Best of our wild blogs: 4 Apr 15

Green Drinks (April) – Reducing Carbon Emissions
from Green Drinks Singapore

Common Chaser Ovipositing
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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Dry spell is ending, bring out the brollies

Carolyn Khew The Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Apr 15;

Singapore's dry spell is coming to an end.

The total rainfall for the first half of this month is expected to be normal, in contrast to the past two months when there had been less rain than the long-term average.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in its latest fortnightly weather forecast that Singapore is expected to have short-duration thundery showers in the afternoons on six to eight days over the next fortnight - with heavy showers at times.

The next two weeks are also expected to have some warm days with temperatures reaching 34 deg C, and slightly hazy conditions.
The island recorded 45mm to 233mm of rain last month, with the lowest level in the eastern part.

The usual average rainfall for March is 185mm, according to the NEA.

The country's dry phase usually begins in February but this year it started in mid-January.

Assistant Professor Jason Cohen of the National University of Singapore's department of civil and environmental engineering said there is "no scientific consensus" for this development, but global climate change could be one possibility.

"During the inter-monsoon period, it won't be as dry due to sporadic thunderstorms," he said. "The rain amount will go up."

The NEA also said that in the next two weeks, inter-monsoon conditions are expected to prevail across the region, with winds mostly light and variable in direction.

During this season, the Sun is directly above the Equator due to the tilt of the Earth's axis. This accounts for a higher midday temperature in equatorial countries like Singapore.

The hotter temperature is also what causes downpours later in the day. As the surface heats up, warm air rises into the atmosphere, cools down and the water vapour condenses to produce clouds, and eventually rain.

In Singapore, it is more likely to rain during the inter-monsoon season compared to other countries near the Equator because the island is surrounded by a lot of water, according to Dr Cohen.

"Equatorial countries with a large land fraction will see these effects only along their coastlines," he added.

For Ms Soon Kam Mee, 57, the expected rainy weather means it will take longer for her laundry to dry.

"It will definitely be inconvenient but no choice. Hopefully it will be windier so the clothes can dry quickly," said the housewife, who works part-time at a restaurant.

Mr Adaldo Salvatore, manager of Italian restaurant Rosso Vino in Robertson Quay, plans to enclose a section of his outdoor seating area with glass panels, allowing customers to "eat out" while still sheltered.

The 25-year-old said: "In November and December, it rained almost every day and my business was really affected."

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Malaysia: Roadkills running into thousands from 2006

PATRICK LEE The Star 4 Apr 15;

PETALING JAYA: A dead tapir was the last thing Vicki Chew, 27, expected to see on the road to Kemaman.

Abandoned and alone, it had come to die by the East Coast roadside in February, presumably killed by a passing motorist.

“My boyfriend was driving along the highway when we spotted the tapir. He kept on driving, but I told him to go back.

“I couldn’t bear leaving it lying there just like that,” the Universiti Malaysia Terengganu student told The Star.

Getting out, she ran to take a closer look. It seemed untouched except for a wound near its spine.

Before continuing her journey, she called the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat), who then called the authorities.

The tapir Chew found is one of possibly hundreds, if not thousands, of wild animals killed by vehicles while trying to cross roads here each year.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) said 1,924 wild animals were reported killed on the road from June 2006 to June last year.

“Most were mammals such as civets, wild boars, macaques, leopard cats and tapirs,” a spokesman said.

Roadkill, he said, were mainly found on highways close to forests and identified seven stretches where these occurred. These included Lipis-Gua Musang, Kuala Krai-Gua Musang, Kulai-Kota Tinggi.

The spokesman said many more deaths might have gone unreported.

To stop this, he said millions of ringgit had been spent to build warning signs and raise road platforms known as viaducts.

Though he did not specify the exact amount, it is understood that more than RM100mil had been spent on viaducts alone.

However, he said deaths continued because of wildlife habitats being destroyed, poor mitigation after highways were built and broken roadside fencing.

He said more roadkills would occur if official plans preserving forest areas were not followed, especially in areas which are within or nearby wildlife habitats.

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Malaysia: Businesses in Johor forced to close due to water disruption

SIM BAK HENG New Straits Times 3 Apr 15;

JOHOR BARU: Food sellers are forced to shut down their business today as their tap runs dry since yesterday following the closure of two water treatment plants along Sungai Johor.

The closure was due to water contamination caused by oil spill along a 15-kilometre stretch of the river.

Businesses which largely depend on water to operate such as saloons, laundry shops and car wash, could only offer limited service or even have to stop their service.

Food seller Hussain Yusof, of Bandar Baru Uda, said he couldn't open his food stall this morning as there was no water supply.

"Food business is always the most severely affected whenever there is water disruption, as we need water to make drinks and for cleaning purpose.

"As I operate my business only in the morning, I could not open my stall today at all. This is a big loss.

"Even at home, my tap runs dry starting yesterday afternoon, it was not easy to sleep last night without bathing, especially when the weather is hot these days," he said.

Saloon owner Anika Turis said she could only offer hair cut today, but no perming and washing service as both need plenty of water.

"Surprisingly there was no water disruption notice this time, or else we will have enough time to store some water," she said.

Housewife Lily Foong, from Taman Impian Emas, said it is annoying to sleep without bathing last night, and to wait up without any water to bath and brush teeth.

She hoped the water supply will resume by today, as it is very irritating to live without water.

It was reported a major oil spill which occurred at the upstream of Sungai Johor has forced SAJ Holding Sdn Bhd, the concessionaire which supplies treated water in Johor, to shut down the operations of the Semanggar and Sungai Johor treatment plants from 8am on Thursday.

As a result of the closure, some 1.25 million people from a total of 250,000 establishments, including households, living in Johor Baru, Nusajaya and part of Kulaijaya are expected to experience water disruption.

Immediately after the discovery of the oil slick, the Johor government had mobilised officers from the Department of Environment, SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd and the Johor Health Department to come up with precautionary measures, such as installing silt-curtain like structure to prevent the spread of the oil spill further down the river.

Initial investigation traced the oil spill to a used tyre processing factory near Felda Taib Andak in Kulai.

There are five water treatment plants located along Sungai Johor. The other three, which are located further down the river, are the Sungai Sayong, Linggiu, and Bandar Tenggara treatment plants.

Meanwhile, SAJ Holdings head of corporate communication Jamaluddin Jamil said the two treatment plants had resumed operation from 11.30am today.

Factory owner linked to spill
YEE XIANG YUN The Star 4 Apr 15;

JOHOR BARU: The owner of a factory that may have caused an oil spill in Sungai Johor could face legal action for negligence.

If the water samples collected from the drains near the factory in Felda Taib Andak, Kulaijaya, and Sungai Johor match, the factory owner could be charged soon, said state Department of Environment director Mokhtar Abdul Majid.

He said the samples were collected on Thursday and had been sent to the Chemical Department to be tested.

“We will compile the investigation papers and submit them to the Public Prosecutor’s office for further action,” he said yesterday.

Mokhtar said the state DOE had sealed the factory and directed it to stop operations pending the outcome of the chemical report.

“Usually it takes about two weeks but in urgent cases like this, we will push for the results,” he said.

Workers from the factory which believed to be the caused of the huge oil slick in Sungai Johor gathering the fabric sheets used to contain oil at Sungai Johor near Kulaijaya. ABDUL RAHMAN EMBONG / The Star.

The oil spill was believed to be diesel-based and could have come from tyre burning, which produces oil as a by-product.

The spill forced the Semangar and Sungai Johor water treatment plants to be closed, affecting some 500,000 residents in parts of Nusajaya, Kulaijaya, Ulu Tiram and here.

Checks by The Star found that stacks of used tyres were stored in a vacant land next to the factory.

A visit to a stream that supplies water to the treatment plants saw some workers putting up an oil boom with fabric sheets to contain the spill.

Sungai Johor and Semangar water treatment plants resumed operations at 9am and 11.30am respectively yesterday.

Syarikat Air Johor (SAJ) corporate communications chief Jamaluddin Jamal said continuous filtering and treatment had to be done to ensure that it was safe for consumption before the plants were reopened.

Water supply was restored in stages after that.

For more information, contact the SAJ Info Centre hotline at 1800-88-7474 or SMS 019-772 7474 or email

Water running again in three major Johor districts

KOTA TINGGI: The Sungai Johor water treatment plant here resumed operations at 9am Friday a day after it was closed due to oil spill.

The plant, and another one in Semangar, were closed on Thursday after the oil spill was detected along Sungai Johor, causing major water supply disruption to some 500,000 consumers in Johor Baru, Kulaijaya and Nusajaya.

Syarikat Air Johor corporate communications chief Jamaluddin Jamal said the Semangar water treatment plant was still closed as the water still reeked of diesel odour.

He said the public will receive water supply in stages from the Sungai Johor water treatment plant throughout today.

For more information, contact the SAJ Info Centre hotline at 1800-88-7474 or SMS 019-772 7474 or email

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Controversial mine threatens Indonesian dive mecca

Activists are taking legal action to try and stop mining on the tiny Indonesian island of Bangka, a hotspot of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle.
Johnny Langenheim The Guardian 3 Apr 15;

Bangka is a tiny 480 sq km island situated just off the northern tip of Sulawesi Island, Indonesia in the heart of the Coral Triangle. It’s just 30km from Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi province. Bangka borders a marine park that protects two world famous dive sites, Bunaken and Lembeh, although many divers consider Bangka’s reefs to be just as impressive, not least the dive operators that run resorts there. The seascape here is a global hotspot of marine biodiversity, supporting rare species like pygmy sea horses, leaf fish and dugongs as well as turtles, white tip reef sharks and even whales. But an allegedly illegal mining operation is said to be changing the face of the island and threatening the fertile waters that surround it.

Under Indonesian law, mining on islands smaller than 2,000 sq km that adversely affects the local environment is prohibited. PT Mikgro Metal Perdana (MMP), an Indonesian subsidiary of Hong Kong based Aempire Resource Group, has been seeking licenses to extract iron ore from Bangka since 2008. According to dive operators and local residents, the company has already caused extensive environmental damage, including coastal excavation and land reclamation near sensitive coral reefs. Yet the company has enjoyed the support of officials at both the local and national level.

Sompie Singal, head of the North Minahasa Regency where Bangka is located, has issued a series of permits for MMP to explore for iron ore in a 2000ha concession – almost half of Bangka’s total area. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was approved by 26 out of 27 government officials and specialists, despite the global significance of Bangka’s coastal ecosystems and its close proximity to the Bunaken National Park, home to some of the highest levels of marine biodiversity on earth. Veronica Kumurur, Head of Urban and Regional Planning at Sam Ratunlangi University in Manado gave the only No vote. “They didn’t submit a detailed engineering plan, so how could we assess the environmental impact?” she says. “They also wanted to build a dam and a smelter on the island. I don’t think that is possible without damaging Bangka’s unique ecosystems.”

In July 2014, former Minister for Energy & Minerals Jero Wacik, who is currently under investigation for alleged graft in two unrelated cases, issued MMP a license to operate. This appears to directly contravene a ruling by Indonesia’s Supreme Court in September 2013 that effectively blocked further mining exploration on Bangka.

But MMP claims the license issued by Wacik shortly before his resignation invalidates the prior ruling. Images taken by tourists and dive operators as recently as this month appear to show the ongoing development of coastal roads, concrete jetties constructed over reefs for the landing of heavy machinery and nearby corals swamped in sediment. In February last year, angry locals tried to prevent an MMP boat carrying mining vehicles from landing on Bangka and a few months later, a group of divers claimed that MMP security threw rocks at them and deleted photos they had taken of damaged coral. On 18 March the Jakarta Post reported that 18 Chinese nationals were alleged to be working on the island illegally.

Save Bangka Island, a coalition of local people, environmentalists, divers and activists that has received support from Greenpeace and, is leading the campaign to stop the mining. Indonesian rock stars Slank, who have visited Bangka on a number of occasions, are also supporting protest action. The Bangka Conservation Fund is running a crowd funding campaign to challenge MMP and its supporters in the courts on behalf of nine plaintiffs seeking to revoke the operating license issued by Jero Wacik, which they say is illegal.

The legal morass surrounding developments in Bangka is all too common in Indonesia, with local officials issuing controversial permits to extract natural resources, sometimes in violation of national laws. Corruption within the judicial system can make it all the more difficult to challenge controversial resource extraction contracts. As of March 2015, local administrators in North Sulawesi had issued a total of 145 mining licenses (IUP) according to Marly Gumalag, head of the General Mining Sector of the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources in North Sulawesi. At a recent meeting with tourism industry representatives in Manado, North Sulawesi governor Sinyo Harry Sarundajang played down the reported impacts of the mining development, calling into question evidence of negative environmental impacts.

On 12 March, a delegation of Supreme Court representatives, the nine local plaintiffs suing MMP and the three lawyers representing them, carried out an official inspection of mining sites on Bangka. According to Didi Koleangan from NGO the People’s Alliance Against Mining (AMMALTA), local people including seven of the nine plaintiffs were prevented from taking part by police. She also stated that MMP removed heavy equipment ahead of the inspection, a claim supported by dive operators on the island. An MMP spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

The current court case challenges the legality of the license to operate issued by the Ministry for Energy & Minerals. A verdict is expected in the next two months. Many environmentalists view Bangka as a crucial test case that could play a major role in determining the fate of other small, ecologically sensitive islands in Indonesia that harbour natural resources. The bigger question is whether the world’s largest archipelagic nation can manage its marine resources sustainably - a key element in President Joko Widodo’s grand plan to turn Indonesia into a major maritime power.

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