Best of our wild blogs: 4 Aug 15

Kick off the Jubilee weekend with a mangrove cleanup!
Otterman speaks

Terumbu Hantu in the rain
wild shores of singapore

Media Coverage of the Sperm Whale Found off Jurong Island
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Nesting bulbul: 5. An empty nest
Bird Ecology Study Group

Bougainvillea, food plant for the Lime Butterfly
Bird Ecology Study Group

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Public debate to advance with civil society's participation: DPM Tharman

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam says it will "do Singapore good" if there are more debate and peer review within civil society itself.
Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia 3 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE: Public debate in Singapore should advance with civil society playing a greater role in discussions, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday (Aug 3).

Mr Tharman made the point as he launched a book, titled Singapore 2065: Leading Insights on Economy and Environment from 50 Icons and Beyond, which addresses the future of Singapore's economy and environmental landscape today.

"We have more ideas and views coming from scholars, public intellectuals, and a broader range of commentators today compared to even a decade ago. There is more active scrutiny of Government policies, and more active listening by Government," he said.

"But it will do Singapore good if we also have more debate and peer review within civil society itself, with participants evaluating each other’s analyses and proposals, and pointing to the trade-offs, thoroughly and dispassionately. This debate, which does not depend on only the Government responding to arguments being put forward, will help us mature as a society," he added.

The book had roped in ministers, prominent economists, veteran diplomats as well as business leaders, and these include Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh as well as CEO of Banyan Tree Ho Kwon Ping.

A common point raised by writers is that measures of Singapore's economic success are changing. Apart from GDP growth, there is the need to consider other aspects such as the overall quality of life, the magnitude of carbon emissions and extent of income inequality.

Some writers also looked at possibilities that could happen in 2065 and beyond. Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Professor Kishore Mahbubani for example, postulated that Singapore may finally abolish private ownership of cars in 2065.

Mr Tharman said the book will make a valuable contribution to a healthy debate on the choices Singapore will make as the country goes forward together.

- CNA/kk

'More debate within civil society good for S'pore'
Chia Yan Min, Straits Times AsiaOne 4 Aug 15;

Singapore will benefit from having more debate between groups in society as it enters its next 50 years, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

That debate is already under way, he noted, citing how more ideas and views are coming from scholars, public intellectuals and a broader range of commentators compared to even a decade ago.

This is also bringing with it a "more active scrutiny of government policies, and more active listening by Government," said Mr Tharman, who was speaking at a book launch.

He continued: "But it will do Singapore good if we also have more debate and peer review within civil society itself, with participants evaluating each other's analyses and proposals, and pointing to the trade-offs, thoroughly and dispassionately. This debate, which does not depend on only the Government responding to arguments being put forward, will help us mature as a society."

The book - Singapore 2065: Leading Insights On Economy And Environment From 50 Singapore Icons And Beyond - invites readers to imagine a future where Singapore exports water, foreign workers are bionic and people live in 400-storey apartments.

Prominent economists, Straits Times journalists, Cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament were among the contributors to the book, which was edited by Nanyang Technological University economist Euston Quah.

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, wrote the foreword. He said Singapore's future will depend on its ability to develop new skills and technologies, original business solutions and a spirit of experimentation in society.

"We are making an even better Singapore, both more innovative and more inclusive," Mr Tharman said, adding that this must be done through a "blend of imagination and practicality that got us to where we are today, and always with a sense of fairness".

Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the audience at the Singapore Art Museum, where the book was launched, that he is optimistic about Singapore's future. "I have no doubt that we will remain a sovereign country, but we will be sovereign and independent in a very different world (that is highly integrated)," said Prof Koh, who cited economic integration efforts in ASEAN and on a larger scale, in the Asia-Pacific.

To remain competitive, Singapore must continue to embrace change and technology, as well as rejig its educational and employment landscape towards cultivating craftsmanship and deep skills, added Prof Koh, who is among the book's contributors.

"One of the reasons for our success over the last 50 years is our capacity to constantly reinvent ourselves and our positive attitude towards change and technology."

While there are new faultlines emerging which might threaten social stability, Singapore has been successful at maintaining a harmonious multicultural society, and there is no reason why this will not continue, he added.

"We should grow a culture of tolerance. We can have different attitudes towards issues, without seeing each other as enemies."

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Malaysia: Online ‘tamu’ running wild with sale of animals

MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 4 Aug 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Protected animals such as clouded leopards and sun bears are being offered on sale through private groups on Facebook and WhatsApp.

These online tamu (market) are trading a wide range of protected animals, birds, leopard cats, slow lorises, turtles and even dolphins.

“So far, we have charged one person in court for trading in the protected clouded leopard,” Sabah Wildlife Depart­ment director William Baya said yesterday. (On July 30, a Malaysian was charged in a magistrate’ court for possessing a clouded leopard.)

Declining to comment more on the case as it was now pending in the court, he said that various birds and reptiles were offered on such online groups.

One group even claimed to have about 27,000 members.

“It was initially an open group but it is closed now,” he said, adding that they had been operating for more than six months.

The department, he said, was monitoring members of the groups.

A clouded leopard could cost RM6,000 to RM8,000, while pangolins, if sold for the meat, cost about RM80 to RM100 per kilo. Pangolin scales fetch up to RM400 per kilo in the illegal wildlife market.

“We believe that it is for the local market. Some are buying them as pets. It has not yet gone international,” he said.

He urged those in possession of any protected species to surrender them to the department immediately and no action would be taken against them.

Those who fail to get proper permits or surrender such protected animals could face up to five years in jail, RM50,000 fine or both under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment.

“This (online trade) is a new trend. It is unlike wildlife poaching for bush meat, which is also a threat, but online wildlife trade has become more dangerous and extensive than ever before,” he said.

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Indonesia: Drought Sets In Across Java, Threatening Livelihoods and Food Security

Ari Susanto & Vento Saudale Jakarta Globe 3 Aug 15;

Government officials are concerned rice production will be hampered by the drought. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Solo/Bogor/Jakarta. The Central Java government has earmarked funds in anticipation of a clean-water crisis during this year’s dry season, which is expected to be unusually long due to the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Officials have expressed concerns that such a severe drought throughout the province could threaten food security across Java, as the area’s rice paddies are one of the country’s main sources.

“We have decided to allocate Rp 20 billion [$1.4 million] to lessen drought and water deficiency in impacted villages by distributing clean water,” Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said in Solo over the weekend

However, Ganjar said one remaining problem is that water sources used for irrigation continue to deplete and eventually crops will fail. The government, he said, was seeking solutions by providing ground water for farming.

“The most plausible way is installing deep wells in farm field areas. Otherwise the farmer will harvest nothing,” he said.

In February, President Joko Widodo visited Sukoharjo and urged farmers in Central Java to increase paddy crops by two million tons to reach almost 12 million tons this year. Joko targeted rice production to support his goal of achieving a national rice surplus by 2017 so that the government can end rice imports.

With around 1.8 million hectares of farm field, Central Java produced 10 million tons rice in 2013, which slightly dropped to 9.6 million tons in 2014. Despite the drought, Ganjar was still optimistic paddy production in Central Java would meet the target.

The Central Java Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) has spotted around 500 villages in the province that are experiencing water crises, mainly in the south and northern parts of the province, including in Wonogiri, Sukoharjo, Klaten, Sragen, Boyolali, Purworejo, Kebumen, Cilacap, Purbalingga, Brebes, Tegal, Pemalang, Jepara, Demak, Rembang, Pati, Grobogan and Blora.

BPBD head Sarwa Pramana said that drought would be worse this year as the dry season was predicted to end in or even after November. The Indonesian dry season rarely lasts beyond October.

Five of the 39 dam lakes in the province have already dried up — three in Sragen and one each in Pati and Grobogan – while water levels in more than 15 other dam lakes continue to diminish.

In Klaten, the local government has announced a drought emergency response. The Klaten BPBD has allocated Rp 500 million ($37,000) as it anticipates low water levels in around 34 villages. The agency has already distributed 500,000 liters of clean water to residents.

Meanwhile, around 7,000 hectares of rain-irrigated paddy fields in north Boyolali have been left unplanted as no rain has fallen during the dry season. The area now consists of completely dry terrain with insufficient ground water for irrigation.

“The farmers wait for rain to plant paddy as there are no other water sources,” said Bambang Purwadi, a Boyolali agriculture official.

102 Indonesian districts suffer from drought: Mitigation Agency
Antara 1 Aug 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesia National Disaster Mitigation Agency has said that at least 102 districts in Indonesia are experiencing drought due to the lack of natural water supplies and the ongoing dry season.

The Head of Public Relation of the agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said there is currently a reduction of some 20 billion cubic meters of water in some areas.

"To date, droughts have occurred in 721 sub-districts in 102 districts or cities of 16 provinces in Indonesia," Sutopo said here on Saturday.

Several provinces that are suffering from droughts include Banten, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, Bengkulu, Papua, and East Nusa Tenggara.

Sutopo added that West Nusa Tenggara, South Sumatra, South Sulawesi, Lampung, Riau, South Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, as well as Bali, have also experienced drought.

The government noted that provinces that are suffering from droughts have been located in Central Java, West Java, East Java, Lampung, South Sumatra and Bali.

The droughts also affect 111,000 hectares of agricultural fields, which are now parched lands. The agency predicted the condition will expand to other areas.

The drought in Indonesia has been occurring for more than ten years.

"According to the National Development Planning Board's research in 2003, there were 92 districts in Java Island which suffered from a lack of water from one to eight months of the year," Sutopo said.

Further, at least 38 areas out of 92 districts have water shortages more than eight months each year.

Additionally, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the construction of water reservoirs in several areas in Indonesia have become part of an important effort to handle drought. Thus, Kalla supports the accelerated construction of water reservoirs.

Ministry prepares Rp 880b to anticipate drought 3 Aug 15;

The Agriculture Ministry says it has specially allocated Rp 880 billion (US$65.12 million) to anticipate the impacts of drought on the agriculture sector.

Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman said in Jakarta on Monday that the ministry had readied Rp 2 trillion to repair tertiary irrigation systems nationwide.

“The House of Representatives Commission IV, which oversees agriculture, has just given us approval to use Rp 880 billion of the total budget to tackle drought in several areas,” he said as quoted by Antara news agency after a coordination meeting on drought at the ministry.

Representatives of relevant institutions, such as the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) and the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry, attended the meeting.

Amran said that at present, around 17,000 hectares of the total 9.2 million ha of paddies in Indonesia had suffered harvest failure due to drought. They were located in Central Java, Lampung and West Java, among other areas.

He said the government had anticipated the long dry spell, which began in December 2014, by, among others things, distributing 21,000 water pumps to farmers, developing 1,000 embung (small artificial lakes) and repairing 1.3 million ha of tertiary irrigation systems.

Amran said the government had expanded the coverage of paddies by 400,000 ha during the period of October-March, to compensate for harvest failure in several areas.

The minister said only around 110,000 ha of agricultural land had been affected by drought so far this year, lower than 250,000 last year.

Commission IV head Edhy Prabowo said the government must focus its attention on tackling the drought. He said the commission supported the Agriculture Ministry’s work on the issue, including by allowing the ministry to shift a portion of its budget to cover drought-tackling efforts in several areas. (ebf)(+++)

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Indonesia: Hotspots detected in C. Kalimantan

Antara 4 Aug 15;

Sampit (ANTARA News) - As many as 25 hotspots were detected in several areas of Kotawaringin Timur district in Central Kalimantan on Monday, according to Haji Asan Sampit Airports Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.

"Of the 25 hotspots, 13 were detected in the sub-district of Mentaya Hilir Selatan, while the 12 others were spotted in the sub-districts of Mentaya Hilir Utara, Kota Besi and Mentawa Baru Ketapang," Yulida Warni, the head of the regional branch of the agency, said here on Monday.

A majority of the hotspots were detected in the sub-districts of Mentaya Hilir Selatan and Mentaya Hilir Utara because the large peat lands in these regions are experiencing a prolonged drought, Warni explained.

The hotspots need to be checked on ground level so that fire brigades can respond immediately if they are found to be bush or forest fires, she pointed out.

On Monday afternoon, local firefighters attempted to extinguish land fires in the neighborhood of Jenderal Sudirman Street in Sampit city.

Moreover, certain areas of Mentawa Baru Ketapang and Baamang sub-districts were hit by recurring land fires over the past few weeks, Yanto, a local resident, stated.

"Several days ago, the land fires nearly reached our housing complex. This is why we are helping firefighters douse the flames. However, we do not know what is causing the land fires," the resident of Tidar Housing Complex remarked.

(Reported by Norjani/Uu.R013/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

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Stop burning fossil fuels now: there is no CO2 'technofix', scientists warn

Researchers have demonstrated that even if a geoengineering solution to CO2 emissions could be found, it wouldn’t be enough to save the oceans
Tim Radford The Guardian 3 Aug 15;

German researchers have demonstrated once again that the best way to limit climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels now.

In a “thought experiment” they tried another option: the future dramatic removal of huge volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This would, they concluded, return the atmosphere to the greenhouse gas concentrations that existed for most of human history – but it wouldn’t save the oceans.

That is, the oceans would stay warmer, and more acidic, for thousands of years, and the consequences for marine life could be catastrophic.

The research, published in Nature Climate Change today delivers yet another demonstration that there is so far no feasible “technofix” that would allow humans to go on mining and drilling for coal, oil and gas (known as the “business as usual” scenario), and then geoengineer a solution when climate change becomes calamitous.

Sabine Mathesius (of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) and colleagues decided to model what could be done with an as-yet-unproven technology called carbon dioxide removal. One example would be to grow huge numbers of trees, burn them, trap the carbon dioxide, compress it and bury it somewhere. Nobody knows if this can be done, but Dr Mathesius and her fellow scientists didn’t worry about that.

They calculated that it might plausibly be possible to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at the rate of 90bn tons a year. This is twice what is spilled into the air from factory chimneys and motor exhausts right now.

The scientists hypothesised a world that went on burning fossil fuels at an accelerating rate – and then adopted an as-yet-unproven high technology carbon dioxide removal technique.

“Interestingly, it turns out that after ‘business as usual’ until 2150, even taking such enormous amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere wouldn’t help the deep ocean that much - after the acidified water has been transported by large-scale ocean circulation to great depths, it is out of reach for many centuries, no matter how much CO2 is removed from the atmosphere,” said a co-author, Ken Caldeira, who is normally based at the Carnegie Institution in the US.

The oceans cover 70% of the globe. By 2500, ocean surface temperatures would have increased by 5C and the chemistry of the ocean waters would have shifted towards levels of acidity that would make it difficult for fish and shellfish to flourish. Warmer waters hold less dissolved oxygen. Ocean currents, too, would probably change.

How to join the divestment movement – your questions answered
Anyone with a checking account, savings or a 401(k) will almost certainly have money invested in oil, gas and coal companies. Find out how to divest by reviewing the questions and answers in this live chat with our expert panel
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But while change happens in the atmosphere over tens of years, change in the ocean surface takes centuries, and in the deep oceans, millennia. So even if atmospheric temperatures were restored to pre-Industrial Revolution levels, the oceans would continue to experience climatic catastrophe.

“In the deep ocean, the chemical echo of this century’s CO2 pollution will reverberate for thousands of years,” said co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who directs the Potsdam Institute. “If we do not implement emissions reductions measures in line with the 2C target in time, we will not be able to preserve ocean life as we know it.”

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