malaysians will benefit from the project as it will contribute to the nation's goal in reaching high-income status.

Forest City is consistent with the government's vision as outlined in the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), to increase the population and household income for the state of Johor.

Forest City is expected to generate additional income for the state by way of quit rent, assessment, advertising taxes and entertainment taxes.

The 1,623 hectares (ha) will be constructed by way of reclamation. It will create new land mass to the state government and will directly contribute to state income when it matures.

"We aim to provide world class facilities to attract game players and market makers from around the world.

"It will have a domino effect where the country will benefit from the spill over effect. This will also be a catalyst for local migration, from different parts of Malaysia, ensuing in creation of new job opportunities," he said.

The Forest City project of 1,386.05ha on reclamation land in Tanjung Kupang, Gelang Patah, in Johor will ensure that all compliance and monitoring, in terms of air, noise, water quality and sediment, are robustly implemented and carried out.

Md Othman said their immediate priorities are to minimise the impact on the local communities by ensuring that the surrounding ecology is well preserved.

"We are committed in ensuring the villages in the vicinity are also developed and for the people to benefit from the project's spill over effects," he said during a visit to the site during an exclusive interview with Media Prima Group.

He said after taking into consideration the DEIA and Hydraulic Study, they voluntarily reduced the reclamation works to form new land comprising four islands, which was approximately 1,624ha.

The new model was reduced by 354ha to ensure the sea grass area was preserved for future generations while maintaining the flora and fauna of the surrounding area.

Md Othman said Country Garden Pacificview is a responsible company and had walked the talk.

"We always ensure that our projects are compliant, adopt best practices of governance and we fully represent the needs of the communities, the environment and the state's economic development," he said.

"We walk the extra mile as we strive to provide the best quality in terms of facilities, services and designs while ensuring that the needs of the communities are fulfilled.

"Forest city's green concept will set the trend for tomorrow's model eco-city as we believe that people and the nature can live harmoniously together by maintaining a balance between nature and nurture," Md Othman said.

"To ensure that the project has economical scale and is sustainable, we need a sizeable land bank for the entire development project. If we were to acquire existing land, it may create a long list of social impact towards the local community by way of displacement. Through reclamation, we are creating a new land mass for the state government and the people of Johor by minimising the social impacts. We aim to develop harmoniously with the support of the local community," Md Othman explained.

He guaranteed that the local community will grow together with the Forest City project, and they will ensure that no one was left behind. This was achievable with regular dialogue sessions with the villagers.

"We provided training, workshops, and even contributed in transforming their fishing methods, including assistance to pursue deeper sea fishing. We are looking at the possibility of providing training and assistance in aquaculture, such as fish hatcheries," he said.

Meanwhile, Tanjung Kupang villagers who are mostly fishermen said they are confident that via the Forest City project they and the future generation will enjoy the spill over effects.

Zainuddin Abd Jabar, 54, from Kampung Tiram Duku, Mukim Tanjung Kupang, said initially he had his reservation when the project was first announced as it would definitely have an effect on their catch.

However, Country Garden Pacificview personnel conducted several dialogue sessions with the villagers to understand their concerns better.

"Although most of the villagers are fishermen and small traders, yet Country Garden Pacificview took our concerns seriously and addressed them sincerely," he said.

Fisherman Johari Lasim, 63, said he is proud that an ultra-mega development is taking place in his " backyard" and was sure that his children and their children will benefit from the project.

Md Othman said the Forest City was a challenge proposed by the Sultan of Johor.

"Sultan Ibrahim wanted a balance development in the south of Johor that will benefit his subjects and put Johor on the world's map. Forest City aims to balance the development between south-east, central and south - west of Johor.

"Sultan Ibrahim is a man of vision. He suggested that there should be developments in the south of Johor near the Second Link Highway.

That was a brilliant idea. Sultan Ibrahim's aim is for Johor to be developed equally, as it will contribute not only to the nation, but to Johoreans residing in any part of the state.

"Sultan Ibrahim played a paramount role in convincing foreign investors to develop Johor, turning it into an urban metropolis. Tuanku Sultan reminded us that no Johorean should be left out of the benefits of any development in the state," he said

"His subjects are very close to his heart, thus they are always his priority,' he added.

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Malaysia: Monsoon transition will continue until early may: DOE

SERI NOR NADIAH New Straits Times 24 Mar 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The current haze-like situation in the city is due to the presence of water vapour in the atmosphere.

Department of Environment Air Division senior principal assistant director Noraziah Jaafar said the country is currently experiencing a monsoon transition, which is expected to continue until early May.

“The Air Pollution Index showed that Miri is the only town in the country with a higher reading compared to the others.

“This is due to the bush fires there,” she told the New Straits Times.

She also warned of thunderstorms, flash floods and strong winds occuring during the transition period.

500 forest and bush fires due to dry spell this month: KK Fire and Rescue Dept
FATMA WATI MUNIR New Straits Times 24 Mar 15;

KOTA KINABALU : The Fire and Rescue Department responded to over 500 cases of forest and bush fires around the state this month due to the prolonged dry spell.

Its State director Nordin Pauzi said the district here and Papar recorded the highest number of cases this month at 131 and 69 respectively.

Meanwhile bush fire brought by the dry spell has ravaged the Katagazan Cemetery in Penampang on Sunday.

Babaig Condolence Committee chairman Victor Tokuyuk some of the graves in the cemetery were damaged and the surrounding area too needs to be cleared to prevent another Bush fire from spreading.

"Hopefully the government can help us here with the clearing works before it triggers another round of Bush fire," he said.

The dry spell which began in mid February is expected to continue next month before the transitional monsoon brings rain by May.

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Indonesia: Elephants trample man to death

Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 24 Mar 15;

An oil palm plantation watchman, Waklung, 52, died after being trampled by a herd of feral elephants not far from his house in Koto Pait hamlet, Serai Wangi village, Pinggir district, Bengkalis regency.

Head of the local environmental group, Mandau Nature Society, Zul Husni Syukri, said the incident took place on March 21 at around 8 p.m. local time.

“The incident occurred when hamlet residents were driving away a herd of around 30 wild elephants that had entered their farms seeking food,” Zul told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Oil palm farmers jointly drove away the elephants whenever they came near, he added.

The herd of elephants was driven to a farm owned by Tewin, a local resident. Waklung was on guard duty.

“Residents stopped chasing the elephants at the farm watched by Waklung. They thought Waklung was away and were unaware he was resting in his hut,” said Zul.

The residents were then startled by screams coming from Tewin’s farm. After investigating they found Waklung, who hailed from Kalimantan, dead on the ground.

As forested areas have been converted into farms, elephants tend to migrate between neighboring plantations. Whenever elephants come, farmers join together to move them away, generally moving from one plantation to another.

According to Zul, the farm guarded by Waklung is located just 6 kilometers from the where a wild elephant was shot and killed, its tusks hacked off by poachers on Feb. 10 this year.

“One of the poachers, arrested by the Riau Police, hails from Koto Pait. Residents believe the dead elephant came from the same herd that trampled Waklung. Residents of Pinggir believe the incident to be an act of vengeance,” said Zul.

According to him, residents have long believed that wild animals like tigers and elephants exact revenge if one of their group is killed.

Zul has urged the relevant authorities to take action so as to prevent the same from happening again. “The provincial government must act, as it has so far been keeping quiet as residents confront wild animals,” he said.

World Wide Fund for Nature Indonesia’s (WWF) Riau program spokesperson Syamsidar said he believed the herd of elephants came from the Balai Raja Wildlife Refuge in Mandau district, Bengkalis.

“Currently, the elephant-passage to Mandau is hampered by the West Duri Ring Road project. They are afraid to cross when heading home to Balai Raja due to the huge number of workers, so they are trapped at residents’ farms,” said Syamsidar.

The WWF and other environmental groups have urged the local administration to reconsider the road project due to its deleterious effect on the elephant habitat.

“As the road bisects the natural elephant track, human-to-elephant conflict increases. Elephants have never altered their roaming range and the routes they use are the same their whole life,” added Syamsidar.

Syamsidar also urged the government to restore, or reinstate, the function of the Balai Raja Wildlife Refuge, most of which has been damaged and converted into oil palm farms. Of the 18,000 hectares (ha) in the original refuge area, just 150 ha of forest remain intact.

“It is unfortunate that the Balai Raja Wildlife Refuge is allowed to be converted into oil palm farms. Protection of the area must be enhanced because the conservation area is an elephant habitat with the second-largest elephant population in Riau. When the source of food in nature runs out, the elephants will switch to the residents’ farms,” Syamsidar added

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