Best of our wild blogs: 11 Oct 15

8 Activities for Families to Enjoy on Coney Island (& Important Things to Take Note!)

Two Lycaenidae to Make it 322!
Butterflies of Singapore

Kids day out at Chek Jawa
wild shores of singapore

Gentle wild boar family endangered by irresponsible trash disposal
wild shores of singapore

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Why Joko Widodo can't stop Southeast Asia choking on his country's smoke by simply putting out fires

Joko Widodo's failure to put out the forest fires choking Southeast Asia illustrates the problems of land use and decentralisation in Indonesia
Bloomberg in Jakarta, South China Morning Post 11 Oct 15;

Having promised to extinguish forest fires in Riau in western Indonesia by early October, President Joko Widodo jetted into Sumatra Island for a progress check. The smoke was so thick his plane couldn't land, forcing him back to the capital.

Exacerbated by dry conditions from El Nino, the haze has blown across Southeast Asia, blanketing Singapore, parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and even areas of southern Thailand in a smog that has closed schools and forced some people to flee their homes. In what has become an annual "haze season" ritual, governments are bickering about who is to blame and how to fix things, fearing a hit to tourism and economic activity.

So far, Widodo is following a similar track to his predecessors: Threaten to punish the palm-oil and other plantation companies whose land is ablaze and send soldiers in to help fight the fires.

Last Thursday though, after repeatedly declining offers of help from overseas, he asked Singapore, Russia, Malaysia and Japan for help to put the fires out.

"We have asked for help yesterday and have been assisted by Singapore," Widodo said. "We hope the assistance will accelerate the efforts to put out the forest fires on the peat land, which need very different treatment than regular forest fires," he said.

"We need aircraft that are able to carry 12 to 15 tonnes of waters, not only up to three tonnes."

Indonesia has already deployed 25,840 soldiers, police and fire personnel in six provinces to fight the fires, with 25 aircraft conducting water-bombing and cloud-seeding operations.

But unless he addresses the broader factors behind the burning off, the chances are the haze will keep coming back.

Widodo's manoeuvrability is limited by a decentralised system of government put in place in 2001 in the world's largest archipelago, which has coalesced power around local officials and potentially made it harder to tackle corruption on the ground.

There has also been little effort over the years to address a complex system of overlapping land permits, where forest is illegally burned to claim ownership and increase the value to sell for plantations.

"There is no strong control, no strong standards on making decisions at the local level," said Bustar Maitar, head of Indonesian forests for campaign group Greenpeace. "[Widodo] should create strong standards to follow."

Fire hotspots have been burning all year in the tropical forests of Sumatra and Borneo, but the government only acted after complaints by neighbour Singapore and as haze in the area surged. The worst of it has been in Indonesia itself: A pollution index at Palangkaraya in central Kalimantan province reached 1,990 late last month, more than five times the level considered "hazardous", and about 125,000 people in the country are suffering haze-linked health issues.

"The government seems to be working slowly in handling this, we have lived three years like this with smoke," said Helda Satriani, a resident of Rumbai in Riau who is nine months pregnant with her first child. "Government, please, take immediate action."

Widodo took office a year ago promising to address bottlenecks in the economy, from building infrastructure to making bureaucracy more efficient.

He came to power with high expectations, given his success in tackling red tape as Jakarta governor. Since then, he has run into roadblocks from vested interests and even his own party, causing unease among investors and helping make the rupiah Asia's second-worst-performing currency this year.

Since his September pledge, Widodo has scaled back expectations, saying in a BBC interview last week it could take three years to see results.

Southeast Asia has some of the oldest continuous rainforest in the world, part of a swathe that once ran from Malaysia to northern Australia.

Much of Sumatra has a thick canopy of trees covering waterlogged peat soil, an early form of coal, which is drained when logged, leaving a vast area of tinder that can explode and smoulder for extended periods.

The fires might be extinguished by next month, the country's disaster agency has said. The blazes are on track to become the worst on record, according to Robert Field, a Columbia University scientist based at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Still, "it's ridiculous for Widodo to say this will take three years", said Keith Loveard, head of political risk at Jakarta-based Concord Consulting.

"What is required is the application of the law in a manner that discourages landowners, small and large, from continuing this practice, in other words tough penalties handed down without exception."

The government devolved power to the regions to prevent the archipelago from breaking apart after the end of dictator Suharto's three-decade rule and the Asian financial crisis in 1998.

Dubbed the Big Bang decentralisation, Indonesia almost doubled the share of government spending to regions and transferred almost two thirds of the central government workforce, according to a 2003 World Bank report.

Recentralising land permits might not be possible, as the country is too big, but establishing a master map with clearer ownership would be a step forward, said Kevin O'Rourke, who wrote Reformasi: The Struggle for Power in Post-Suharto Indonesia.

Widodo said in February he wanted to create a single map for all provinces to prevent overlapping concessions, though there has been no detail since.

"If we can have one map by 2020, that will be very helpful," said Aida Greenbury, the manager for sustainability at Singapore-based Asia Pulp & Paper. One of its suppliers, Bumi Mekar Hijau, has been named a suspect in causing fires. There were 500 licences held by other companies across the land in its supply chain, and burning could triple the amount that land was worth, she said.

In a country with traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practices, local communities are allowed to burn up to 2 hectares of land per family. Prevention of illegal larger scale burning has been limited, with the government freezing permits for four companies so far.

"Mid-level companies are using a lot of families to burn," said Arief Perkasa, a Jakarta-based manager at TFT, an environmental supply-chain organisation. Cutting forest was 20 times more expensive than burning it, he said.

The financial benefit from the fires could be as much as US$856 a hectare for farming leaders, village heads and land claimants, Herry Purnomo, a forestry scientist for Indonesia's Centre for International Forestry Research, said in a report last month. They get thousands of dollars more from planting palm over the years.

"Many players benefit enormously from fire," Purnomo said. "These players wear multiple hats, [and include] farmers, politicians, businessmen and government officers."

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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Green panel to tighten rules on paper products

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC), which awards the Singapore Green Label to companies, is tightening its criteria for paper products here.
Jessica Lim, Straits Times AsiaOne 10 Oct 15;

By early next year, the 17 paper product makers and distributors here with the right to use the mark on their goods must all have certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) - the most credible forest certification scheme now, going by a recent assessment by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Currently, only two green-label holders for paper goods - Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) exclusive distributor Universal Sovereign Trading and PT Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper Tbk Perawang Mill - provide certification from another body, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), instead. That will soon be dropped.

"We will no longer be accepting anything else but FSC certifications, which are more stringent and have specific standards," said SEC's head of eco-certification Kavickumar Muruganathan. "We hope to have the change in place by early next year."

He added that the FSC has the support of many environmental groups and has a system of tracing, verifying and labelling timber and wood products.

The PEFC, in contrast, is made up primarily of representatives of the forest products industry, Mr Kavickumar said.

The SEC's move comes on the back of the temporary suspension of Universal Sovereign Trading's green label due to its connection with APP - one of five firms under probe for possible connection to the forest fires causing the haze.

This led to several supermarket firms pulling APP products off their shelves on Wednesday.

The SEC's tightening will mean that APP could lose its green label for good, even if the firm is found not linked to the fires. It also had its FSC certificates revoked in 2007.

FSC's Asia-Pacific regional director Alistair Monument said the firm's certificates around the world were pulled after information came to light "that APP was involved in destructive forestry practices", such as forest clearance and illegal logging.

When contacted, APP did not respond to queries on how SEC's move would affect it.

On the revoking of the FSC certificates, an APP spokesman said there have been many developments since 2007, one of them being working with the FSC on an action plan to potentially get its certification back.

Mr Steven Goh, who runs retail consultancy SG Retail Network, said the SEC's move is a positive one. It is probably also due to the council's need to protect the reputation of its green label.

"Here you have a company that could be linked to forest fires with the green mark on it. That's not a good thing. The new criteria will also give consumers the confidence that its mark is still solid."

Fitness trainer Georgina Chua, 32, said: "When I buy something with the green label on it, I can be assured that it is sustainable. It is important that we can continue to trust such marks."

Can Singaporeans sue for haze compensation?
Hannah Teoh Yahoo Newsroom 9 Oct 15;

Whenever the wind blows in heavy smog from raging Indonesian forest fires, Singapore suffers a heavy economic and social toll.

Just over the weekend, the Singapore Swimming Association was forced to cancel the first day of the Swimming World Cup because the haze reached "very unhealthy" levels. SSA vice president Jose Raymond has estimated the cancellation cost them almost S$200,000 in revenue.

This prompted SSA to seek legal advice and "consider joining other parties and individuals in any class-action suit against any Singapore-listed company which is linked to the burning of forests in Indonesia".

But realistically, do Singapore organisations or individuals affected by the haze have any legal recourse to claim compensation?

Possible legal recourse

Under Singapore's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA), those found guilty of contributing to the fires can be fined up to $100,000 a day, capped at $2 million, for causing unhealthy haze.

Raymond said the SSA can only take civil action after successful prosecution by the Singapore government based on the THPA.

Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University School of Law, said section 6 of the law "provides for a civil law recourse for situations such as where an individual or a company is forced to cancel an event due to the haze conditions and where they sustain economic loss, including a loss of profits”.

However, Tan added that this is easier said than done. "THPA covers errant companies, regardless of whether or not they are based or incorporated in Singapore. But if a company is not based or incorporated or has no assets in Singapore, the enforcement of a penalty would hinge upon Indonesia’s consent and assistance in enforcing it there. Unless there is a bilateral agreement to that effect, a foreign country is not obliged to enforce judgement handed down by a Singapore court,” he explained.

Lawyers that Yahoo Singapore spoke to said that legal costs are likely to outweigh the amount of compensation that can be claimed from companies. Legal costs could run into the tens of thousands and even to a million dollars, depending on the complexity of the case, a few of the lawyers estimated.

In addition, companies whose subsidiaries may be involved in burning Indonesian forests may say there are other culprits such as third parties or farmers in Indonesia legally allowed to burn forests, and such companies may say they are only contributorily negligent, putting further distance between them directly causing the haze.

Alternatives to legal action

Given the challenges in obtaining compensation through legal avenues, Tan offers a suggestion for companies to show that they do not endorse Indonesia’ practices: “[Companies] can ensure that they procure their goods and services from companies which are not directly or indirectly engaged in conduct or [participating] in the management of a company that is causing or contributing to the haze pollution.

One example of how this has been carried out is NTUC FairPrice’s decision to remove Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP)’s paper products from all its stores on Wednesday (7 Oct).
APP was ordered by the National Environment Agency under the THPA to provide information on its Singapore and Indonesian subsidiaries because it was named as one of the companies possibly behind the forest fires.

Tan said another alternative is to evaluate whether banks have ethical lending practices: “[A company] may also consider whether the banks that it uses have a proper process of evaluating loan applications and the other banking and financial services to ensure that they are not doing business with an entity that is directly or indirectly causing or contributing to the haze pollution."

The Association of Banks in Singapore on Thursday issued guidelines for the inclusion, among others, of the issues of deforestation and forest degradation in the criteria for approving commercial loans.

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Indonesia: Smoke and haze worsen in Central Kalimantan 10 Oct 15;

Haze caused by forest and peatland fires in North Barito regency, Central Kalimantan, was thicker on Saturday morning, bringing visibility down to 80 meters from 200 meters the day before, according to the local Meteorology and Geophysics Agency in Muara Teweh.

Residents confirmed the worsening smoke. “The smoke and haze are thicker [on Saturday] morning, the visibility was very limited. It leaves us breathless,” said Hermanto, who lives in Muara Teweh.

Meanwhile, an officer at Muara Teweh’s conservation office, Aswaludin, said the satellites NOAA 18 (from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and Terra Aqua (from NASA) detected new hotspots on Friday night.

“The NOAA 18 satellite detected four hotspots, while Terra Aqua detected eight hotspots in different places of North Barito forests,” Aswaludin said.

Meanwhile, House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to appointed one of his aides as a coordinator to solve the haze disaster.

“I have proposed it to President Jokowi. The coordinator could be the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister or the coordinating human development and culture minister,” said Setya as quoted by on Friday.

Forest fires occur every year and cause a range of problems, affecting human health and disrupting flights. The government has yet to come up with a comprehensive solution to stop the forest fires from recurring annually. (bbn)(++++)

House Speaker: Disaster Mitigation Needs Better Coordination
Setya Novanto, center, is the speaker of Indonesia's House of Representatives. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak)
Markus Junianto Sihaloho Jakarta Globe 10 Oct 15;

Jakarta. Indonesia's government should quickly appoint a special coordinator for disaster mitigation, to better tackle issues like the yearly forest fires, the speaker of the House of Representatives says.

Speaker Setya Novanto said late on Friday that one of President Joko Widodo's minister should take charge when the country faces a national disaster such as the current haze crisis.

"The president should appoint a minister he trusts," Setya said. "It can be the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs [Luhut Panjaitan] or the coordinating minister for welfare [Puan Maharani]," he added, giving some examples.

The House speaker also said many more ministers should follow the example the president set by visiting haze-hit areas himself.

"And we would like to thank the countries that are providing us with firefighting equipment," he added, in reference to the offers of help from several countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

Police process 33 cases of land fires in W Kalimantan
Antara 11 Oct 15;

Pontianak, W Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - The West Kalimantan Provincial Police have processed 33 cases of land fires which have caused haze to spread across the province in recent months, a spokesman said.

Further, as many as 25 people have been named as suspects in the cases, spokesman for the West Kalimantan Provincial Police Adjunct Senior Commissioner Arianto said here on Saturday.

All the suspects are local people who set fire to land for agricultural and plantation purposes, he noted.

The provincial police are investigating three companies suspected of setting fire to land. The companies have been identified as PT KAL and PT SKM located in Ketapang district and PT RJP located in Kubu Raya district.

"We have investigated the management of the three companies, but we have not named any of them as suspects," he said.

Preliminary data from the provincial police show that some 525 hectares of land in the province caught fire during this drought.

He said 22 hectares of land are located in Kubu Raya district, 14.5 hectares in Sambas district, 2.7 hectares in Bengkayang district, 7 hectares in Landak district, 110 hectares in Sanggau district, 16 hectares in Sekadau district, 60 hectares in Melawi district, 111 hectares in Sintang district, 12 hectares in Kapuas Hulu district, and 33 hectares in Ketapang district.

Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya said, while accompanying President Joko Widodo during an inspection of firefighting efforts in the village of Rimbo Panjang in the district of Kampar in the Sumatra province of Riau on Friday, that 1.7 million hectares of forests and land in Sumatra and Kalimantan have so far been burnt in the fires.(*)

Forest arsonists to face multiple charges 19 Oct 15;

Companies and individuals responsible for forest fires could face multiple charges under the environment, money-laundering and plantation laws, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

“The charges will be multiple to give a deterrent effect,” the ministry’s directorate general secretary of law enforcement, Novrizal Bahar, was quoted as saying by on Saturday.

In the past, said Novrizal, forest fire setters appeared to be undeterred by the law, especially after several were acquitted of all charges. Most of them were mere actors in the field, not the instigators.

However, Novrizal voiced optimism that starting this year, law enforcement would be tougher.

“Especially as there is strong momentum at the moment. In Aceh, we have filed a Rp 366 billion [US$27 million] lawsuit against PT Kalistam Alam,” said Novrizal.

He added that the company had previously been found guilty of setting land fires in Nagan Raya regency by the Meulaboh District Court.

Previously, the ministry punished four companies for their involvement in setting forest fires. Three of them, identified only as PT TPR, PT WAJ and PT LIH, had their permits suspended. The permit of the fourth company, PT HS, was revoked as the burned area reached more than 500 hectares. (kes)(++++)

On the spot visit reveals peatland forest fires
Imanuddin Razak, The Jakarta Post 10 Oct 15;

The puzzle over the dominant party responsible for the forest fires that have triggered severe haze problems in several parts of the country seemed to have been solved on Friday.

A central government delegation led by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut B. Pandjaitan discovered during an on-the-spot visit to the Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency that a large part of the blame ought to be borne by the owners of industrial forest concessions (HTI).

“I found out during our helicopter flight to get here that the hotspots were found on your HTI concession areas here,” Luhut told local South Sumatra administration officials alongside the management of PT Bumi Andalas Permai (BAP), a subsidiary of Sinar Mas Group, at the company’s plantation area in the Air Sugihan subdistrict, OKI regency.

“Local people are often blamed for the fires. In fact, HTI concession holders like you are the parties [who are mainly to blame],” he added.

PT BAP, which holds a HTI concession of 192,000 hectares in the regency, produces paper products.

During the visit, Luhut was accompanied by National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mulyono and South Sumatra Governor Alex Nurdin.

Luhut told the PT BAP management, represented by its Forestry Operation Manager Sapto Nuristio, that the government would demand that the company bear responsibility for the fires and their impact on the environment and the local people.

“For a company holding such a huge HTI concession, in the future you must have at least one water bombing aircraft, have your own fire department, and have your own early warning system,” Luhut said.

Sapto admitted that the company currently had only one helicopter with a small water tank to deal with forest fires.

Luhut warned the company to comply with the demand, otherwise the government would impose penalties.

“I’ll come back here next February to check whether you have complied with the government’s instructions,” he said.

“Pak Kapolri [National Police chief] should think of legal actions against such violations,” he told Badrodin.

Speaking about foreign countries that have expressed interest in helping Indonesia put out the fires, Luhut listed Singapore, Malaysia, China and Russia as the ones who had offered to help.

“For immediate and effective measures to put out the fires, the first is through water bombing. In this case, we are expecting the arrival of two Russian Berriev Be-200 airplanes next Tuesday,” he said, referring to the water-bombing aircraft with a water tank capacity of 12.5 tons.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said that the foreign countries were expected to focus on helping extinguish fires in South Sumatra, particularly in Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin regencies.

Humans, animals biggest losers in haze crisis
Jon Afrizal and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post 10 Oct 15;

Fires that razed extensive forest areas and peat lands in Sumatra and Kalimantan over the past few weeks have caused local residents to struggle with deteriorating air quality and have instigated cases of conflict with animals displaced from their natural habitat.

In West Tanjung Jabung regency, Jambi, forest fires in the Betara district forced a wild sun bear to escape from its habitat and roam a neighborhood in Serdang Jaya subdistrict, damaging residents’ houses.

“Some 20 houses have been damaged because of the bear’s attack,” subdistrict head Darmayulis said on Friday, adding that the bear usually entered the neighborhood at night.

Swiss-based environmental organization the International Union for Conservation Nature (IUCN) has listed the sun bear as a vulnerable species since 2008.

According to the IUCN, tropical evergreen rainforests are the sun bear’s main habitat on the islands of Borneo, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia. The bears are unlikely to survive in deforested areas or in agricultural areas with no nearby forest.

Darmayulis said the bear had also attacked houses in the neighboring Pematang Buluh and Muntialo subdistricts. He said that he had reported the case to the Jambi Provincial Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA), which later provided local residents with wild animal traps to catch the bear.

BKSDA head Abdul Haris Sudjoko confirmed that the ongoing peat land and forest fires in the province had led to potential conflicts between displaced animals and local residents.

“Recently, we have received a number of reports regarding encounters between local residents and wild animals, including elephants, crocodiles and bears,” Haris said.

Over the past few months, many regions in Indonesia, including Riau, Jambi, North Sumatra, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, have been struggling to cope with the impact of smoke produced by both man-made and natural land and forest fires.

The ongoing disaster has been exacerbated by this year’s long dry season, triggered by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

In South Sumatra, haze caused 3,074 people in the Ogan Ilir regency to suffer from acute respiratory infections (ISPA) in September alone.

Ogan Ilir Health Agency’s disease mitigation section head Mulyadi said community health centers (Puskesmas) across the region were prepared to work a round the clock to help local residents who needed emergency medical assistance due to haze-related diseases.

In West Sumatra, thick haze had decreased visibility in the Padang, Bukittingi and Padang Panjang municipalities below 900 meters, according to Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Padang station spokesperson Budi Iman Samiaji.

The BMKG also reported that Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, had become the city with the worst air quality in the country after its level of particulate matter (PM10) was measured at over 1000 µg/m3 on Friday afternoon.

According to the government’s existing guidelines, air quality is considered “healthy” if its PM10 level stands below 50 µg/m³, “moderate” when the level stands between 50 and 150 µg/m³, “unhealthy” between 150 and 350 µg/m³, “very unhealthy” between 350 and 420 µg/m³ and “dangerous” when it surpasses 420 µg/m³.

Meanwhile in Boyolali, Central Java, local authorities have also struggled to put out fires that have razed the forests on the slope of Mount Merbabu since Sept. 27.

The fires, as of Friday, had burned some 270 hectares of land including a protected forest and agricultural fields in Ampel district.

An Air Tractor AT-802F aircraft was deployed to help extinguish the fires by dropping water bombs.

“The bombing was started on Thursday afternoon. Three hours later some of the fires were extinguished. Today [Friday], we are checking the affected areas while at the same time extinguishing remaining fires we find along our way,” Mount Merbabu Park head Wisnu Wibowo said.

Ganug Nugroho Adi from Boyolali contributed to this article

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Malaysia: Jakarta's assurances sought on fighting haze-causing fires

The Star 10 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has expressed its deep concern on the recurring haze situation in the region and sought Indonesia's assurances to address land and forest fires in the republic.

In a statement issued at the conclusion of the 14th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) here, Kuala Lumpur said it was ready to provide technical support in the form of manpower and equipment to help Indonesia tackle the problem.

"We welcomed Indonesia's ongoing efforts to address land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, and bring the perpetrators to justice," said the Foreign Ministry statement.

The meeting was co-chaired by Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and his Indonesian counterpart Retno L.P. Marsudi.

The statement noted that Malaysia had dispatched a Bombadier amphibious aircraft to assist in water bombing operations in southern Sumatra.

It was reported that Indonesian President Joko Widodo had contacted the Malaysian, Singaporean, Russian and Japanese governments for help to fight fires especially in peatland areas, which are difficult to put out completely.

The president said the kind of assistance needed were aircraft that could carry huge amounts of water.

On another matter, the statement said the foreign ministers remained committed to resolving outstanding maritime boundaries delimitation and land boundary demarcation.

They acknowledged the progress made by the Technical Committee on the delimitation of maritime boundries and the Joint Land Boundary Committee.

Both ministers also discussed issues related to Indonesian workers in the formal sector and domestic workers.

They noted that the Working Group Meeting on Recruitment of Indonesian Workers as well as the 11th Joint Working Group Meeting on Recruitment and Placement of Indonesian Domestic Workers would be held back-to-back in Jakarta on Oct 15 and 16.

The meetings will discuss Malaysia's proposal for what is called the Government-to-Government Plus mechanism, the statement said.

Both sides exchanged views on matters such as Asean, South China Sea, Indian Ocean Rim Association and irregular migration into Southeast Asia. - Bernama

Malaysia, Indonesia discuss boundary issues, ‎haze‬, labour and trade
Both ministers expressed their satisfaction at the state of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, according to Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
Melissa Goh, Malaysia Bureau Chief, Channel NewsAsia 10 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has assured neighbouring countries that Jakarta is optimising all efforts to fight haze.

She made the statement after meeting her Malaysian counterpart Anifah Aman at the 14th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) on Saturday (Oct 10).

They discussed boundary issues, haze conditions, labour and trade, and expressed their satisfaction at the state of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, according to a press release issued by Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

As Malaysia and Singapore begin to join efforts to douse land and forest fires in South Sumatra, Ms Marsudi expressed her thanks and appreciation and assured its neighbours that Jakarta was doing its level best to tackle the perennial haze problem.

Kuala Lumpur has deployed a 25-member team along with three assets, including a Bombardier aircraft that is capable of sucking up over 6,000 litres of water in 12 seconds, enough to put out fires the size of football field each round, while Singapore has sent a 40-member team with a Chinook helicopter and two C130s.

When asked whether Jakarta has done enough to fight the fires, Ms Marsudi said: "It's very clear we are already using optimal way in our effort in mitigating the haze."

Her close aide said Jakarta has asked for help from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Russia because it did not want to mobilise its assets and troops that are currently involved in putting out fires in Kalimantan.

Earlier, both Malaysia and Indonesian foreign ministers discussed a host of issues from land and sea boundaries, to recruitment of foreign workers.

Both ministers also noted trade and investment cooperation between both countries including cooperation on infrastructure developments in Indonesia, palm oil and tourism. They also looked at new areas of cooperation, such as the conservation of the Sumatran rhinocerous, according to MFA.

Mr Anifah and Ms Marsudi also exchanged views on regional and international issues such as ASEAN, the South China Sea, Indian Ocean Rim Association and irregular migration into Southeast Asia.

An agreement was signed to further deepen bilateral cooperation between the two ASEAN neighbours.

- CNA/dl/al

Haze improving throughout the country
New Straits Times 10 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The air quality throughout the country this morning has improved as no area recorded an unhealthy level of Air Pollutant Index (API) as at 9am today.

A total of 37 areas recorded moderate API readings.

According to the Department of Environment (DoE) website, among areas that recorded moderate API readings were Banting (81), Putrajaya (77), Nilai (76), Port Dickson (76) and Shah Alam (75). A total of 14 areas recorded healthy API readings including Alor Setar, Kedah and Kapit, Sarawak, each recording 50 while Indera Mahkota, Kuantan and Keningau, Sabah with 48 each. An API reading of 0 to 50 indicates good air quality; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy and above 300, hazardous.

The public can refer to the DOE portal at for the latest API reading. -- Bernama

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Australia offers aid to tackle fires 10 Oct 15;

Australia has expressed its willingness to help extinguish forest fires in several parts of Indonesia.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that Australia had offered its L100 aircraft from the New South Wales fire department to be used to tackle the disaster, which has caused hazardous pollution in at least six provinces in the country and has caused more than 135,000 citizens to suffer from respiratory infections (ISPA).

“The fires keep burning due to the prolonged dry season in all parts of Indonesia,” said Julie in a press release on Saturday as quoted by

She added that Australians were currently facing the threat of bushfire as well.

“We want to aid our neighboring country to show our solidarity,” said Julie.

At least five countries have offered their assistance to tackle the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan. These are: Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Russia. (kes)(++++)

Haze efforts in full swing
Ina Parlina and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 10 Oct 15;

With the assistance of Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia has begun a huge mitigation operation to extinguish forest and peatland fires that have sent thick haze over neighboring countries in the region.

With the help of the two countries, along with three others, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Friday that Indonesian disaster mitigation personnel were hard at work putting out the fires.

“I saw military and police personnel, as well as those from the BNPB [National Disaster Mitigation Agency] have indeed been working [hard],” Jokowi said while visiting an area where forest fires occurred in Kampar regency, Riau.

Jokowi also expressed his hope that the joint efforts could eliminate the haze sooner than expected.

Earlier, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and BNPB head Willem Rampangilei briefed the President, saying it would take at least two weeks to tackle the haze problem.

Both Luhut and Willem were in South Sumatra on Friday to receive aircraft from Singapore and Malaysia, aimed at helping to put out fires especially in South Sumatra where the majority of hot spots are located. The foreign assistance will mostly be concentrated on South Sumatra.

“Their target is around two weeks. Because we hope that by having larger-capacity airplanes for water bombing, we can handle the situation soon,” Jokowi said.

Earlier on Thursday, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi made contact with three of her counterparts — from Russia, China and Australia — receiving confirmation that the countries were prepared to help Indonesia, especially on a plan to dispatch aircraft able to carry 10,000 liters of water to put out fires.

According to the BNPB, Singapore is set to deploy a Chinook helicopter equipped with a bucket able to carry 5,000 liters of water for aerial firefighting to Palembang on Friday afternoon, and a Hercules C-130 aircraft for cloud-seeding, as well as a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) firefighting assistance team and other equipment.

Malaysia, meanwhile, dispatched a Bombardier CL-415 for water-bombing operations, a Hercules C-130 aircraft, a small helicopter for surveys, a number of crew members and other equipment.

“The request for flight clearance has been sent by Malaysia to [Indonesia’s] Foreign Ministry,” BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Friday, adding that Indonesia had been working with five water-bombing helicopters, two Air Tractor aircraft and one Casa 212 aircraft.

The government previously declined repeated offers of assistance from Singapore on the basis that Indonesia had enough manpower to put out the fires, but eventually gave in following pressure from leaders in the region.

Earlier this week, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on Indonesia to take action against people setting the fires that have caused heavy smoke across the region.

Schools in Malaysia and Singapore closed when the smoke was at its worst, with conditions also forcing the cancelation of a number of sports events.

Health authorities across the region have warned people to avoid outdoor exercise on bad pollution days.

Indonesia has routinely brushed off complaints, while at the same time vowing year after year to stop the fires.

In a number of cities in Sumatra, the thick smoke has taken its toll on the local population.

Kampar Regent Jefry Noer said the haze had caused an increasing number of acute respiratory infections in the regency.

“Around 20 people come to the clinic every day, which offers free treatment 24 hours,” said Jefry.

As a long-term solution to the haze problem, Jokowi has said that local administrations have started to build canal blocks for rewetting peat in several areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan, but said that “it would take time”.

Jokowi has also considered a plan to procure three aircraft that could carry more water — around four times more than the existing planes — and at the same time transport aid to disaster-affected areas.

“At least three units [of aircraft] with big capacity that are able to drop more than 12 tons [12,000 liters of water],” Jokowi said.

Multinational efforts tackle haze
Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 11 Oct 15;
Resources contributed by neighboring countries in the region have begun making their way to regions suffering the most from fires that have destroyed 1.7 million hectares of forest and land in the archipelago and have cost the country an estimated US$14 billion.

Singapore started deploying its personnel to Sumatra, where 45.9 percent of the fires located.

“Indonesian authorities provided clearance [to Singapore] last night. This morning a Chinook and two
C-130s took off ferrying men and equipment to fight the fires in Palembang,” Ng Eng Hen, Singapore’s defense minister, said Saturday.

The Chinook helicopter carried a 5,000-liter heli-bucket, which is a water dispenser slung underneath the aircraft.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said the Chinook helicopter and C-130 Hercules airplanes from Singapore landed in Palembang, South Sumatra at 11 a.m. .

“They are currently being briefed by the disaster mitigation chief and the water bombing will start immediately after that,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Saturday.

Earlier on Friday, a CL415 Bombardier amphibious aircraft and crew arrived from Malaysia to join in the mitigation efforts, Sutopo said.

“This evening, one Dolphin helicopter with four crew members will also arrive [from Malaysia],” Sutopo said. “The Malaysian team will be stationed at Pangkal Pinang and will carry out water bombing in the Selapan and Air Sugihan regions, Ogan Komering Ilir regency, South Sumatra.”

The Indonesian government initially insisted it would not accept help from other countries to battle the forest fires.

However, the smoky haze from the land-clearing fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan has been exacerbated by the current dry season caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, with NASA warning it is on track to become the worst man-made disaster of its kind on record.

The hazardous haze has forced the closure of thousands of schools, grounded hundreds of flights and caused transboundary air pollution to affect Indonesia’s neighbors.

Faced with these grim predictions, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo finally sought help from Singapore, Russia, Malaysia and Japan to put out the fires on Thursday. The President plans for all fires to be extinguished within two weeks.

“Japan and Australia have contacted us in preparation to send assistance,” Sutopo said, adding that Singapore and Malaysia will operate for two weeks only.

Besides deploying assistance, Singapore is also taking legal action that could lead to massive fines against Indonesian companies blamed for the fires, including multinational Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

APP was asked by Singapore’s National Environment Agency to supply information on its subsidiaries operating in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

APP is part of Indonesia’s Sinar Mas conglomerate, one of the world’s largest pulp and paper groups. It publicly upholds “sustainability” and forest conservation as core principles. Its products include stationery and toilet paper.

Last week, the biggest supermarket in Singapore, NTUC FairPrice, withdrew from its shelves all paper products sourced from APP, which has corporate offices in Singapore, as it was among those companies under investigation by Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) over the forest fires in Indonesia.

The NEA temporarily disallowed APP’s products from receiving a “green label” certification. The banned products include tissue and other toiletry products.

The Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires (APHI) said it was unfair for the Singaporean retailer to withdraw APP products from its shelves, believing it had stepped over law enforcement in Indonesia.

“We’re talking about a country, which means that a country has to implement the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Legal processes [taken by the Indonesian government] are still going on,” APHI legal and communication department coordinator Yuki Wardhana told reporters on Saturday. “The government [of Indonesia] should have responded firmly [against the action of the Singaporean retailer].”

In a press statement, APP Singapore promised to release all the information needed and it would invite Singaporean authorities to visit its sites and concessions so that the authorities could directly inspect the company’s operations in Indonesia.

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New nature park opens on Coney Island

Boasting rare flora and fauna, the park seeks to enhance and protect the wide variety of habitats found in the area.
Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 10 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: There are no hotdog stands or amusement rides at the new Coney Island Park, but there is no reason why it cannot be as popular as its New York namesake. Barely hours after it opened, there were already droves of cyclists and nature lovers at the 50-hectare park.

Located off Singapore's North East coast, Coney Island or Pulau Serangoon, is home to a wide variety of habitats, including coastal forests, grasslands and mangroves. There are also rare flora and fauna, like the nationally endangered spotted wood owl and the black-crowned night heron.

"A lot of us, when we are stuck on mainland Singapore everything's fast paced,” said 21-year-old Sumita Thiagarajan, a volunteer guide for the park. “When we come out to islands like these we can enjoy the rustic nature, and slow down a little, then you get to see all the wildlife and you're like 'oh Singapore has wildlife'.”

The National Parks Board (NParks) said the park is built on the principles of sustainability and the aim is to enhance and protect the wide variety of habitats in the area. The timbre of fallen Casurina trees is used to make benches, signs and boardwalks. Rainwater is collected for flushing toilets and diffused sunlight powers indoor lights. There are also nest boxes for migratory birds.

However, beyond the biodiversity, there are other reasons why Coney Island Park could prove more popular than places like Pulau Ubin.

"It's much easier for the public to access because it's actually connected to the mainland,” said NParks' senior director for parks, Ms Kartini Omar. “It is also very well connected with the park connector network, the North Eastern Riverine Loop from Punggol Point, so it's just 500m away."

Visitors enter Coney Island Park using two entrances – by taking a bus to Punggol Point Park and walking 500 metres to the West entrance, or driving down the the Tampines Expressway to Pasir Ris Industrial Drive 6 for the East entrance.

The park is part of the Government's overall plan for Coney Island, which includes areas for sports, recreation and possibly even housing. An interim park is also planned for the western end of the island. However, despite these plans for urban development, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan, who officially opened the park, said he hopes the park will be a symbol of sustainability.

"We will of course keep the island rustic and keep to its natural state as much as possible,” said Mr Khaw. "This is so that Singaporeans, especially young Singaporeans, can get to enjoy and get close to nature."

Coney Island Park is open to the public from 7am to 7pm daily. Volunteers will also give guided walks, starting in November.

- CNA/hs

Coney Island Park opens to public
Today Online 11 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — Nature-lovers can now visit the new Coney Island Park, where they can try spotting the some of the 80 species of birds that can be seen on the island. Or, if they are lucky, they may catch a glimpse of the globally threatened smooth-coated otter, which as been seen at the park and in the surrounding waters.

Home to a wide array of flora and fauna, the 50-ha park, also known as Pulau Serangoon, opened to the public today (Oct 10). It is located at the north-eastern coast of Singapore.

Several nationally threatened species such as birds like the rusty-breasted cuckoo and spotted wood-owl, as well as dragonflies like the sultan and lined forest-skimmer, can be sighted at the park, said the National Parks Board (NParks) in a press release.

Nest boxes for birds like bee-eaters, woodpeckers are being installed around the island to increase the availability of suitable nesting sites.

There is also a wide variety of habitats, including coastal forests, grasslands, mangroves, and Casuarina woodlands.

Visitors can access the beach at five areas that showcase plants of different themes, such as black mangrove tress, beach front shrubs and coastal climbers as well as rare/extinct coastal trees.

NParks said the park was “built on the principles of environment sustainability”. Toilets, for instance, are zero-energy and self-sufficient. Solar power is used to generate electricity to power the pumps for the toilets, while water used for flushing and hand washing is harvested from rainwater. Diffused sunlight is used to provide light indoors.

Casuarina timber from uprooted trees were also collected and recycled into park signages, seats, benches, boardwalk, as well as exhibits, said NParks.

The park was launched this morning by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan. He joined more than 150 participants from various corporate and community groups to plant more than 100 trees.

Singtel contributed S$150,000 towards the tree planting as well as the accompanying educational panels.

NParks volunteer Han Jok Kwang, raised and donated S$150,000 to the Garden City Fund in conjunction with his 30th wedding anniversary celebrations. The amount will fund the planting of the coastal trees, as well as educational signs at the park, said NParks.a

Guided walks will be made available to members of the public in November/December 2015. Registration for the guided walks open tomorrow (Oct 11) at 10am.

The development of Coney Island Park is part of the Government’s overall plan for Coney Island. The south-eastern part of Coney Island is zoned for sports and recreational use in the Urban Redevelopment Authority master plan. An interim park is planned for the western end of the island.

Map of Coney Island. Coney Island consists of Coney Island Park, a future interim park and an area zoned for sports and recreation. Source: NParks


Coney Island Park is open from 7am to 7pm daily.

Due to safety concerns, the park is open only during the day as there is no lighting in the park after dark.

Park Entrances: 1) 500m east of Punggol Point Park (West entrance) 2) Pasir Ris Industrial Drive 6 (East entrance)

Coney Island Park now open to the public
AsiaOne 10 Oct 15;

National Parks (NParks) announced on Saturday that the new Coney Island Park is now open to the public.

The opening of the 50 ha park, located off the north eastern coast of Singapore, was officiated by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan on Saturday morning.

He also joined over 150 participants from various corporate and community groups to plant over 100 trees.

NParks said that Coney Island Park is built on the principles of environmental sustainability, and the park seeks to enhance as well as protect the wide variety of habitats found in the area.

At the park, visitors may come up close with a wide variety of biodiversity, including several nationally threatened species such as birds like the Rusty-breasted Cuckoo and Spotted Wood-Owl, as well as dragonflies like the Sultan and Lined Forest-Skimmer.

They may also access the beach at five areas that showcase plants of different themes.

In addition, Coney Island Park has adopted several environmental initiatives to maintain its rustic character.

For example, the park's toilets run on electricity generated from solar power, while the toilet's water supply is harvested from rainwater, and indoor areas are lit by diffused sunlight.

Meanwhile, the park's signages, benches, boardwalk, as well as exhibits are made from timber collected from uprooted trees.

NParks said that the southeastern part of Coney Island is zoned for sports and recreational use under the Urban Redevelopment Authority Masterplan, and added that an interim park is planned for the western end of the island.

Coney Island Park opens to the public
Audrey Tan THE STRAITS TIMES AsiaOne 11 Oct 15;

A slice of rustic island nature, complete with a free-roaming bull, is now open to the public, and there is no need for a boat to get there.

Coney Island Park is located on the 50ha offshore Coney Island, which is connected to the mainland by two bridges on its western and eastern ends to Punggol Promenade and Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park 6. The park was officially opened by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan.

Costing about $3 million, the park took 15 months to build. It features a beach that stretches 2km and a 2.4 km-long path that is part of the park connector network, which cyclists can use to travel between Pasir Ris and Punggol.

Keen-eyed visitors may also encounter many different types of plants and animals there - the park is home to 86 tree species and at least 157 animal species, including nationally threatened species such as the spotted wood owl and the rusty-breasted cuckoo.

Luckier visitors may even come across the single Brahman bull that roams freely across the island.

It is not clear how the bull got on the island, but the timid and gentle animal was found in poor condition during redevelopment, although it has since been nursed back to health, Mr Khaw told the crowd to applause at yesterday's event.

To give that authentic feel, there is no electricity or piped water on the island. Instead, electricity to power the pumps for toilets is generated from solar power, while water for flushing and hand washing is harvested from rain.

Most of the signboards, benches and boardwalks are made using timber from uprooted casuarina trees, which grow well on coastal habitats like those on Coney Island.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which manages the park, has also tried to preserve the island's original lush vegetation by intentionally leaving the beaches uncleared and allowing greenery to grow in its natural environment.

"The main distinguishing feature is the rustic charm of the park. We want to keep it as basic as possible," said Ms Kartini Omar, senior director of parks from NParks. Compared to Pulau Ubin, which has a similar rustic vibe, Coney Island Park is much easier to access as it is connected to the mainland, she added.

The history of the island, also known as Pulau Serangoon, dates back to the 1930s, when it was bought over by the Haw Par brothers - Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, who built a beach villa there.

The villa fell into disrepair after World War II and the island remained uninhabited until 1950, when Indian businessman Ghulam Mahmood bought the island with the intention to turn it into a resort.

He named it after the Coney Island amusement park in New York, but his plans never materialised after he was fined for corruption.

Long-time Punggol resident Low Joo Kek, 60, said that as a child, he would swim 30m from the mainland to Coney Island during the low tide to pick shellfish on the beach.

Welcoming the throwback nature of the island, he said: "I'm glad plans to turn the island into an amusement park didn't materialise. There is not much difference between the island then and now."

The New Paper 12 Oct 15;

Mention "Coney Island" and the US is more likely to come to mind than Singapore.

Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, is famous for its amusement parks and boardwalk. Our own little island that shares the name is not so well known, not even among Singaporeans.

And it could not be more different.

Coney Island Park, which opened to the public on Saturday, is all about nature.

The island, also known as Pulau Serangoon, hugs the north-east coast of Singapore, facing Pulau Ubin, and is roughly the size of 70 football fields.

There is no electricity or piped water on the island. The pumps for toilets use solar power, while water for washing and flushing is harvested from rain.

Most of the signboards, benches and boardwalks are made using timber from uprooted casuarina trees.

In the 1930s, the island was bought over by the Haw Par brothers - Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par - who built a beach villa there.

It fell into disrepair after World War II and the island remained uninhabited until 1950, when Indian businessman Ghulam Mahmood bought the place with the intention to turn it into a resort, but his plans never materialised and he was fined for corruption.

The National Parks Board now manages the island, which is home to 86 tree species and at least 157 animal species.

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Singaporeans must not depend on others to clean up after them: Masagos

The newly-appointed Environment and Water Resources Minister also says that cleanliness must remain a part of the first-world lifestyle that Singapore is growing into.
Kimberly Spykerman, News 5 Channel NewsAsia 10 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Cleanliness must become something Singaporeans do for themselves and by themselves, rather than depend on others to clean up after them, said newly-appointed Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli at a mass clean-up event on Saturday (Oct 10).

The event was held along the Singapore River and involved more than 1,700 people, including staff from the ministry. Mr Masagos added that as Singapore grows to become an urban city with a first world lifestyle, cleanliness must remain a part of that lifestyle.

The amount of litter retrieved during the mass clean-up totalled about 350 kg and was found in the walkways around the Singapore River and parts of the Central Business District including Raffles Place and Chinatown. Mr Masagos also joined in the clean-up, which took place a day after cleaners were told not to pick up the trash.

"It concerns me there are a lot of cigarette butts and small wrappers, which means we do not take this little bit of effort to throw something very light, to somewhere very near," said Mr Masagos. "It's unfortunate that even when I see trash cans near these places, people would rather throw them exactly where they are."

He added: "Worst of all, these are not biodegradable, so it remains on the ground almost forever."

Cleaning up the Singapore River also provided a fitting reminder of the transformation of this river from an open sewer to the waterway it is today. In 1977, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew called for a massive clean-up of the Singapore River. It took 10 years and cost the government S$170 million.

Said Mr Eugene Heng, chairman of the non-government organisation Waterways Watch Society: "We find a lot of domestic items - things like hairspray, toothbrush. But the most common items we find are plastic bags and plastic bottles. Today we even found planks and wooden poles."

He urged people not to throw trash into the drains as these are connected to Singapore's rivers, canals, and reservoirs.

- CNA/hs

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