Best of our wild blogs: 3 Oct 15

A “hazy” dawn chorus
Bird Ecology Study Group

Solutions for Civet-Human Conflict: Alternatives to Traps
Life of a common palm civet in Singapore

Singapore Bird Report – September 2015
Singapore Bird Group

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Pulau Ubin far from sleepy: Researchers

Researchers hired by the National Heritage Board to document Pulau Ubin's social history found that it is "not at all a declining society and even has a thriving economy.
Kimberly Spykerman, News 5 Channel NewsAsia 2 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Pulau Ubin is just a short boat ride from mainland Singapore, but it could not be more different, with its rustic charm and laidback vibes. The island officially has 38 residents and efforts to document its living heritage have uncovered quite a few gems.

Recent research centred around the island has shown that there is still a demand for an alternative way of life. And that in itself has brought changes to the island's economy.

"One of the things that surprised us is how thriving Ubin is," said anthropologist Vivienne Wee. "It's not at all a declining society. People even come here to work. There are people running grocery stores, caretakers with the Tua Pek Kong Temple, bus drivers. They're all living in (mainland) Singapore, but coming here.

"So there is a thriving economy. And some of them did work in Singapore before, but they've chosen to come back here and work. So it's not that there are no economic opportunities."

Among the stories Dr Wee's team have uncovered is that of drinks seller Wang Ya San, who was born on Pulau Ubin. Her daughter, who shuttles between her home in Tampines and Pulau Ubin, also runs a mobile drinks stall on weekends.

"Life here is more tranquil," said Ms Wang's daughter, Ms Ivy Choo. "My mother has grown up here and is used to the environment. She loves it, that's why she stays here."

There is also 63-year-old Quek Kim Kiang, who has lived on the island for over 20 years. He makes a living catching crabs from the island's mangrove swamps using a traditional hooking technique and sells these crabs for about S$25 a kilogramme. Mr Quek even has a nine-year-old disciple, who comes regularly from the mainland to learn the art of crab-catching.

Said Mr Alvin Tan, assistant chief executive of Policy and Development at NHB: "The project is important because it allows NHB to document and to distil the island's living heritage - in terms of the people's memories, their way of life, the various trades being practised here - so that we can in a sense, document them and preserve them, and hopefully pass them on to future generations."

NHB added that a 20-minute documentary showcasing the island's residents is in the pipeline. Dr Wee's team expects to complete all research work by December or January. The team began work in April. To date, the project has documented different aspects of Pulau Ubin's rich heritage including Kampong life, island economy, and important events - like the annual Tua Pek Kong Festival.

NHB said the findings will be shared with Government agencies and the "Friends of Ubin" network to come up with more "sensitive strategies and initiatives" to sustain the island's rustic charm.

Study shows Pulau Ubin is thriving despite its dwindling population
STACEY LIM Today Online 2 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — While its population has dwindled over the decades to a mere 38 residents, Pulau Ubin remains socially connected to society at large and has its own small-scale local economy and culture, according to an ongoing study on the island’s social history.

Commissioned by the National Heritage Board (NHB), the cultural mapping project of Ubin finds that residents contentedly make a living off fishing and farming, selling their goods to each other and to visitors, and occasionally on the mainland. Special interest groups — from mountain bikers to nature enthusiasts — have also made efforts over the years to preserve the island’s charm.

The study, which is led by Dr Vivienne Wee, project director of strategic research consultancy Ethnographica, and involved four other researchers, started in April.

The researchers, who have talked to more than 40 former and current residents, expect to complete their field work by December or January.

A research report will be shared with government agencies and the Friends of Ubin Network for ideas and suggestions on how the heritage and rustic charm of Pulau Ubin can be enhanced for future generations.

Mr Alvin Tan, assistant chief executive of policy and development at the NHB, said: “Before we did this project, we do have some preconceptions that the economy and the people (on Ubin) might not be thriving ... (But) it is actually the opposite.

“There are a lot of community-initiated initiatives, a lot of people participating and making this whole island a thriving hub ...”

He added: “There are people who live on the mainland, but they come back because they have memories of growing up in Ubin ... So, the Ubin population based on the study is much bigger and more extensive than just the people who are staying (on the island) ...”

The research has also documented the rich and diverse social networks of the island, such as those who attend religious festivals, namely the annual Tua Pek Kong Festival, that are hosted on Ubin.

New interest groups, from mountain bikers to gardening enthusiasts, have also been making their way to the island.

Dr Wee said: “We need to value the knowledge that the people have as custodians of not just the Ubin culture, but the kampung way of life that no longer exists in Singapore.”

Ubin residents, who make an average of S$50 a day, cherish the simplicity of their lifestyle and the low cost of living there, the researchers found.

They run small businesses on the island, and engage in other activities such as fishing, farming vegetables, and growing fruit trees.

Ms Ivy Zhu, 52, who has been running a drinks stall with her mother, Madam Wong Ya San, 76, for the last 20 years, expressed her hope that the island remains protected from urban development.

“My mother is used to the quiet and simple lifestyle here,” she said in Mandarin.

In conjunction with the study, the NHB has launched a three-minute documentary featuring Mdm Wong on its YouTube HeritageTV platform. A 20-minute video documentary showcasing Ubin residents will be uploaded at a later date.

Pulau Ubin 'far from a dying town'

Madam Lai Huat So, 76, and her daughter Ivy Choo, 52, at their Ah Ma Drink Stall along Jalan Jelutong, on Pulau Ubin's main strip. Madam Lai, a farmer turned drink-seller, is among more than 20 Ubin residents who have been interviewed so far in the cultural mapping project commissioned by the National Heritage Board.

Photo: Lim Yaohui for The Straits Times

A forested route in Pulau Ubin that is the dwelling of poisonous snakes and wild boars leads to a mangrove swamp that Mr Quek Kim Kiang frequents daily to catch crabs.

Using a hook attached to a pole, the 63-year-old fishes out the edible crustaceans from the mud. He then sells them to families on the island or the mainland for about $25 a kilogram.

Mr Quek's daily routine was uncovered by anthropologist Vivienne Wee, who has discovered "hubs of economic activity and vast social networks within and beyond the island".

She said this puts to rest the assumption that the island, home to 38 residents - down from 2,000 in the 1950s to 1970s - is a dying town.

Through her research, she found that the islanders have established links with people beyond the island, such as former residents, as well as the 300,000 day trippers it gets annually. She said that heritage, nature and sports interest groups also have ties to the place.

Dr Wee, managing director of anthropology company Ethnographica, was commissioned by the National Heritage Board (NHB) to map the island's multi-faceted layers of social history. This is the first such comprehensive effort for Pulau Ubin.

She is leading a five-member research team, which started work in April and has conducted interviews with more than 20 residents.

The project is expected to be completed by December or January.

NHB assistant chief executive of policy and development Alvin Tan agreed with Dr Wee's assessment.

"Everyone thinks the trades here are in decline, but that is not true. There is a actually a sense of rejuvenation and renewal," he said.

Pulau Ubin far from a dying town
Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times AsiaOne 3 Oct 15;

For instance, Mr Quek, hoping to pass on his crab-catching skills, has taken a disciple under his wing.

"I am passing on my technique to a nine-year-old boy from Singapore who comes here on weekends to fish with his father," he said.

The information gathered by Dr Wee and her team so far can be clustered into categories such as economic activities, trades and skills; social lives and relationships; religious festivals; and kampung architecture.

The cultural mapping project, first suggested by the Singapore Heritage Society, was undertaken by NHB. It is one of the board's contributions to an ongoing Ubin Project led by the Ministry of National Development.

The ministry is working with the community and other government agencies through its Friends of Ubin Network to gather ideas on how to maintain the island's rustic charm. Its plans include preserving Ubin's nature, biodiversity and heritage.

NHB's Mr Tan said research findings will be shared with the network "to help the authorities develop sensitive strategies to retain and enhance the island's rustic charms".

The project also builds on NHB's earlier work on the island, which includes a 2013 documentation of its historical sites, a documentary on its boatmen and a virtual tour.

Among Dr Wee's other interviewees is farmer turned drink-seller Wang Xiao San, known by islanders as Madam Lai Huat So, 76. She represents the varied skillsets of an average islander.

Madam Lai, who zips around the 10.2 sq km, boomerang-shaped island on a motorbike, used to farm vegetables, grow fruit trees, rear poultry and cultivate prawns.

While she continues to maintain 90 durian trees and 10 rambutan and jackfruit trees, her main source of income today is from her Ah Ma Drink Stall along Jalan Jelutong, on the island's main strip.

The stall - a blue wooden structure built by her late husband - still gets about 100 customers a day on weekends, thanks to day trippers.

Madam Lai also exhibits the island's culture of self-reliance, as she is able to build structures such as chicken coops on her own. She picked up these skills from her late father, an influential islander credited with building most of Pulau Ubin's kampung homes.

In addition, the island's Wei To Temple complex, on which a Hindu shrine was recently established alongside a Tibetan Buddhist temple and Taoist temple, is evidence that the landscape is continually evolving, said Dr Wee.

The shrine is just a few months old and is where deities from demolished Hindu temples on mainland Singapore were relocated by devotees.

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Consumers, NGOs take up fight against haze but it is a long trudge

Can consumer power snuff out a decades-long pollution problem? Here are how some NGOs, groups and businesses have been trying to fight the haze issue.
KELLY NG Today Online 3 oct 15;

SINGAPORE — For decades, Singaporeans and businesses here have suffered from the thick smog blown over from the Indonesian forests, finding themselves helpless and at the mercy of the winds.

But this time, many are saying: Enough is enough.

Established non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the local branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Singapore) and the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), as well as groups that were formed in recent years in response to the haze problem, have come out in full force, urging consumers and businesses to play their part in the fight.

On social media, other groups and individuals are also speaking up and calling for boycotts against companies responsible for the forest fires in Indonesia.

Consumers and NGOs have also been emboldened and enabled by the new laws that the Singapore Government passed last year — which, among other things, provide for both criminal and civil actions against errant firms. The recent identification of the errant companies by the National Environment Agency (NEA) has also given ammunition for consumer ire.

But can consumer power snuff out a decades-long pollution problem? In theory, it is conceivable: Tap the collective consumer power to put pressure on errant companies to change their ways. In practice, however, many roadblocks lie in the way.

Businesses say consumers have to drive the change, by being willing to pay more for green products, for example. Consumer awareness is also lacking, even though it is picking up. A campaign launched in July to raise awareness for sustainable produces has thus far garnered less than 20 per cent of its target of 50,000 pledges.

“It is somewhat a catch-22 situation at the start,” said National University of Singapore (NUS) economist and former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Ivan Png, who agreed that there is a need to overcome the “initial hurdle” of driving consumer demand for sustainably-produced goods, before businesses can align their practices accordingly.

Mr Tan Yi Han, founder of People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze) which was formed in 2013 when Singapore suffered its worst bout of haze to date, noted that some businesses he spoke to said consumer behaviour can be “hypocritical”.

“One of them shared that consumers are the biggest hypocrite. They talk a lot but are not willing to pay. So I guess from their perspective, consumer demand must first pick up,” he said.


Even before the haze shot past unhealthy levels this year, three non-government groups had joined forces to start a movement advocating for sustainable palm oil as a way to alleviate the haze problem.

Jointly launched by WWF-Singapore, PM.Haze, and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) in July, “We Breathe What We Buy” aims to collect 50,000 pledges from consumers to support companies that go “haze-free”. So far, it has collected about 7,500 pledges.

Through roadshows, school talks and a campaign website, some 20 volunteers set out to educate consumers on sustainable practices in palm oil production, which include, among other things, those made from palm plantations that do not encroach on significant biodiversity and wildlife habitat, for example.

PM.Haze’s Mr Tan said the campaign aims to heighten public awareness that consumers can drive positive change. “For many years, people have accepted that the problem lies in Indonesia and not in Singapore. The knowledge gap needs to be bridged,” he said.

With public support, WWF-Singapore will engage companies here to work on long-term solutions that will encourage the use of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). These include oil suppliers Fuji Oil and Cargill. European companies are leading the charge internationally, setting the target to achieve 100 per cent CSPO by 2020.

For now, the campaign is still at its infancy phase, stressed WWF-Singapore campaign manager Louise Wood. “We need to build the pledges up, which we are (doing) and there is momentum. When we think there is enough, (we will) take them to manufacturers and retailers… the pledges are a powerful component of this campaign. They demonstrate the demand.”

Another group determined to bring on a fight against the haze problem is the Haze Elimination Action Team (HEAT). Led by Professor Ang Peng Hwa from the Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, the group — which started in 2007 as a Facebook group — plans to boycott and sue companies responsible for the fires.

One firm in its sights is Indonesian company Asia Pulp & Paper Company (APP), which has an office here. APP is under investigation by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Indonesian authorities for links to the haze-causing fires.

Last week, the NEA evoked the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act for the first time, by serving a notice on APP to provide information on its subsidiaries here and in Indonesia, as well as the measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

To date, it has also served “preventive measure notices” on five Indonesia companies alleged to have had a hand in the fires. These are PT Rimba Hutani Mas, PT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa, PT Wachyuni Mandira and PT Bumi Mekar Hijau. The notices require the firms to deploy fire-fighting personnel to extinguish or prevent the spread of any fire on land owned or occupied by them, and discontinue any burning activities on such land, among other things.


HEAT’s bid to sue errant companies and its search for “an ideal plaintiff”, funding and lawyers to do the job pro bono were reported in the media.

As of yesterday (Oct 2), an individual “with a medical condition” and several business owners have come forward as plaintiffs, Prof Ang said.

The group’s Facebook page has more than 1,850 members — typically the more “angry, upset, and usually environmentally conscious”, in Prof Ang’s words.

“There are opinion leaders among them. Some of them will persuade others not to buy these products, so there is potential for (the group) having a wider effect,” he said.

After NEA served its notice on APP, an online petition was started last Sunday by a group calling itself Sg Beware urging a boycott of 56 brands under the APP umbrella, such as Livi, Nice and Office Print. It has yet to gain traction. As of press time, there were 25 signatories.

However, not everyone is convinced of the effectiveness of boycotts.

WWF Singapore’s Ms Wood said: “Boycotts are useful for expressing displeasure, but may not be all that successful when it comes to changing a company’s policies… What we would like to do is give companies who aren’t using sustainable sources every opportunity to reach that position. We would like to think that every company has opportunity to improve their situation.”

Upon garnering a substantial number of pledges in its campaign, WWF Singapore and co-organisers of the “We Breathe What We Buy” movement plans to engage manufacturers and retailers in a two-step support process: First, by assessing their needs for palm oil, and second, by putting them in touch with suppliers of sustainable palm oil. Businesses also need to be educated, said PM.Haze founder Mr Tan.

Mr Tan argued that boycotts may discourage companies from being transparent.

Citing recent investigations on APP as an example, he said: “(APP) is one of the more transparent companies in (making public) their suppliers and maps. Ironically, that could be what caused them to be investigated. So if we are boycotting… you may disincentivise other companies from being transparent. Boycotting ultimately will not shift the industry. It will make the bad guys try and hide even more.”

Prof Ang disagreed. Boycotting is a viable option to effect change, he said.

“We are not calling for a blanket boycott. We are quite careful in targeting companies… so it is quite watertight. You have to have a heaven and a hell, heaven for those who do good, hell for those who do bad,” he said.

Educational efforts are expensive and effective only “up to a point”, said Prof Ang. In 2007, HEAT raised some S$20,000 for an education campaign in Jambi, a province in South Sumatra, to urge local farmers not to engage in slash-and-burn practices.

Prof Ang added: “Boycotts have worked elsewhere, and since we are trying new things, plus education is expensive and there is no incentive to penalise, boycotting is something we should explore.”

He noted that consumers and environmental activists are now more “receptive” to boycotts, compared to the past. “I guess everyone got more fed up with the recurring haze...the boycott has certainly gained more traction these days.”


The SEC is also pressing for change on the business front. The NGO has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Singapore Manufacturers’ Federation (SMF) to encourage sustainable procurement among manufacturers. For instance, letters have been sent to some 2,800 members asking for their commitment towards responsible sourcing of palm oil, wood and pulp products.

SEC said that only 10 per cent of palm oil products from Indonesia are certified to be sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). It hopes to raise this figure to 75 per cent, by urging ethical procurement to put pressure on suppliers. It is also working on a new scheme with a “holistic set of strict criteria” to allow it to certify palm oil products.

To date, only 17 firms based in Singapore have attained the CSPO, according to the RSPO website.

Some manufacturers have started to “green” their supply chain but they still struggle with cost management issues and lack of awareness among suppliers, said Singapore Business Federation Chief Executive Officer Ho Meng Kit.

Agreeing, SMF Secretary-General Lam Joon Khoi said: “We should not expect our members to change their business practices overnight, as some may have contractual obligations with their suppliers.”

Slashing and burning forests is cheaper than clearing them with machinery, and companies that seek to minimise environmental and social impact incur additional costs.

For now, sustainable solutions often come with a price tag, Unilever Vice President for Procurement Biswaranjan Sen reiterated. This is a major hurdle for firms looking to green their procurement processes, he added. The multi-national company aims to procure all its agricultural raw materials from sustainable sources by 2020.

But PM.Haze’s Mr Tan pointed out that in some instances, the additional costs are not significant. For example, every litre of certified sustainable palm oil costs six cents more than uncertified ones.

SBF’s Mr Ho said that a lack of transparency in the supply chain also makes it difficult for consumers to track where the goods originate from. “Palm oil would have crossed hands from plantations, mills, distributors, manufacturers and consumer good companies. Many products remained unlabelled on the certification, source and origin when they reach the end-consumers,” he said.

Despite these obstacles, some Singapore firms have begun to make inroads towards sustainability. Just last week, new homegrown company NooTrees - which is owned by Singapore-based F J Benjamin Group - started selling bamboo-based tissue paper and wet wipe products, touted to be “100 per cent sustainable and biodegradable”.

NooTrees General Manager David Ward said that firms can, and have to, commit to sustainability. “The technology is available, but such products are not available (to consumers). This is why we started NooTrees. What people buy is what we offer, and we want consumers to be able to make the switch when they are standing on the supermarket aisle… Not just because of the environmental impact it causes today, but for the long term sustainability of the Earth,” said Mr Ward.

Some of NooTrees products are more expensive. For instance, a pack of ten toilet rolls costs S$7.95, compared to the typical cost of between S$4 and S$5.

A box of NooTrees facial tissue is priced at S$2, compared to local house brands, which are selling at S$3.50 to S$5 for four boxes.


NGOs are also working to raise environmental consciousness among other players along the entire supply chain. SIIA, for instance, has reached out to over 70 Singapore financial institutions to raise awareness of sustainable financing and investing. While global banks such as Standard Chartered and Citibank factor in environmental and social risks when they consider which projects to finance, these do not feature in Singapore banks’ policies, said SIIA Assistant Director Cheong Poh Kwan.

However, she said the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) has taken the “first step” by starting to incorporate environmental risk factors in its corporate credit policies. At a sustainability dialogue held by SIIA in May, OCBC Chief Risk Officer Vincent Loo said: “There are cases whereby (OCBC) actually discourage lending to companies that embark on environmentally damaging projects.”

Last week, former Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan - who has since taken on the foreign affairs portfolio - said the Government is reviewing its procurement practices to see how it can weed out errant companies. For example, it will look into how it can support companies which are recognised by their industry or by international bodies to have instituted sustainable practices.

NGOs welcomed the move. SEC executive director Edwin Seah said: “If consumers can make their stand that they want to see their products being made with raw materials from sustainable sources, coupled with the Government’s commitment on green procurement, it will definitely send a strong signal to suppliers to make the change.”

NUS’ Prof Png added: “The Government and its agencies are among the largest buyers of paper products in Singapore. They can really set the lead in this movement.”


Most activists whom TODAY spoke to felt that Singapore still has a long way to go in its journey towards sustainability.

PM.Haze’s Mr Tan said: “Singapore is still kind of laggard compared to the West. For instance, the vast majority of companies which are using palm oil are still not using those from sustainable sources.” He noted that the sustainability movement started before the 1970s for many countries in the West - long before the concept entered the Singaporean lexicon.

Consumers in Western societies have had their episodes of “environmental awakening”, added Mr Tan. He cited Silent Spring, a book published in 1962 by the late American marine biologist Rachel Carson, which documented the detrimental effects on the environment caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides.

Mr Tan said: “All these... sparked societal consciousness, to realise that we are destroying this Earth. So I guess Singapore is still at the start of this.”

Also, civil societies in the West have been more vocal, while Singaporeans tend to be more reliant on the Government. “The grassroots in the West have a lot more willingness to... try and change things,” he said.

Still, the ongoing haze episode is an opportunity for the people and NGOs to band together, he said. “Today, we see all this ‘people’s power’ as a valuable new front in the fight against haze,” he added.

Multinational companies such as IKEA and Unilever told TODAY that the current level of eco-consciousness among Singaporeans is similar to their Western counterparts. In a survey conducted among 1,271 Singaporean consumers in June, IKEA found that more than half indicated that they planned to buy food that are sustainably sourced.

Unilever’s Mr Sen said that consumers here are “equally concerned about the effects of climate change”. Adding that it takes time for consumer awareness to translate into action, he said: “If you went out to speak to Singaporeans or Indonesians in Jakarta, our experience is that consumers are concerned about climate change and want to see corporates do the right thing.”


While it will be a long trudge to end the haze problem via consumer action, there is optimism among some that the nascent efforts here will pay off eventually.

Organisers of the We Breathe What We Buy campaign noted the significant jump in the number of pledges over the last three weeks when PSI levels reached unhealthy levels. “This prolonged period of haze has inspired people to find out more about the causes… momentum is growing and it is definitely leading somewhere,” said Ms Wood.

She cited the Forest Stewardship Council certification for pulp and paper products as a success story where consumer pressure led to positive change.

“The widespread usage of FSC certification today resulted from greater consumer awareness, then manufacturers and retailers responded by aligning themselves to a certification…That is what (our campaign) is trying to do with palm oil now,” she said.

Mr Tan also cited the example of how nature lovers here had banded together in the early 2000s to save Chek Jawa in Pulau Ubin from redevelopment. “Among local consumers, there is definitely some traction… compared to the past where grassroots action was more to do with distributing masks, now people are starting to get more enlightened about how our consumption plays a role,” he said.

Dr Joelle Lai from the NUS Department of Biological Sciences said grassroots movements can be significant by causing “minor changes in consumer behaviour, because it all adds up”. But she said: “One challenge is to keep up the momentum, such that when the winds change and all is well again, people do not forget and continue to exercise their awareness in everyday decisions.”

But other experts felt that it would take much more than efforts of individuals, NGOs and businesses here to solve the problem.

NUS political scientist Reuben Wong said: “The Indonesians themselves need to put a lot of pressure on their government. If consumers in Indonesia and Malaysia don’t like this destruction and can trace who is responsible for fires, blacklist these companies, they have no choice but to close down, or no choice but to start being more responsible.”

"Governments in the region also have to work together and come up with a response plan, similar to what is in place when natural disasters strike, he added. He noted that it has been almost two decades since Southeast Asia was first affected by a major haze episode in 1997.

However, not much has been done since. “Indonesia only rectified the ASEAN Agreement on Transbooundary Haze last year, 18 years since 1997… The impact of the haze does not occur as immediately as, say, a tsunami, which actually means we have more time to react. But we are not reacting,” he said.

Prof Png, who is a strong advocate of transboundary haze regulations and spoke frequently on the topic during his NMP stint about a decade ago, said that more teeth must be built into the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, such as by rewarding whistleblowers for providing information on irresponsible stakeholders. “We need the whole system of ecology to respond, the manufacturers, retailers, the end-users and regulators. Every piece has to be in play,” he said.

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Singapore firm 'has no links to concession land in Indonesia'

Marissa Lee, Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Oct 15;

Singapore's effort to pressure Indonesian firms into ending the burning in Riau has just come up against another speed bump.

In a first last Saturday, Singapore began legal action against five companies to weed out haze culprits, including a request for information from locally incorporated Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) Company Limited. But this company has no links to concession land in Indonesia and its relationship with the larger Asia Pulp and Paper Group has changed, a group spokesman has claimed.

"It's two different companies... There was a relation in the past... That's why, when they received the notice from the NEA (National Environment Agency), I did not know until three days after," APP Group managing director of sustainability Aida Greenbury told The Straits Times by phone yesterday.

The NEA has asked about the nature of the connection between the two firms, among other demands for transparency.

Ms Greenbury claimed that APP Group is still collecting that information, but is "confident" of submitting a reply to NEA by today. Public attention fell on APP last week, as it is the only one of five firms named by NEA that is based here. Filings with Singapore's Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority describe the Singapore firm as an investment company with US$2.07 billion (S$2.9 billion) in paid-up capital.

The firm reported a US$25.8 million loss after tax from continuing operations in 2013, the last time it submitted its accounts. It also had an accumulated loss of US$7.42 billion at the time.

The Singapore firm also counts among its directors one Suresh Kilam, an Indonesian who is a director of APP Group subsidiaries such as Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper, Lontar Papyrus Pulp and Paper, and Pabrik Kertas Tjiwi Kimia.

APP Group arranged for spokesmen from two conservation groups in Indonesia to speak to The Straits Times. The Forest Trust claimed it found "no indication" that APP Group or its suppliers caused the burning on its concession land.

The group and its suppliers have 3,000 trained firefighters between them, and three helicopters, said Ms Greenbury. "All these helicopters are now being used in South Sumatra because this is the area that is affected by fire," she said, whereas fires up north in Riau are smaller.

Ms Greenbury denied that APP Group's complex network of subsidiaries and chain of supply made it difficult to know who is at fault. "APP Indonesia's structure is very clear. It has been available publicly in our sustainability report for many years," she said.

Mr Bustar Maitar, global head of the Indonesia Forest Campaign for Greenpeace, was part of the phone call with The Straits Times. He said he has faith in Indonesia's ability to contain the haze, adding: "Jokowi is my president, I saw with my own eyes he put himself in the middle of the forest fire. We're all angry here, not only people in Singapore."

Agriculture Shares Feel the Heat From Forest Fires
Jakarta Globe 2 Oct 15;

Jakarta. Some publicly-listed plantation firms in Indonesia are struggling with an increasing number of forest fires in their concessions, putting further pressure on agriculture stocks amid low commodity prices and slowing demand.

Plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan are an facing uphill battle against fires that have forced the government to declare a state of emergency amid one of the country's worst droughts in nearly a decade.

The fires are causing massive haze problems in Sumatra and Kalimantan, but also in Singapore and Malaysia.

"The occurrence of forest fires does have an impact on agriculture shares because it has a direct impact on sales, especially if the fire occurs in productive areas," said Guntur Tri Hariyanto, an analyst at rating agency Pefindo.

"With low commodity prices, production volume and sales volume become very important. A company will have to boost its sales volume, but if production decreases because of the fires, some companies will have to buy the goods to uphold their contracts, thus increasing cost," he added.

Agriculture stocks within the Jakarta Composite Index, or JCI, have collectively fallen by 29 percent so far this year, ranking among the top-three worst-performing sectoral indices so far this year.

Actual effects from the forest fires and haze crisis, which have occurred in the past month, are likely to be seen in the production volume and the sales volume of plantation firms during the third quarter, according to Guntur.

Companies are scheduled to release financial statements for the July-September period in the next few weeks.

In a listing on the local stock exchange on Thursday, Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology, the agribusiness arm of Sinar Mas Group, reported that roughly 239 hectares of planted area in its concessions in Jambi and Central Kalimantan has caught fire between Aug. 1 and Sept. 25.

Shares of SMART, which is among the largest agribusiness firms in Indonesia with a total of 139,100 hectare in oil palm plantations, lost 1.1 percent to Rp 4,400 each on Friday, dropping 47 percent so far this year.

Jo Daud Dharsono, president director of SMART, maintained that the fires have started outside of the company's concessions -- sparked by the drought from the El Nino phenomenon -- and he noted that the company has applied a "zero-burning" policy since 1997.

Last week, Austindo Nusantara Jaya, whose shares closed unchanged at Rp 1,610 on Friday, also reported in a listing on the local bourse that 356 hectares of its 17,998 concession area in Sumatra and Kalimantan were on fire as of Sep. 22, citing "wind-borne sparks" from fires outside of the plantation area.

APP denies involvement in Sumatra forest fires
Anggi M. Lubis, The Jakarta Post 2 Oct 15;

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), part of local conglomerate Sinar Mas Group, has denied involvement in recent pollution-producing Sumatra forest fires after the company’s name was brought into the media spotlight over the issue.

APP managing director for sustainability Aida Greenbury said it was impossible for the country’s largest pulp and paper producer to intentionally burn down its own investment and open a new area by scorching natural forests within its concession, since the company was engaged in a zero-burning and zero-deforestation program.

“We are a hundred percent certain that we are not involved in the fires. We produce pulp and paper, and timber within our industrial forest concession. It would be illogical to burn our own material,” she told reporters in a press conference held in Jakarta on Thursday in response to media coverage on the company’s possible involvement.

“We have been committed to a zero-burning policy since 1996 and zero-deforestation policy since 2013. If we ever lose natural forests in our concession due to fires, it will cost us dearly to restore and conserve the area,” she added.

APP, she explained, had to disburse between US$500 and $1000 per hectare for industrial forests, and between $1000 and $2000 to restore and conserve each hectare of its natural forest.

The company operates 1.1 million hectares of industrial concessions in Riau and the southern part of Sumatra, while its natural forest is around 800,000 hectares, Aida said.

Aida claimed that the company had carried out fire prevention and suppression programs, and also had been involved in conflict resolution with nearby communities, with the moves costing the company $120 million thus far.

She also added that her company had 2,900 firefighters and had trained 2,600 locals from 221 villages near its concession.

APP’s name surfaced after Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) sent a notice to the company’s Singapore office last week inquiring about its possible involvement in the fires that have produced transboundary haze and record-high pollution in the region, forcing the neighboring country to close schools temporarily.

Forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan and transboundary haze are annual regional issues, often causing tension between Indonesia and its neighbors Malaysia and Singapore, as slash-and-burn practices have been pointed out as the main factor behind the fires, which have been exacerbated by El NiƱo this year,

Strait Times reported that APP stood out among the five companies that Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan named last week as possible culprits behind forest fires in concession land in Indonesia, because compared to the four firms also under investigation, two of which are its suppliers, APP is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of tissue, stationery and other paper products.

Another company that has been mentioned in the forest fire case is Bumi Mekar Hijau, one of the company’s suppliers.

Sinar Mas’s managing director, Gandhi Sulistio, said that his group would comply with any legal procedures and support efforts for transparency, adding that the conglomerate group would cut ties with any of its suppliers that are proven to be involved in forest fires.

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Supermarts checking if firm is tied to forest fires

Melissa Lin, The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Oct 15;

Supermarket chains here that carry products from Indonesia's largest pulp and paper firm said they are checking with suppliers whether the firm is involved in the haze-causing forest fires in Indonesia.

This comes after the firm, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), was named by Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) last week as one of the possible culprits behind the burning, which has in recent weeks shrouded the region in haze.

APP products sold in stores here include toilet rolls, facial tissue paper, kitchen towels and wet wipes under the brands Nice, Jolly, Paseo and Livi. Its stationery products sold here include Inspira notebooks, Enlivo writing pads, Sinar Spectra photocopy paper and Sinarline receipt books.

Some consumers have called for a boycott of APP's products. An online petition urging companies to adopt sustainable practices has garnered more than 7,000 signatures.

A FairPrice spokesman said: "We share our customers' concern over this matter and are in contact with our suppliers to seek clarification from them while also awaiting the investigation results from the authorities."

Another supermarket chain, Sheng Siong, has planned a meeting with APP's Singapore office "to understand more about this matter".

Online grocer Redmart said it is "very concerned" about the situation in Indonesia. It has created a filter on its site that allows customers to search for paper and tissue products certified as sustainably produced by Forest Stewardship Council, a non-governmental, non-profit organisation promoting responsible forest management.

A week ago, APP was ordered by NEA to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

The firm may also lose its green label status - which endorses a product as being environmentally friendly - for its paper products, if it is found to be getting its raw materials from unsustainable sources, the Singapore Environment Council said on Tuesday.

Mr Jeremias Kuay, 24, a fresh graduate, said he will try not to buy products from APP for now.

But a boycott is not a long-term solution, given the range of its products, he said. "The Government needs to intervene and check the source of the products that are brought in. Consumers also have to be taught how to identify sustainable products."

But Mr Francis Divyanathan, 59, who runs his own cleaning business, said he will continue to buy the products unless the Government tells him not to. "If I need the products, I will still buy. I don't worry about who sells it," he said.

S’pore volunteers to fly to Indonesia to help give out N95 masks
TOH EE MING Today Online 2 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — About a week after they launched a campaign to collect N95 masks to help those in Indonesia suffering from the choking haze, the organisers have collected more than 26,000 masks and will be flying to Kalimantan this weekend to distribute them with the help of an Indonesian non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Unlike Singaporeans who can escape to a shopping mall when the haze reaches 200 or 300 on the PSI, Indonesians living in haze of over 2,000 have nowhere to go, said the organisers, who felt they had to act when reading news reports of the people’s plight there.

On Sunday (Oct 4), Ms Cheryl Lie, founder of the campaign “Let’s Help Kalimantan”, and three members of local NGO, including its CEO Jonathan How, will be flying to Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan region, which has seen PSI levels hitting over 1,900.

The Singaporeans will be teaming up with two Indonesian NGOs — WALHI, and Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation.

The group, who will be in Palangkaraya until Tuesday, will help to distribute masks and educate the residents on how to use them. They will also be speaking to affected communities to better understand their needs.

Ms Lie, 31, said she and her 26-year-old sister, who does events, felt compelled to help after seeing a news report on the severity of the situation in Kalimantan.

“We’re suffering, but the people in Kalimantan suffer 10 times more ... and social media has been heightening the response. Some people can just choose to be sympathetic, but I chose to act,” said Ms Cheryl Lie, a programmes manager at the Singapore Management University.

She had previously contributed to the relief efforts in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake.

Together with their friend, secondary school teacher Hafizhah Jamel, 32, they launched the Facebook page called “Let’s Help Kalimantan”, calling for donations of N95 masks.’s Mr How subsequently joined their campaign.

The response to their campaign has been overwhelming, and the three women, together with Mr How, have collected more than 26,000 masks so far — far surpassing their original target of 10,000.

A group of private donors even had 10,000 masks delivered in boxes to Ms Hafizhah’s house.

Some donors would travel all the way to Ms Cheryl Lie’s workplace during rush-hour to pass boxes of masks, or drop off boxes at the team’s homes, recalled Ms Lie.

Others offered help in the form of free lorry services, and staff from NTUC FairPrice and Cold Storage even asked if they needed assistance in sponsorship of boxes.

The women also raised more than US$2,200 (S$3,160) from an Indiegogo campaign, and more than S$4,600 in cash donations. They will be using the money to order more masks in the coming week.

For the Kalimantan trip itself, Lion Air has agreed to waive the Singapore team’s excess luggage fees, while will be providing a small stipend for their meals.

“The response has been very heartening. I didn’t expect it to grow beyond our own circle… it’s a bit more than I can handle actually,” said Ms Lie, adding that the last few days have been a hectic rush of handling the logistics and juggling their day jobs.

Currently, the team is waiting to hear if SilkAir and DHL can provide free shipping for the second batch of masks.

Acknowledging the complexity of the situation, Ms Lie said more education and awareness of the issue is needed. She added: “We Singaporeans are very (lucky), we have knowledge of the PSI levels at our fingertips, knowledge about the health hazards… But this hasn’t translated to Kalimantan just yet.”

Haze harms not just humans
Tan Tam Mei, The New Paper AsiaOne 2 Oct 15;

With the haze set to remain until November, it's not just people who are affected for another month.

More pets are also suffering from haze-induced ailments and pet owners like Mr Steven Chew, 32, are worried.

Mr Chew, an IT entrepreneur, took his dog Tofu to the vet last Friday after noticing that it was more inactive and had red and teary eyes.

Tofu was also coughing and sneezing more than usual.

Said Mr Chew: "For dogs, they can't complain (about the haze), but as her owner, of course, I can tell when something is wrong.

"Her condition wasn't serious, but it's better to be safe than sorry."

Mr Chew is one of many pet owners who have taken their pets to the vet for haze-induced conditions like eye irritation and breathing difficulties.

Six vet clinics that TNP spoke to confirmed that there has been a rise in cases believed to be related to the haze.

Dr Rachel Tong, 29, of Spring Veterinary Care, said that some days, she sees up to five new animals with conditions that could be caused by the polluted air.

Said Dr Tong: "It's usually eye and respiratory related, teary or swollen eyes, sneezing, coughing and difficulties breathing. It's always like that during the haze period every year.

"It's especially bad for animals with a history of respiratory or heart problems."

Owners should pay extra attention to "pocket pets" such as rabbits, chinchillas, hamsters and even terrapins as they can be more severely affected by the haze, said Dr Tong.

Dr Jason Teo, 39, vet and owner of Point Veterinary Surgery, which treats mostly puppies, said: "Medium to small-sized animals are more badly affected because they are smaller and more fragile.

"It's also the younger ones, like puppies, that are also more prone to the haze."

He said that he has seen an increase of five to six cases a week with breathing problems which he believes is due to the haze.

Dr Teo, a vet for 14 years, said: "The cases range from minor to severe. Most of them are not life-or-death situations and most puppies are able to get over it."

Vets advise pet owners to keep their pets indoors with good ventilation, to replace food and water bowls more often so that haze particles do not settle and to minimise outdoor activities.

Dr Wang Ping-Yin, 34, of P.A.W. (People Animal Wellness) Veterinary Centre, said that while not all breathing and eye conditions are because of the haze, owners should take extra precautions during this period because "you never know when it might be something serious".

"Treat your pets just like how you would treat the elderly or young kids.

"It's not like we can put a mask on our pets, so it's good to take relevant precautions."

Read more!

Indonesia declines Singapore's assistance to fight fires, says it has enough resources

Singapore reiterated and explained its offer of assistance to tackle the fires at a meeting between Indonesian and Singapore officials held in Jakarta on Thursday.
Channel NewsAsia 2 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: Indonesia has enough resources to fight the forest fires that are causing the haze in the region, and does not need the assistance offered by Singapore at this time, Indonesian officials told a Singapore delegation on Thursday (Oct 1).

The meeting, held in Jakarta, was attended by a small team of officials from Singapore, led by Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Choi Shing Kwok. Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Gen (Retd) Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Head of National Disaster Management Agency Willem Rampangilei also attended the meeting.

It was convened at the invitation of Indonesia, according to a press release issued by MEWR on Friday.

During the meeting, Singapore reiterated and explained its offer of assistance to tackle the fires, including the provision of one Chinook helicopter to conduct water bombing and one C-130 aircraft for cloud-seeding operations.

However, Indonesia clarified that it had enough resources of its own and did not need to call on the assistance offered by Singapore at this time, the ministry said.

The meeting also discussed law enforcement actions by Indonesia against errant companies, while Singapore explained how its Transboundary Haze Pollution Act allows it to take legal action against offenders who cause transboundary haze in Singapore to "supplement Indonesia’s actions while respecting Indonesia’s sovereignty".

“Singapore also reiterated and explained its request for Indonesia to share information that could help identify companies suspected of causing such fires,” MEWR said, adding that the request is being considered by the Indonesian side, “who will respond in due course”.

- CNA/cy

Indonesia again turns down offer to help fight haze
Today Online 2 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — Indonesia again turned down Singapore’s offer of help to deal with the haze that has choked the region, during a meeting between officials from both countries in Jakarta yesterday (Oct 1).

At the meeting, held at the invitation of Indonesia, Singapore’s officials — led by Permanent Secretary Choi Shing Kwok of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources — had reiterated and explained its offer of assistance to tackle the fires, including the provision of one Chinook helicopter to conduct water bombing and one C-130 aircraft for cloud-seeding operations.

“Indonesia clarified at the meeting that it had enough resources of its own and did not need to call on the assistance offered by Singapore at this time,” the ministry said in a statement today.

The meeting was attended by the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Head of National Disaster Management Agency Willem Rampangilei.

Singapore has repeatedly offered assistance to Indonesia since the haze worsened last month, most recently when Defence Ng Eng Hen flew to Jakarta to meet his Indonesian counterpart earlier this week.

Indonesian officials have maintained that the country is able to handle the fire-fighting operations, although its Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has struck a different note, saying it was open to help from all countries including Singapore.

The haze here lingered at unhealthy levels today, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) at 99 to 129 as at 7pm. The three-hour PSI was 118 and the one-hour PM2.5 concentration was 43 to 80 microgrammes per cubic metre.

The 24-hour PSI tomorrow is expected to be between the mid and high sections of the unhealthy range, and may enter the low end of the very unhealthy range if denser haze is blown in. “Visibility is likely to deteriorate especially in the morning when humidity is high, as moisture has a swelling effect on the haze particles,” the National Environment Agency (NEA) added.

During the meeting yesterday, the Singapore delegation was also briefed on the measures being undertaken by the Indonesian government in Sumatra and Kalimantan to tackle land and forest fires. Also addressed was law enforcement actions by Indonesia against errant companies, and Singapore explained how the Republic’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) can supplement Indonesia’s actions while respecting Indonesia’s sovereignty.

Separately, Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP Group) said it has provided information to the NEA, which last week made a request to the locally-incorporated Asia Pulp and Paper Company (APP) under the THPA. APP Group, which had clarified in a Straits Times report that it is a separate company from APP, also said it has invited the NEA to visit APP’s operations in Indonesia.

“Irrespective of the relationship between (the two entities), we are committed to working together with the NEA on this issue,” APP Group added.

When contacted, NEA did not comment on whether it would take up APP Group’s invitation. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NEO CHAI CHIN

Indonesia says it has enough resources to combat haze, declines help
AsiaOne 2 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE - Indonesia has clarified at a joint meeting with Singapore that it has enough resources to combat the haze crisis, and need not call on Singapore's assistance at this time, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said in a press statement on Friday (Oct 2).

A small team of officials led by Permanent Secretary Choi Shing Kwok of MEWR met Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Gen (Retd) Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Head of National Disaster Management Agency Willem Rampangilei in Jakarta yesterday (Oct 1).

During the meeting, Indonesia briefed the Singapore delegation on its measures to tackle the haze crisis. Singapore had also offered to provide one chinook helicopter to conduct water bombing and one C-130 aircraft for cloud-seeding operations. However Indonesia declined, explaining that it had enough resources of its own.

The meeting also discussed law enforcement actions by Indonesia against errant companies and Singapore explained how its Transboundary Haze Pollution Act allows it to also take legal action against offenders who cause transboundary haze in Singapore. This will help supplement Indonesia's actions while respecting Indonesia's sovereignty.

MEWR added that Singapore had also requested for Indonesia to share information that could help identify errant companies behind the fires. The ministry is currently awaiting Indonesia's response.

Indonesia Has Sufficient Resources, Rejects Singapore's Offer Of Assistance
Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah Bernama 2 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE, Oct 2 (Bernama) -- Indonesia has clarified at a meeting between officials of both countries that it has sufficient resources of its own to tackle the haze.

As such, it said there was no need to call on the assistance offered by Singapore at this time.

In response to media queries on the visit by Singapore officials to Jakarta to discuss issued pertaining to the haze, the ministry of environment and water resources (MEWR) said a small team of Singaporean officials led by MEWR permanent secretary Choi Shing Kwok, met with Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Gen (Rtd) Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Head of National Disaster Management Agency Willem Rampangilei in Jakarta yesterday.

The meeting was convened at the invitation of the Indonesian side.

The Singapore delegation was briefed by the Indonesians on measures being undertaken by the Indonesian Government in Sumatra and Kalimantan to tackle land and forest fires which caused transboundary haze pollution in Singapore and the region.

In the context of this briefing and the discussion that followed, MEWR said Singapore reiterated and explained its offer of assistance to tackle the fires, including the provision of a Chinook helicopter to conduct water bombing and a C-130 aircraft for cloud seeding operations.

It said Indonesia clarified at the meeting that it had sufficient resources of its own and did not need to call on the assistance offered by Singapore at this time.

The meeting also discussed law enforcement measures undertaken by Indonesia against errant companies, and Singapore explained how its Transboundary Haze Pollution Act allowed the island republic to also take legal action against offenders who caused transboundary haze in Singapore to supplement Indonesia's actions, while respecting Indonesia's sovereignty.

In this regard, Singapore also reiterated and explained its request for Indonesia to share information that could help identify companies suspected of causing such fires.

This was being considered by the Indonesian side who would respond in due course, said MEWR.

The haze has blanketed Singapore in recent weeks, to the extent the goverment was forced to close all schools when the air quality reached very unhealthy level on Sept 25.


Indonesian government confused over Singapore help's for haze situation
Hans Nicholas Jong and Ina Parlina, Jakarta Post AsiaOne 3 Oct 15;

Arguing that Singaporeans might learn how fighting forest fires is no easy task, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has said Singapore should step in to help Indonesia to combat the fires, the smoke from which has polluted relations between the two nations in recent months.

"We are open to receiving assistance. Don't just talk, just come [to help us]," he told reporters on the sidelines of the 70th UN General Assembly in New York on Sunday (Sep 27).

Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, however, said that Indonesia was continuing its attempts to overcome the problem without outside help.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar had previously turned down Singapore's offer of assistance.

"Once again, we are still trying to do it by our own efforts," Pramono told journalists in Jakarta on Monday (Sep 28).

Singapore had to shut its schools last Friday (Sep 25) and began distributing free antipollution masks to the elderly and other vulnerable people as a thick smoky haze shrouded the island nation, with pollution levels at their worst this year.

The haze - a pall of grayness that resembles wintry fog and virtually obliterates the skyline and seeps inside homes - is an annual problem for the region, resulting from the many forest and peatland fires, caused by slash-and-burn techniques used to clear land for farming and plantations on the island of Sumatra and in Kalimantan.

The haze has caused tensions between Singapore and Indonesia, particularly after Kalla commented recently that neighbouring countries "already enjoy 11 months of clean fresh air from Indonesia", and suggested that it was no big deal if they suffered from the haze for the one month when forests were usually burned.

Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, in a Facebook post, responded by saying his government "takes the matter seriously" and Singapore is "ready to assist Indonesia in combating the fires".

"Yet, at the same time, we are hearing some shocking statements made, at senior levels, from Indonesia, with a complete disregard for our people, and their own - PSI [pollutant standard index] levels in parts of Indonesia are at almost 2,000 PSI."

"How is it possible for senior people in government to issue such statements, without any regard for their people, or ours, and without any embarrassment, or sense of responsibility?" he wrote.

Kalla said that combating forest fires was not as easy as it looked.

"It's better for Singapore to join [fighting forest fires] to learn for sure that it's not that easy. Go ahead [and help us]. Don't assume that we don't extinguish [forest fires] while [in fact] we have deployed many battalions of the Army [to combat forest fires]. But how [to quickly put an end to forest fires] in this dry season?" he said.

Although Kalla instructed Minister Siti to accept Singapore's assistance, Siti said on Monday that she had yet to receive any new instructions regarding the matter and therefore Indonesia would continue to use its "own resources in handling forest fires".

"I have yet to receive new instructions as of Monday because one day after the Vice President told me about his instruction, the President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo returned on Sep 15 from his visit to Middle East countries and we discussed it and the conclusion remains the same, just as is still ongoing today," Siti said on Monday at the State Palace.

Under the proposed assistance, Siti said, Singapore would lend Indonesia a plane with the ability to carry 5,000 liters of water for water-bombing operations and a Chinook aircraft for carrying personnel.

Siti recently said that the assistance was not needed as the government was well-equipped to handle the current situation.

Read more!

McDonald's serving up greener breakfasts

Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times AsiaOne 2 Oct 15;

Fast-food chain McDonald's Singapore has decided to stop the use of styrofoam packaging for its breakfast meals across outlets islandwide.

In response to media queries, McDonald's said it has, since early last month, been gradually phasing out the use of styrofoam and switching to paper packaging instead.

"In line with our continual sustainability efforts, we have worked with our suppliers to switch from styrofoam packaging to paper packaging to serve our breakfast platters such as Big Breakfast and Hotcakes," said Ms Carolyn Khiu, McDonald's Restaurants' director of corporate communications, e-commerce and customer relations.

The fast-food giant, which, in the past, used styrofoam cups and burger boxes, among other items, has over the years switched much of its packaging to greener ones.

The move to stop the use of styrofoam comes after an online petition was launched in January, with support from more than 700 people, asking the chain to replace non-biodegradable styrofoam with recycled packaging. Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and, if not disposed properly, can pollute waterways and harm wildlife.

The petition noted that while McDonald's Singapore had adopted environmentally friendly practices such as using recycled paper for napkins and takeaway bags, it was still using styrofoam for its breakfast items, unlike outlets in places like Hong Kong.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Adrian Tan, 38, who started the petition with his friend, said he hopes the McDonald's decision will inspire other food and drinks outlets to use more environmentally friendly packaging.

"In the long run, we must change the habit of using disposable items just simply for convenience - otherwise the heart of the issue will not be solved," said Mr Tan, a music conductor.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Mr Eugene Tay, founder and director of consultancy Green Future Solutions, said while he welcomed the move by McDonald's, there was a need to look at sustainability on the whole.

Other aspects, such as recycling food waste, should also be looked into, he said, adding: "Paper is biodegradable, but it's also important to know whether it comes from sustainable sources. Otherwise it would just be transferring the environmental impact from one material to another."

McDonald's Singapore has more than 130 restaurants islandwide, not including its drive-through, dessert kiosks and McCafe outlets.

When asked, fast-food chain KFC said it uses styrofoam packaging for "very selected breakfast menu items". It will, however, review its packaging materials.

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Singapore needs to better manage water usage: Masagos

With a decrease in rainfall and the El Nino effect exacerbating the dry weather, Singapore has to watch its water stock very closely, says Mr Masagos Zulkifli in his first public address as Environment and Water Resources Minister.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 2 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: As the region faces drier weather, Singaporeans and companies need to better manage their water usage, said Mr Masagos Zulkifli on Friday (Oct 2), in his first public address as Environment and Water Resources Minister.

"This year to date, we have experienced lower than average rainfall in Singapore. Over in Johor, the dry weather has also seen water levels in Linggiu Reservoir dip to unprecedented low levels,” he said.

“Linggiu Reservoir regulates the flow in Johor River, from which we extract water for treatment and supply to Singapore. The prevailing El Nino is expected to exacerbate the drier weather in this region, which means that we have to watch our water stock very closely."

Mr Masagos acknowledged that Singapore has built a sustainable water supply from the Four National Taps - water from local catchment areas, imported water, NEWater and desalinated water. But he stressed that the country's water demand needs to be carefully managed.

The total water demand in Singapore is expected to double by 2060, with the non-domestic sector accounting for 70 per cent of the demand, Mr Masagos said.

To cope with this, PUB has put in place programmes to educate and support water efficiency. One such initiative to promote water efficiency is the Water Efficient Building (Basic) Certification. Introduced in 2004, it encourages businesses and industries to put in place water efficient measures.

PUB handed out the WEB certification to 16 organisations on Friday, out of which six recipients were awarded the Gold standard. They include Marina Bay Financial Centre Towers 1, 2 and 3, Ocean Financial Centre, Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay, One Raffles Link and Tanah Merah Prison and Changi Women's Prison.

- CNA/xk

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PHI Group Secures Additional Large Sand Supplies for Singapore and Asian Markets

Globe News Wire 2 oct 15;

NEW YORK and SINGAPORE, Oct. 2, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PHI Group, Inc. (Trading Symbol: PHIL), a U.S. public company engaged in energy and natural resources, announced today that the Company has signed agreements with two Vietnam-based companies to secure more than one billion cubic meters of sea sand in the southern provinces of Vietnam for export to Singapore, Brunei and other Asian markets. These agreements are in addition to the existing contracts between KHM JSC and PHI Group for reclamation sand from Central Vietnam.

The sources of the additional saline sand from these concessions are primarily from dredging projects to expand fairways and deepen anchorage areas for shipping vessels.

PHI Group is currently working with the appropriate government agencies, major end users, contractors, dregding, shipping and logistics companies in Southeast Asia to prepare for large-scale long-term supplies to reclamation and land expansion projects in Singapore, Brunei and other Asian countries.

Jalani Haniffa, PHI Group Vice President of Southeast Asia Operations, commented: "We are very pleased to have added substantial sources of sea sand through our partnerships with Vietnamese companies and will be able to meet the demand for reclamation sand in Singapore, Brunei and other Asian countries on a large-scale, cost-effective and long-term basis."

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Indonesia forest fires could become worst on record: NASA

"If the forecasts for a longer dry season hold, this suggests 2015 will rank among the most severe events on record," said Robert Field, a scientist based at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
AFP Channel NewsAsia 2 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: Forest fires blanketing Southeast Asia in choking haze are on track to become among the worst on record, scientists warn, with a prolonged dry season hampering efforts to curb the crisis.

Malaysia, Singapore and large expanses of Indonesia have suffered for weeks from acrid smoke billowing from fires on plantations and peatlands that are being illegally cleared by burning.

The crisis grips the region nearly every year during the dry season, flaring diplomatic tensions among the neighbours as flights are grounded, schools close and pollution levels reach hazardous highs.

But the current outbreak is one of the worst and longest-lasting in years, with an El Nino weather system making conditions drier than usual in Indonesia and keeping much-needed rain at bay.

Scientists at NASA now warn this year's outbreak is on a trajectory similar to 1997 -- widely regarded as the most serious haze event on record -- and could exceed those unprecedented levels.

"Conditions in Singapore and southeastern Sumatra are tracking close to 1997," Robert Field, a Columbia University scientist based at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was quoted as saying by the US science agency.

"If the forecasts for a longer dry season hold, this suggests 2015 will rank among the most severe events on record."

Herry Purnomo, a haze expert at the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research, agreed the situation was akin to 1997, describing the magnitude of this year's fires as "horrendous".

"I believe the impact of the fires this year will be as bad as 1997, in terms of the cost," he told AFP.

Indonesia has deployed more than 20,000 troops, police and other personnel to Sumatra and Kalimantan to fight the fires through waterbombing and chemically-induced rainfall, and hopes rain will arrive within a month to finally douse the blazes.

Indonesia has faced pressure from its neighbours to address the problem since it first emerged nearly 20 years ago.

Authorities this year say tens of thousands of people across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have been forced to seek medical treatment for respiratory problems.

The fires also contribute significantly to climate change. The NASA-linked Global Fire Emissions Database has estimated around 600 million tonnes of greenhouse gases have been released as a result of this year's fires - roughly equivalent to Germany's entire annual output.

- AFP/pp

Read more!

Malaysia: Better air quality from next week

The Star 3 Oct 15;

PETALING JAYA: The haze is expected to dissipate somewhat with better air quality from Tuesday.

Meteorological Department director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail said tropical storm Mujigae was expected to hit Hainan island in China the previous day.

“The presence of this tropical storm will affect wind patterns in our region for a few days and there will be less rainfall.

“After the storm hits land, the wind strength is expected to weaken and our country will experience humidity with rain in the west coast states and western Sarawak and the west coast of Sabah,” she said in a statement yesterday.

As of 4pm yesterday, only three places recorded unhealthy air pollutant index (API) readings of over 100, with Malacca city at 103, Bukit Rambai (105) and Port Dickson (102).

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry also said the country’s overall weather was improving with less areas recording unhealthy API readings.

“Cross-border haze from Sumatra and Kalimantan is still influencing our air quality,” it said.

A total of 269 hot spots have been detected in Kalimantan.

Only one hot spot was detected in Sumatra, as the satellite was unable to thoroughly observe the area due to cloud cover.

“The movement of thick and moderate haze from burning areas in central Kalimantan and south of Sumatra combined and formed a ring of haze that covered a huge area in the peninsula’s west coast and east coast,” it added.

As of Thursday, 3,439 open burning cases were detected in the country involving forests (591 cases), agriculture land (1193), industrial land (19), construction land (70), dumping sites (94), bushes (683) and other small open burning incidents (789).

The ministry said compound notices were issued for 216 open burning cases.

“Investigation papers have been prepared for 23 open burning cases for court action,” it said.

Read more!

Indonesia: Haze worsening in Sumatra, Kalimantan provinces

Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post 2 Oct 15;

Haze thickened on Thursday in many parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, forcing local authorities to temporarily shut down schools and airport operators to cancel flights.

In West Sumatra, thick haze descended over the province beginning from the morning.

“This is really concerning. It’s never been like this before in Padang,” Yuni of Ulak Karang, Padang, West Sumatra, said on Thursday.

The visibility at Minangkabau International Airport (BIM) was only 800 meters for a little while before increasing again to 1,000 meters.

“There has been increasing intensity of haze since the morning, but it fluctuates, and that is why it is still fine, at certain times, to continue flights,” said Budi Iman Samiaji, observation and information section head of the Padang branch of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

He said the haze had come from neighboring South Sumatra and Jambi provinces, where 168 and 18 hot spots had been detected, respectively. Strong winds had caused the haze to thicken in West Sumatra.

Budi also said that unless the sources of the forest fires were extinguished, rain that might fall over West Sumatra within the next two days would not effectively reduce the haze in the province.

Separately, in Agam regency, the local education agency told kindergartens to temporarily shut down for an undetermined amount of time.

Isra, the secretary for the regency’s education, youth and sports agency, said that if the haze worsened, elementary schools would follow suit.

The same measure was also taken by the Payakumbuh city education agency. The agency sent home kindergarten and elementary school students due to worsening air quality in the municipality.

Worsening air quality prompted the rapid response team of PT Semen Padang to distribute 5,000 masks to its employees in three different locations. The company also ordered an additional 10,000 masks in case conditions worsened.

In Medan, North Sumatra, people also complained of the thickening haze coming to the region from neighboring provinces.

Danden, 40, a motorized pedicab driver from Padang Bulan, Medan, said that haze had been thickening in the region for the last two days, forcing him to put on mask while working outdoors.

“Without a mask, I cannot breathe easily,” Danden told The Jakarta Post.

Thick haze had decreased visibility at Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency along with other airports in North Sumatra including Ferdinand Lumban Tobing Airport in Sibolga city and Aek Godang Airport in Padang Sidempuan regency.

Local BMKG stations reported that visibility at Kualanamu on Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., ranged between 700 and 1,200 meters. At Aek Godang, visibility stood at 500 meters.

“From yesterday until today, the Aek Godang and Pinangsori airports have not served flights because of thick haze,” Deassy Eirene Doloksaribu, of BMKG’s Kualanamu station, said.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s central bank evacuated the families of its staff at a regional capital in Kalimantan, as haze from forest fires reached hazardous levels on the island, Bloomberg reported.

Bank Indonesia paid for the families in Pontianak, West Kalimantan province, to move to the coast further north, where sea breezes and air conditioning reduced the severity of the smoky air, said Dwi Suslamanto, head of the central bank in West Kalimantan.

Around 125,000 people in Indonesia are suffering health issues related to the haze, Willem Rampangilei, the head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said on Thursday.

“We can’t rely on human efforts to manage this disaster,” said Dwi, who has asked Bank Indonesia headquarters in Jakarta for supplies of clean water. “Our only hope is for rain, and for the people who started the fires not to repeat what they did.”

Pollution from the burning of Indonesian forests has been felt most acutely in Kalimantan and Sumatra, shutting down schools and leading to an increase in respiratory illnesses. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is investigating more than 100 companies with fires on their concessions, and the disaster agency aims to extinguish the fires by early November.

A gauge of tiny air-pollution particles reached 989 in Palangkaraya in Kalimantan, and 950 in Palembang on Sumatra, almost three times the 350 level considered hazardous, the BMKG said on its website. In Singapore, a three-hour pollution index was at a “unhealthy” level on Thursday.

South Sumatra`s peatlands attracting global attention -- Governor
Antara 2 Oct 15;

Palembang (ANTARA News) - The peatlands in South Sumatra are now drawing global attention to initiate the restoration process, according to Governor Alex Noerdin.

The governor stated here on Friday that some peatland observers from across the world have come to South Sumatra to obtain firsthand information on how to save and improve the peatland areas in the province.

According to Noerdin, six institutions from Britain and other countries, including the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), have planned to develop the peatland areas in South Sumatra as the first ecoregion in the world.

He noted that one of the activities planned to be conducted is to restore and preserve the peatland areas in South Sumatra.

The governor further added that the global community has chalked out several plans for South Sumatra, the first of which is to restore the peatland areas in the province.

"So, if they begin working on it this month, the province will probably start reaping the results in December and in the future," the governor remarked.

He said the team of researchers from ZSL will directly visit the peatland areas on October 12 to immediately start the mapping process.

Noerdin affirmed that the ecoregion area will be established in South Sumatra and will be converted into a national park in a bid to preserve it.

Indonesian police investigate 232 cases of forest and plantation fires
Antara 2 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian police are investigating 232 cases of forest and plantation fires on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands.

"As of October 1, 2015, police have tackled 232 reports on forest and plantation fires," head of the National Polices Crime Investigation Department (Bareskrim) Commissioner General Anang Iskandar said here on Friday.

The 232 cases include 190 individual cases and 42 cases that involve companies, including two foreign companies.

The police have also named 212 suspects in those cases.

"Of the 212 suspects, 203 are individual suspects, and nine concern corporations," he stated.

Further, he explained that of 212 suspects, only 72 have been detained. They comprise 67 individuals and five suspects represent corporations.

Bareskrim has investigated four cases, South Sumatras police handled 34 cases, Riaus police 68, Jambis police 18 cases, Central Kalimantans police 59, West Kalimantans police 29, South Kalimantans police 9, and East Kalimantans police 11 cases.

The two foreign companies being investigated are PT ASP of China, being handled by the Central Kalimantan police, and PT KAL of Australia, handled by West Kalimantans police.

Three choppers deployed to tackle hotspots in Riau
Antara 2 Oct 15;

Pekanbaru (ANTARA News) - The Riau Provincial Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) has deployed three helicopters to conduct water bombing operations in Siak district on Friday.

On Friday, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) detected hotspots in a 10-hectare plot of idle land in the district, Head of the BPBD in Riau Province Edwar Sanger remarked.

"Since this morning, three helicopters --- Camorv, MI 171, and Sikosrsky --- have tried to put out the fire. The latest developments show that the fire could be controlled," he affirmed.

He noted that the three helicopters, assisted by firefighters from the BPBD, are currently focusing on handling the haze caused by the land fire.

"We continued to dampen the area by conducting water bombing operations to prevent the recurrence of fire. Thank God, there was rain this morning," he stated.

The agency is making every effort to prevent any recurrence of the fire, he emphasized.

By Friday, no hotspots were detected in Riau province. However, he expressed regret over the fact that haze continued to shroud Riau despite no hotspots being found in the past week.

"We speak based on data. No hotspots were found in Riau in the past week, but it is still blanketed in haze. The latest data from the BMKG suggest that 693 hotspots were found in South Sumatra, 32 in Jambi, and 37 in Lampung. So, we must soon overcome the smoke arising from its source," he added.

(Reported by Fazar Muhardi & Anggi Romadhoni/Uu.INE/KR-BSR/H-YH)

Environmentalists Take On Govt Plan to Reduce Waiting Period for Permits to Exploit Production Forests
Jakarta Globe 2 Oct 15;

Jakarta. Indonesia is set to shorten the waiting period for businesses wishing to use the country production forest in an effort to attract investment and boost its sluggish economy.

President Joko Widodo on Tuesday announced a second economic stimulus policy package that, among others, includes fast-track business licensing for major investments as the economy dropped to its slowest growth since 2009 at 4.67 percent in the first half of this year.

During the same occasion, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar revealed her office will expedite the permit issuance process for companies looking to exploit production forests for their business to a maximum of 15 days from the current waiting period, which can reach up to four years.

The minister did not disclose a timeline as to when the statute will come into effect, but it will be settled in the form of ministerial regulation.


Environmental groups have expressed concerns over the minister's decision to slash the waiting period, noting that the government, both at the central and local levels, still struggles with forest management.

"Look at the current situation with haze and forest fires, they're still everywhere," Yuyun Indradi, forest political campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.

Yuyun suggested that the main force behind the decision was the government's effort to achieve Joko's Nine Priorities Agenda, also known as Nawacita.

The campaigner noted Joko's target to develop p 1.2 million hectares of land for the country's food sector.

"The lands may be turned into paddy fields or palm oil plantations, which eventually produce food staples," Yuyun said.

Still, he praised the government's efforts to reduce red tape, which could also see a decrease in unrecorded costs from lengthy waiting periods.

"But this is a challenge for Joko, because the ministry is mostly filled with people from the previous administration," he said.


Experts also warned the government to ensure that the reduction in waiting periods won't lead to discrepancies in the process of approving or rejecting a proposal to clear land in the country's production forests ̶ which stood at 47 million hectares in 2013.

"I hope that this doesn't mean that there's a bypass in the process to obtain a permit," said Nyoman Iswarayoga, communications and advocacy director at WWF-Indonesia.

Nyoman pointed out that the 15 days the government set for administrative purposes likely does not include a pre-auditing process.

"Still, based on our experience, it would take more than 15 days to ensure that there's no conflict," he said.

He added that the ministry would only be able to put the plan into effect in 2017 when Indonesia's moratorium on new forest concessions expires.

"If the ministry imposes the plan now, the government will be violating its own regulations," he said.

One Map initiative

Environmentalists demanded for the government to have created its One Map initiative ̶ a centralized forestry map used by all levels of authority and aimed at resolving conflicting land claims that have hampered emissions reductions targets ̶ before the plan officially becomes a regulation.

"This map can minimize the chances of unwanted tenurial conflicts with local residents, and so providing assurance for investment," said Nyoman.

Greenpeace's Yuyun also called for transparency from the ministry so the public may also monitor the process and partake in forest protection and management.

"Transparency can help eradicate corruption in the environment sector," he said.

Haze in South Sumatra drops from hazardous level to unhealthy range
The air pollution index (API) in South Sumatra dropped from the hazardous level to unhealthy range on Friday.
Jack Board Channel NewsAsia 2 Oct 15;

PALEMBANG, Indonesia: The air pollution index (API) in Palembang, South Sumatra, dropped from the hazardous level of 627 in the early hours on Friday (Oct 2) to 244 at 9am local time.

However, haze caused by fires burning throughout the region continues to hover over the city in the unhealthy range between 150 and 250.

A local state university, Sriwijaya University, confirmed that students and staff had been instructed to take two days off due to the lingering haze.

On Thursday, more than 509 hotspots were detected in Sumatra, with the API reading in Palembang nearing the 1,000 mark.

Despite the high level of haze that continues to affect parts of Southeast Asia, the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said it is not necessary to raise the forest fires and haze crisis to a national disaster level. However, the agency admitted certain conditions need to be met.

The last time Indonesia declared a state of national disaster was in 2004 during the Asian tsunami which killed more than 200,000 Indonesians.

Indonesia Expects Haze To End Next Month
Bernama 2 Oct 15;

JAKARTA, Oct 2 (Bernama) -- The haze caused by forest and plantation fires in Indonesia is expected to end by next month with the beginning of the rainy season soon.

Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Willem Rampangilei was quoted by local media as saying that with the weather shift, the fires in the peatlands would be put out and the haze which has plagued Malaysia and Singapore for the last two months would be eliminated.

He said the haze in Sumatra was also decreasing now due to two days of rain in several areas over the island.

The rainy season starts in late October or early November and it will help extinguish the fire, he said.

"The biggest challenge this time in dealing with forest and agricultural land fires was the peat fires and dry weather," he added.

Meanwhile, according to the republic's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency website, the Air Pollutants Index (API) reading in Palangkaraya in Central Kaliamantan was still at the hazardous level while in Jambi and Palembang, it remained at very unhealthy levels.

The API reading in Palangkaraya was more than 1,300 since 3 pm today and has not dropped until 6pm.

The haze situation in Palangkaraya has paralysed all daily activities and all schools have been closed since Monday after the area was declared a 'haze emergency'.

Jambi recorded API readings of up to 1,000 early this morning, before dropping to 552 at 6 pm, while in Palembang the API reading this morning was 673 before dropping to 315 at 6pm.


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UN battle looms over finance as nations submit climate plans

Matt McGrath BBC News 2 Oct 15;

Divisions over money between rich and poor countries re-emerged as nations submitted their plans for tackling climate change to the UN.

India, the last big emitter to publish its contribution, said it would need $2.5 trillion to meet its targets.

The Philippines said that without adequate climate compensation, their cuts in emissions wouldn't happen.

The UN says the plans increase the likelihood of a strong global treaty.

148 countries, out of a total of 196, have met a UN deadline for submitting a plan, termed an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).

These INDCs cover close to 90% of global emissions of carbon dioxide. The commitments will form the centrepiece of a new global agreement on climate change that nations hope to agree in Paris in December.

Independent analysts at the Climate Action Tracker said that the plans, when added up, meant the world was on track for temperature rises of 2.7 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

This is above the 2 degree target generally accepted as the threshold for dangerous climate change. But it is a significant improvement on a previous assessment of 3.1 degrees, made when fewer plans had been submitted.

India's contribution, which promised to reduce the carbon intensity of their emissions but didn't commit to peaking their CO2, drew praise from around the world.

"It's highly significant that India is joining the ranks of so many other developed and developing countries in putting serious commitments on the table ahead of the Paris climate talks," said former UK environment minister Richard Benyon MP.

Scary numbers

But many environmentalists were critical, saying the plan would see a "phenomenal increase" in the use of coal.

"We're especially disappointed to not see a concrete renewable target," said Pujarini Sen from Greenpeace India.

"They are talking about 40% of electric power coming from non-fossil sources by 2030. This is not 40% renewable energy, it includes nukes, it includes large dams."
The plan says that India's transition will cost $2.5 trillion, a "scary number" according to one observer.

It is unclear how much of this money will come from India's own resources and how much from the international community and investment.

In their written submission, India's proposed climate actions appear to be contingent on getting much of this money from richer countries: "The successful implementation of INDC is contingent upon an ambitious global agreement including additional means of implementation to be provided by developed country parties."

Developed countries have committed to $100bn funding for developing countries to deal with climate change by 2020, but India's environment minister suggested the bill was going to a lot bigger than that.

"I am telling the world that the bill for climate action for the world is not just $100bn, it is in trillions of dollars per year," said Prakash Javadekar.

"Countries will take up their own responsibility but the world which is historically responsible for carbon emissions, what we are suffering today, the climate change, they must at least walk the talk on $100bn."

Some observers believe that India and others are using the INDCs to begin the negotiation process and to highlight how important money is, especially to developing countries.

"The thing that what has the least clarity in this process is the finance issue," said Liz Gallagher from environmental think-tank E3G.

"They are kind of using the INDCs to really deliver that message. It's a big prod to the developed countries to wake up because they haven't sorted this yet."

Several countries in their submissions also pointed to the question of loss and damage.

This issue has become highly contentious in recent years as developing countries have sought some form of compensation for the ongoing impacts of a changing climate. The richer nations have strongly resisted this idea, fearing a legal liability.

The Philippines was quite clear in linking their plans to slash emissions by 70% by 2030 to getting money for loss and damage.

"The Philippine INDC assumes that loss and damages from climate change and extreme events will not require diversion of substantial resources for rehabilitation and reconstruction thereby adversely affecting the country's capacity to meet national development targets," they said in their submission.

Other countries have put a figure in their INDCs on the amount of loss and damage they have suffered in recent years. Serbia, for example, says that in the period between 2000 and 2015 they suffered losses of 5bn euros thanks to floods and droughts.

This focus on loss and damage means that it is likely to feature heavily in the negotiations in Paris.

"There are some legal red lines for many countries, including the US, around the form of compensation and what that would mean," said Liz Gallagher.

"But as a rational and a political choice, loss and damage has to be at the heart of the agreement and that is going to be an important challenge."

Negotiators will meet in Bonn later this month to review a draft of a new deal ahead of the Paris meeting a month later.

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