Best of our wild blogs: 10 Aug 15

50 creatures in CCNR for SG50!
BES Drongos

Happy 50th Bday Singapore! Wishes from the Forests of Singapore!

Looking back on the past 5 years
Life of a common palm civet

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The next SG50: Singapore Green 50

Kavickumar Muruganathan The Straits Times 19 Aug 15;

Ensuring that the little Red Dot remains Green for generations to come requires the unified effort of all Singaporeans
As we commemorate 50 years of blissful independence, it is timely that we take a moment to reminisce about our environmental journey over the last decades. It all started with the bold vision of our first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, envisioning and pioneering a garden city which once used to have two thirds of its population dwelling in squatter settlements.

We have come a long way since the tree-planting campaign in 1963 and the Keep Singapore Clean campaign in 1968. Today, we stand tall among the Asian tigers as a hallmark of environmental excellence and a role model for sustainable development. We have overcome our lack of natural water resources by establishing a robust and diversified water supply.

Our need for a resilient and sustained power source has witnessed the building of liquefied natural gas terminals which will contribute up to 95.5 per cent of fuel for electricity generation in the near future.

Singapore's environmental successes have been lauded and recognised on many fronts, both regionally and internationally. However, the environmental challenges confronting us in the next few decades are significant and daunting. With the national population slated to rise to as high as 6.9 million by 2030, it is all the more important that our resources are utilised effectively. The need for more dense urban housing precincts would mean that we need to forge ahead with the fine balancing act of complementing our cityscapes with lush greenery and conserving what's left of our primary rainforest.

With an increased population comes the issue of greater waste generation. With landfill space slated to run out in Pulau Semakau by 2035, we need to boost our current recycling rates to meet our national recycling target of 70 per cent by 2030. Of particular concern would be the low recycling rates for common types of waste disposed of - such as plastic and food, which accounted for recycling rates of only 9 per cent and 13 per cent respectively last year.

Private cars contribute the largest share of emissions by the transport sector at 35 per cent. Under the Land Transport Masterplan, Singapore aims to encourage 70 per cent of commuters to take public transport by 2020. With the recently revised Carbon Emissions-based Vehicles scheme a possible deterrent to potential car buyers, plans to increase the length of cycling paths from the current 230km to 700km by 2030 should give impetus to alternative forms of low-emission modes of transportation. Coupled with car-sharing schemes and the potential licensing of electric vehicles, Singapore should be on course to meet its intended targets of reducing its emissions intensity by 36 per cent (from 2005 levels) by 2030, and stabilise emissions to peak around 2030.

Singapore's small physical size and its high population density and geographical location make its approach to adopting alternative energy forms complex. Prospects for geothermal energy are low and the lack of major river systems prevents us from harnessing hydroelectric power. Surrounding calm waters are insufficient for tidal power generation while wind speeds render the potential of wind energy negligible.

While we have come thus far together as a nation, we need to continually be receptive to new ideas and adopt best practices from around the world. Let us continue to work on our perceived weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
That leaves us with solar energy. Earlier this year, the Housing Board (HDB) called the first solar leasing tender consolidating demand across multiple government agencies for installation of solar panels. This tender is the largest to date in the public and private sectorsand will see solar photovoltaic systems installed at eight government sites involving an estimated 900 HDB blocks.

With high levels of urban shading and the presence of high cloud cover across Singapore, intermittency and intensity of solar energy generated have always posed concerns. Nonetheless, on the whole, with the aid of research and development, solar energy has established itself as a commercially feasible source of clean and sustainable energy for Singapore, especially for large-scale installations which enjoy economies of scale.

While we have come thus far together as a nation, we need to continually be receptive to new ideas and adopt best practices from around the world. Let us continue to work on our perceived weaknesses and turn them into strengths. On a national level, we need to earnestly explore the possibility of transiting to a circular economy backed with sustainable procurement policies. We must continue to diversify our pool of resources to meet greater challenges ahead and remain prudent in their use.

As we feel the slight effects of climate change rearing its head, with temperatures forecast to increase if greenhouse gas emissions are not abated, a unified effort is required by all Singaporeans to ensure that the little Red Dot remains Green for generations to come.

The writer is Head (Eco-Certifications) and Lead Environmental Engineer at Singapore Environment Council.

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Malaysia: Berjaya Corp lays concrete tubes to propagate coral reefs

FIRDAOUS FADZIL The Star 10 Aug 15;

PULAU TIOMAN: The Berjaya Corp­­o­­ration Group of Companies has embarked on a coral reef pro­pagation project to help sustain marine life.

Under a project called “Shelter in the Sea” costing about RM200,000, 67 concrete pipes of different sizes have been laid on the seabed between Berjaya Tioman Resort’s dive centre – the hotel and facility operated by the company – and Rengis Island in Pahang.

Berjaya Group chairman and founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan, himself an avid diver for some 30 years, said he had an affinity for the sea and felt obligated to preserve the island’s beauty.

“Pulau Tioman is one of the most beautiful spots in Malaysia and we are mindful of the importance of preserving the reefs around it.

“Diving is my only hobby. Not golf,” he told reporters at Berjaya Tioman Resort here on Friday after the laying of the pipes.

Explaining the choice of pipes, Tan said they were selected as a sturdy foundation was essential in building artificial reefs.

“Concrete pipes are stronger and last longer, given that the waters here can get very rough, especially during the monsoon season,” he said, adding that having concrete pipes would also be an attraction to scuba divers as they served as artificial caves.

Ranging between 1m and 2.1m in diameter, the concrete pipes will provide shelter for marine species once corals start to grow on them.

Laid at 8m to 11m deep in a 50m by 50m area on the seabed, the area will become a coral garden to sustain the marine ecosystem.

Tan said prior to that, a detailed survey was conducted by a team of divers and marine biologists under the supervision of the Department of Marine Park Pahang.

“We will also plant corals on, inside and around the pipes to help them grow faster,” he said.

With Tan were his son, Berjaya Group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Robin Tan, and 7-Eleven Malaysia Holdings Bhd executive director Tan U-Ming.

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Indonesia: Three East Java reservoirs have dried up

Antara 6 Aug 15;

Bojonegoro (ANTARA News) - East Javas Pacal, Gondang, and Prijetan reservoirs have dried up as their water is mostly used to irrigate local rice fields, an official from the Bengawan Solo Water Resources Department stated here on Thursday.

"Currently, the exit gates of the three reservoirs in our work area are shut as there is no more water left in them," affirmed the Hirwono.

The remaining water in the reservoirs is left there to maintain them, otherwise their structure will incur damage, he noted.

Therefore, Hirwono urged the farmers to not temporarily plant rice during the current dry season, as there would be no water to irrigate their fields.

The water from the three reservoirs is mainly used to irrigate the nearby rice fields, so that the farmers can harvest the rice.

Hirwono stated that the current drought has been triggered by the "El Nino" phenomenon, which has led to an early dry season, given that the rains had stopped since June, unlike the previous year where it continued to rain in the dry season.

According to the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), the rainy season will start as usual in October-November.

Head section of the Water Resources Management Utilization of the Irrigation Department Dody Sigit Wijaya stated that the exit gates of the three reservoirs have already been closed since mid-July.

"We have estimated that the water left there in the reservoirs is only 850 thousand cubic meters," he revealed.

Based on the available data, the Pacal reservoir in Kedungsumber village, Temayang sub-district, has the capacity to store 42 million cubic meters of water, but currently, only 17 million cubic meters of water is left due to the damage incurred by the reservoirs structure.

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Indonesia: Minister Susi and Navy Team Up to Protect Indonesia’s Coral Reefs

Jakarta Globe 9 Aug 15;

Jakarta. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has again enlisted the help of the Navy — this time to protect Indonesia’s coral reefs, 70 percent of which are in damaged or heavily damaged condition.

Susi said only 30 percent of Indonesia’s 2.5 million hectares of coral reefs were currently in a good state, threatening the archipelago’s marine ecosystem and fisheries production.

“Coral reefs are production houses for fish; they must be guarded,” Susi said at an event in Jakarta last week as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

“There are no fish laying their eggs in the ocean. They must do so near coastal areas, on the sand, on coral reefs. When they have lost a place [to store their eggs], where would they do it?” she added.

The minister lamented the widespread coral damage, given that Indonesia is part of the Coral Triangle, which has been hailed as the global center for marine biodiversity. The area also covers Malaysia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

She blamed the rampant practice of blast fishing among Indonesian fishermen, as well as garbage dumping in to the sea, for the damage.

“Coral reef rescue actions will hopefully help Indonesia protect its marine richness potential through the protection, preservation and sustainable use of coral reefs,” Susi said.

As part of the rescue mission, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is set to expand Indonesia’s marine conservation areas from a total of 16.4 million hectares at present to 20 million hectares by 2020 — out of Indonesia’s 310 million hectares of water territory.

Susi said, though, that the ministry would not be able to guard the country’s remaining coral reefs alone, thus its enlisting of the Navy’s help.

Indonesian Navy spokesman Admiral Ade Supandi said the Navy was ready to support the ministry’s mission, having launched its own program called Save Our Littoral Life.

The program, he said, entails the protection of coastal ecosystem across the archipelago and is expected to support President Joko Widodo’s ambition to turn Indonesia into a “global maritime fulcrum.”

“We all know that these coral reefs, as well as mangrove forests, are living spaces and growth mediums for fish,” Ade said.

“And of course they are part of our geographical territory, which we must safeguard and whose quality we must improve,” he added.

As part of the program, and together with the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and civil society organizations, the Navy is targeting to grow coral in 54 locations inside 100 hectares of conservation areas this year.

Since the launch of the program in May, the Navy has planted coral in a number of coastal areas in Aceh, Lampung, Banten, Central Java and East Java provinces, Ade said.

Separately, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Indroyono Soesilo said the Navy had promised to monitor the planting locations to ensure the growth of coral reefs.

“[We've recorded] the coordinates of every location where the coral have been planted, so we can keep monitoring [the growth] and see the result in a year,” Indroyono said on Saturday, extending his praise for the Navy.

“This is proof of the Navy’s support for Indonesia’s maritime ambitions.”

He added the coral planting program was not only expected to restore marine ecosystem across targeted areas, but also to develop them into new marine tourism destinations.

“[This program] will benefit our marine ecosystem. And the tourism minister will benefit from this,” Indroyono said.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya agreed, saying ecological tourism was profitable because tourists were willing to pay more for a stay at well-protected marine conservation locations.

“Conserved locations offer more profit than selling coral as ornaments,” he said. “The more closely guarded [tourism sites] are, the more expensive they are.”

Prior to the conservation program, on Joko’s direct instruction and after Susi’s calls for help, the Navy last year agreed to help the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry combat foreign-flagged vessels poaching in Indonesian waters — having since blown up and sunk dozens of such vessels and arrested fishermen, triggering reactions from countries where the foreign fishing crew came from, including China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

National scene: 70 percent of RI’s coral reefs damaged
The Jakarta Post 10 Aug 15;

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said on Sunday that around 70 percent of the coral reefs in Indonesia had been damaged and needed to be restored.

“Currently, only 30 percent of the coral reefs are in good condition, while the remaining 70 percent are damaged,” she said on Sunday as quoted by Antara news agency.

Coral reefs have been damaged mostly due to human activities such as fishing with explosives and potassium and marine litter, she stated.

She said that actions to save coral reefs were expected to help preserve and protect coral reefs in a sustainable way.

A team from the Navy recently conducted a survey of the coral reefs off Sine Beach in Tulungagung Regency, East Java, to study the damaged coral reefs.

“In addition to identifying the coral reefs, we are also mapping out the areas for coral reef conservation in the southern part of the Tulungagung coastal area,” said team coordinator Maj. Mohammad Asad.

According to Asad, the survey will be progressively conducted in the offshore areas of Sine Beach, which covers an area of approximately seven hectares.

He said that the Naval personnel will undertake a coral reef conservation program by involving the participation of the local community in mid-August 2015.

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Indonesia: Jambi records 150 human-wildlife conflicts in past one year

Antara 6 Aug 15;

Jambi (ANTARA News) - Some 150 conflicts have occurred between humans and animals in Jambi Province during the past one year since most of the wildlife habitats have been converted into plantations.

The conflicts often occur in Berbak National Park located in East Tanjung Jabung District in PT LAJ company area and Bukit 30 areas in Kebo District, as well as in Kerinci Seblat National Park, Executive Director of the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) in Jambi Musri Nauli stated here.

"The conflicts only took place between humans and elephants and tigers. According to Walhis records, 150 cases are reported every year, which means that a conflict occurs every two days," he noted.

People have encroached upon animal habitats and converted them into public roads. As a result, the animals have ventured into villages and encountered the inhabitants, thus leading to unavoidable conflicts.

In Tebo District, the population of elephants has decreased in Bukit 30 areas of the national park due to conflicts with humans.

The population of tigers has also dropped to only 50. Due to human encroachment, tigers and elephants have been forced to trespass into human settlements in search of food and water, particularly during the dry season.

He urged the government to not allow companies to open new plantations in forest areas.

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Indonesia: 66 coal firms go bankrupt in Jambi

The Jakarta Post 8 Aug 15;

JAMBI: As many as 66 coal mining companies in Jambi had gone bankrupt due to plummeting coal prices, said a local official on Friday. Jambi Energy and Mineral Resources Agency head Gamal Husin said the latest data showed that only 11 out of 77 registered coal mining companies in the province were still operating.

“Only 11 companies are now still in operation, as they have a stable market. These companies supply coal to, among others, steam-powered electricity plants [PLTU] and gas-fueled power plants [PLTG]. The others, meanwhile, have closed their operations,” Gamal said.

He added the current price of coal ranged from Rp 300,000 (US$22) per ton, much lower than its earlier price, which ranged from Rp 900,000 or Rp 1 million per ton.

With many coal firms closing their operations, Gamal said the Jambi provincial administration had seen its income from coal royalties significantly drop in the past few years.

“The local administration used to get Rp 86 billion annually [from coal royalties], but now it only gets between Rp 20 billion and Rp 30 billion annually at the most,” he said.

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Myanmar: Nearly 1m affected by Myanmar floods

The Associated Press Financial Times 9 Aug 15;

NYAUNG KON VILLAGE, Myanmar — Nearly 1m people have been affected by floods across Myanmar as the death toll on Sunday climbed to almost 100.

Waters in the low-lying south-western delta inundated homes and forced villagers into temporary shelters, the government said. In some places, only the roofs of homes could be seen.

International aid was on the way following appeals by the government, but so far, most of the help has come from volunteers ferrying noodles, rice and clean water door-to-door in small boats.

Heavy monsoon rains that began in late June — compounded more recently by Cyclone Komen — have triggered some of Myanmar’s worst flash floods and landslides in recent memory. All but two of the country’s 14 states have been affected.

The death toll reached 99 on Sunday and more than 900,000 people have been affected — a third of them in the Irrawaddy Delta, said Phyu Lei Lei Tun, director of the ministry of social welfare, relief and resettlement.

It is here — in a desperately poor region known as the Rice Bowl — that several mighty rivers meet before feeding into the sea.

Downstream waters have caused river banks to burst, swallowing up rice paddies and homes.

Some of the affected people have been displaced, while others living in houses that have been inundated by flooding were unwilling to leave their homes.

Zin Mar Htun was seeking refuge in a school with six family members, including her 11-month-old son, after their house was flushed away in the raging waters. “We had our own raft, so we sought refuge here,” she said.

The UN pledged $9m in assistance this past week, but so far most help has come from private citizens and non-governmental organisations.

Myanmar’s appeal for help was in sharp contrast to its response following Cyclone Nargis in 2008, when the nation’s then-military rulers refused international aid and largely downplayed the destruction — though more than 100,000 people were killed.

A nominally civilian government now runs the country, but critics say it is not moving quickly enough to help those in need.

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