Indonesia: WWF Indonesia, embassies call for use of eco-labeled products

The Jakarta Post 12 Oct 15;

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in December, the French Embassy, German Embassy and British Embassy held on Saturday an event promoting the use of eco-friendly products, at Pasar Santa in Kebayoran, South Jakarta.

Cooperating with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, the embassies focused their campaign on encouraging the public to choose environmentally friendly products for their daily needs and to be as efficient as possible in their consumption.

“We want to raise awareness of the people, especially young people, that Indonesia plays an important role in fighting global warming because the country is very vulnerable to be affected by climate change,” Stuart Bruce, climate politics adviser of the British Embassy in Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post.

The campaigners called on people to become smart consumers by choosing eco-labeled products for everyday items, such as tissues and packaged milk.

The eco-labels give a guarantee to consumers that the products used sustainable natural resources and did not harm the environment.

WWF Indonesia footprint campaign coordinator Margareth Meutia said that tissues must have a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on the packaging to be considered eco-friendly. FSC certification ensures that products come from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

“The logo shows that the producers follow nature conservation rules. They take wood from industrial forests, not natural forests,” she said.

Margareth also said that seafood products with certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) indicated that sustainable and well-managed processes were used and that fishermen did not use bombs to catch the fish.

Unfortunately, Margareth added, most eco-labeled products sold in Indonesia were imported because local producers did not pay much attention to environmental matters.

Margareth admitted that eco-labeled products were often more expensive but said the price was worth it for environmental sustainability.

“Sustainable products are supposed to be more expensive because our natural resources are not cheap and are easily exploited. The earth is not cheap,” she said.

Young Indonesians, she added, were growing more concerned and critical about the environment, but did not know how to act.

The embassies also invited Sawo Kecik, a handicraft community initiated by couple Pimpi and Rangga Kusmalendra. The group focuses on recycling milk cartons, turning them into products such as glasses cases, notebook covers, wallets and identity card holders.

To make the products eye-catching, Pimpi and Rangga cover them with patterned fabrics.

“We chose milk cartons because they are urban waste. The city has many coffee shops and cafes which use milk as a ingredient. Each of them can produce two big plastic bags of milk cartons,” Pimpin said.

The German Embassy’s cultural attache Didier Vuilecot said campaigning for eco-friendly products could have a big impact globally.

“We need to start now. We want to persuade young people in Indonesia to be creative to save the earth so that we can work together to combat the bad effects of climate change,” Vuilecot said, adding that Pasar Santa was a good place to reach young people.

The world is looking toward the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris, where around 148 countries are set to discuss reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting goals for combating climate change.

“We have to spread the message to young people in such an interesting way. So we can start thinking together,” Vuilecot told the Post. (foy)

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Best of our wild blogs: 12 Oct 15

Duelling Dragons and other Herps at Treetop Walk
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Pink-fingered Tree-climbing Crab (Episesarma palawanense) @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Monday Morgue

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Malaysian greens pricier now at wet markets here

Melissa Lin, The Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Oct 15;

Consumers may find themselves shelling out more for fruits and vegetables from Malaysia at wet markets here.

The haze and the impending year-end monsoon season have driven up the prices of the produce by more than 20 per cent at some stalls.
The weak ringgit has also added to the cost pressure as Malaysian farmers buy raw materials from overseas.

At a fruit stall in Yishun, owner Ho Koon Wah, 50, sold bananas from Malaysia at $2 per kg yesterday, up by about 50 cents from a month before.

At a Toa Payoh wet market stall, 1kg of spinach from Malaysia cost $2.50, up from $2 last month, said a stallholder who wanted to be known only as Madam Lim, 60.

The air quality in Malaysia reached hazardous levels earlier this week while the Malaysian ringgit fell to its lowest levels since 1998 against the United States dollar on Sept 29.

Haze particles prevent sunlight from reaching plants, causing lower yield and supply, and consequently higher prices, said Mr Tan Chin Hian, vice-chairman of the Singapore Fruits and Vegetables Importers and Exporters Association.

Farmers in Malaysia buy their raw materials, such as seeds and fertilisers, from other countries, so the weak ringgit pushes up the cost price, said Mr Desmond Bernavey Lee, director of fruits and vegetables wholesaler FreshDirect.

He added that prices usually increase during the year-end monsoon season, as the rains would cause vegetables to rot faster and flowers to wilt.

At his Pasir Panjang stall, 1kg of coriander has risen by 50 per cent from a month ago to about $15, while a watermelon now costs $1.30 per kg, up from $1 per kg.

At wholesaler Nishen Tropical Fruits, prices have remained unchanged.

"For now, there's still supply from Malaysia, but in two months' time, we could run into problems for bigger fruits like the pomelo and watermelon," said its managing director Sunny Ng.

He added: "So next Chinese New Year, the pomelo will probably be more expensive."

Last year, Singapore imported 231,000 tonnes of vegetables from Malaysia, which made up 42 per cent of total vegetable supply, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

Other sources include China, India and Australia.

The good news is that the prices of chicken and eggs from Malaysia have remained stable, because the chickens are kept in closed coops and are not affected by the haze, said Mr Joseph Heng, former president of the Poultry Merchants Association of Singapore, which is in the midst of electing a new head.

Singapore imported 68,400 tonnes of chicken and 1.28 billion eggs from Malaysia last year.

Supermarket chains FairPrice and Sheng Siong said the prices of vegetables, fruits, poultry and eggs from Malaysia and rice from Vietnam and Thailand have remained relatively stable at their stores.

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Tuas water plant: Ecosystem monitoring urged

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 11 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE — Environmental experts have recommended a slew of monitoring measures to be taken for the construction and operation of the Tuas Water Reclamation Plant, which national water agency PUB said it will review and implement progressively as construction begins in 2017.

The Tuas Water Reclamation Plant, which is part of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System that will meet Singapore’s long-term needs for water collection, treatment, reclamation and disposal, will serve the western part of Singapore. Construction of the discharge point for treated used water — called the outfall — will begin after 2021 at Tuas Basin. The plant will handle used water from around 2024.

In an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report commissioned by PUB, experts at DHI Water and Environment said the discharge of treated used water is expected to have minor to moderate negative impact on surrounding corals and seagrass, and slight negative impact on mangroves. There will also be an increased risk of algal blooms, which are of minor negative impact to overall ecology and biodiversity. These are largely due to the levels of nitrates and phosphates in the discharged water.

The good news: There will likely be no impact on marine animals such as dugongs and sea turtles.

Overall, the building of the plant is a more sustainable approach compared with a no-build scenario, as it would replace the Ulu Pandan and Jurong water reclamation plants, which use older technology, and free up land.

The EIA report, currently available for public inspection, suggested the annual monitoring of seagrass beds once the plant begins operation, given the “ecological importance of seagrass meadows in the Southern Islands and presence of internationally protected species”.

Although coral communities have been shown to adjust to local water quality and conditions, DHI suggested seasonal monitoring of coral reef conditions and nitrate levels.

A monitoring programme for phytoplankton — plankton that require sunlight to live — should also be in place to detect cells or toxins “sufficiently early”. The programme will help protect public health, fishery resources and the ecosystem structure, DHI said. Phytoplankton populations, water temperature and salinity and chlorophyll levels are among items that should be measured.

DHI found that the discharge of treated used water would be of negligible risk to fish farms around Pulau Semakau, more than 10km away.

Asked if PUB intends to adopt all mitigating measures recommended by DHI, it said the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System Phase 2 and Tuas Water Reclamation Plant project spans more than 10 years, and all proposed monitoring measures will be “reviewed and implemented progressively as the project is being developed”.

The treated used water to be discharged will be less than 35 per cent of the volume received by the Tuas plant, as the bulk is used to produce NEWater. The discharge does not include solid waste from households and industrial sources, which is extracted from used water and used to produce biogas before being incinerated.

The Tuas plant will use advanced technology, such as membrane biological reactors that greatly reduce the level of organic matter and total suspended solids in used water, compared to conventional treatment processes. This means its treated water will be of high quality.

The Tuas plant, which will result in the Ulu Pandan and Jurong plants being phased out by 2030, could adopt even more advanced technology when major upgrading is expected in 2050, noted the report.

Representatives from the Nature Society (Singapore) have seen the EIA report. Mr Stephen Beng, who chairs the society’s marine conservation group, said the EIA was comprehensive and a positive step from Phase 1 of the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System completed in 2008. An EIA was not done for Phase 1, he said.

Calling for the sharing of mitigating measures from the project’s environmental monitoring and management programme (EMMP), he said: “It’s going to be over a 25-year period. Coastal landscape and environmental conditions change, so baselines have to change as well.”

Periodic updates on the EMMP when the plant begins operations will help the public know what PUB is doing about the “growing risks of the outfall on corals and seagrass”, he added. “It’s the connected nature of the marine environment where individual stressors act in concert, resulting in cumulative effects on marine ecosystems. That’s why it requires constant monitoring.”

The executive summary of the EIA report could also be posted online to be more accessible to the public, suggested Mr Beng. The report can be viewed by appointment at the Environment Building.

The last two EIAs that PUB conducted took place in 2011 for Tuaspring Desalination Plant and this year for the third desalination plant to be built in Tuas. Both reports were open for public viewing, said the PUB spokesperson.

Currently, EIAs are required for major development projects, especially those near sensitive areas such as nature reserves and marine and coastal areas. PUB incorporates EIA recommendations in project tender specifications to ensure minimal impact and disruption to the surrounding environment, she said.

PUB did not say if every EIA report is open for public viewing. The spokesperson said: “The EIA goes through a multi-agency review before reports are gazetted and available for public viewing.”

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Reward people who catch litterbugs in action, MP Lee Bee Wah proposes

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah is suggesting to the authorities to reward people who catch litterbugs in action. For example, after a resident takes a video of someone littering, he submits the evidence to NEA, and he gets to earn half of the summons.
Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 11 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: While the rest of the neighbourhood in Nee Soon South is sleeping, about 120 volunteers were out early on Sunday morning (Oct 11). Armed with litter pickers and gloves, they sorted the garbage into bags for rubbish and recyclables.

Headed by Nee Soon South MP Lee Bee Wah, the ward is the first in Singapore to do this on a monthly basis.

The programme – called HABIT @ Nee Soon South (Hold on And Bin IT, make it a HABIT!) – started about three years ago, and organisers said they have seen a gradual decrease in the amount of litter collected. Meanwhile, the number of residents volunteering has also increased.

National Environment Agency (NEA) said it wants to replicate the monthly scheme in other parts of Singapore. It said representatives from Jurong and Queenstown have expressed an interest, and have attended Nee Soon's monthly litter picking programme to learn more.

However, Ms Lee said picking up litter is not enough. She is encouraging her residents to look out for those who litter habitually.

She also suggested to the authorities to reward people who catch litterbugs in action. For example, after a resident takes a video of someone littering, he submits the evidence to NEA, and he gets to earn half of the summons.

She said: "In Taiwan, every resident is an enforcement officer. They can video, they can take photo of the litterbug and submit to their NEA. And if there is successful prosecution, their NEA will give the resident who reported it half of the summons collected.

“My residents have given this suggestion and I thought it is a good one. So now I'm working with NEA, and we will try to pilot this in Nee Soon South in the near future."

Channel NewsAsia understands there are challenges in its implementation, as the legislation needs to be amended.

Said NEA chairman Liak Teng Lit: "I think the Government needs to think through what are the things we need to do. If you look at the equivalent of what is happening on the road, many people today have their in-vehicle cameras and not many people dare to make funny claims about accidents because there is a risk that whatever you say could be contradicting what's on the camera in someone else's vehicles.

“So certainly having neighbours watching over the environment and watching over each other will be very helpful. For the good citizens, there is nothing to worry about. In fact, people will be filming you doing good things and praising you rather than reprimanding you.”

Ms Lee also launched a second recycling point in her ward, after a successful pilot. The scheme is being supported by the Tzu Chi Foundation.

Residents take their recyclables to the void deck at Block 873, Yishun Street 81. These items will be sorted, and taken to recycling centres.

She said this will educate residents on what can and cannot be recycled. This could prevent uninformed residents from contaminating recycling bins with waste.

- CNA/xk

Get rewarded for catching a litterbug?
Carolyn Khew, Seow Bei Yi, Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times AsiaOne 13 Oct 15;

Reward people for catching litterbugs? The bold idea, which Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said she was thinking of trying out, has sparked mixed reactions from experts and members of the public.

During a litter-picking exercise in Nee Soon South on Sunday, Ms Lee said she has suggested to the National Environment Agency (NEA) to implement a reward system like that in Taiwan, where people are given a portion of the summons payment after they submit evidence of litterbugs caught in the act.

Yesterday, she told The Straits Times she suggested this to the NEA a few months ago and hoped to roll out a pilot in Nee Soon South.

When asked, NEA said it is studying the feasibility of the idea, which arose after a study trip to Taiwan by the Public Hygiene Council. The suggestion comes against the backdrop of stepped-up enforcement against litterbugs by NEA.

Responding to ST queries, the agency said for the first half of this year, over 12,000 tickets were issued for littering - a 34 per cent rise from the same period last year. About 70 per cent of the tickets were issued to residents. Over the same period, there were 551 instances of corrective work order (CWO) imposed by the courts, a 72 per cent rise from the same period last year. Less than 6 per cent of those who served the CWOs were caught littering again.

Yesterday, an ST street poll of 50 people saw 34 disagreeing with rewarding people for nabbing litterbugs and 16 for the idea, saying it would have a deterrent effect.

"When people know that they will be photographed for littering, they will be more diligent (in not littering)," said Ms Srilata Krishnan, 39, a regional compliance manager.

Of those against the idea, 10 said education was the long-term solution. Dentist Ahmad Hassan, 36, said of the idea to reward people for catching litterbugs: "People will suspect other people and (this will) create a sense of animosity."

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser was also against the idea. He said: "Civic consciousness should not have a price tag to it. As a parallel, do we want to see a day when accident witnesses need to be paid to come forward to give evidence?"

Public Hygiene Council chairman Edward D'Silva said implementing this approach will come with challenges. "The authorities will have to verify the authenticity of the picture and whether the person who took the picture is bona fide."

Ms Lee told ST yesterday: "The main objective is to have everyone playing his part so the environment will be much cleaner. If you do not litter, you need not worry."

NEA chairman Liak Teng Lit said he is open to the idea. When it comes to recalcitrant litterbugs, neighbours may be more familiar with them than NEA enforcement officers, he noted.

If implemented, the idea will add to measures over the years to encourage people here to keep Singapore clean. They include No Cleaners Day and the Bright Spots challenge, which encourages people to adopt an area and keep it clean.

Asked if these have worked, Mr Liak said: "We may not have made a vast improvement but the decline in cleanliness has slowed down."

Most people do not litter, he said. They just need to continue to do so and to remind those who litter not to do so. Where possible, people should also pick up litter, he said.

"When that happens, Singapore will be truly clean, not cleaned."

Will 'tattletale' solve litter issue?
Foo Jie Ying, New Paper AsiaOne 17 Oct 15;

Why fear if you are not a litterbug?

That is what Ms Lee Bee Wah had to say to criticism of her suggestion to offer monetary rewards to those who catch litterbugs in action.

On the sidelines of a litter-picking event over the weekend, the Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament talked about hoping to pilot the programme in her constituency.

But some saw Ms Lee's proposal as encouraging people to "bao toh" (Singlish for tattletale) on each other. When approached by The New Paper on Tuesday, Ms Lee stood by the idea. "I don't think it will have a major impact on feelings between neighbours. After all, people who don't litter have nothing to fear," she said.

The idea is based on a Taiwanese legislation: those who submit evidence of litterbugs in action may be rewarded with a portion of the fines imposed.

A resident brought it up to Ms Lee, who found the system to be an effective deterrent for habitual litterbugs.

She then suggested it to the National Environment Agency (NEA), hoping to pilot it in her ward.

"I looked at the system in Taipei. It is certainly effective - their Department of Environmental Protection feels that it is the main factor for improving the cleanliness of their city," she said.

She hopes the system, if piloted here, will give residents a sense of participation.

"Also, if the common areas are clean all the time and not just after cleaners clean up, everyone will feel more comfortable using them," she said.

Even if few people go around catching litterbugs, the mere existence of such a system will deter the litterbugs, she added.

While the general idea is to follow the Taiwanese report-and-reward system, Ms Lee said the exact model should be examined by NEA.

"I think the monetary value should not be large, but just a small sum to incentivise people to report litterbugs," she said.

Will the reward system work?

NEA chairman Liak Teng Lit said: "In my personal opinion, it's not so straightforward. It doesn't mean that if you give money, people will definitely report on litterbugs more."

But Mr Liak thinks this system will serve as a check on recalcitrants.

With social media, people are now worried about being flamed online, he said.

"We are not talking about ordinary people who accidentally drop something. We are talking about recalcitrants - those who throw diaper, food and other horrible things," he said.

Mr Ken Kee, a victim of high-rise littering, agreed.

He had to deal with neighbours who kept throwing porridge and other food out of their window last year.

Frustrated, Mr Kee, 43, resorted to camping opposite the block to film his neighbours in action.

The case remains unresolved as the alleged culprits have moved out, he said.


"Littering is a problem that has been going on for some time... If you throw a banana skin on the floor, it's totally unacceptable. These are things we should actually voice out against," he said.

But Singapore Kindness Movement's secretary-general, Dr William Wan, has "mixed feelings" about putting a price tag on actions that should be altruistic.

"By incentivising this act of public service with money, we may solve one problem and create another - which is just as bad, as we might end up becoming a society that acts only when incentivised," he said.

"I do think that we need to step up enforcement and the best people are the authorised enforcement officers, including the trained community volunteers, who are empowered by law to do this."

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Malaysia: Social, economic costs of haze must be calculated -- Rafidah

TAN YI LIANG The Star 11 Oct 15;

PETALING JAYA: The social and economic costs of the recent haze must be calculated, said former International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz (pic).

"The haze will be an annual nuisance, but the economic and social costs must be calculated in the event we need to make accountable those who are responsible for the environmental hazard," said Rafidah in a Facebook post on Sunday.

She added that the haze would have had an impact on the economy in terms of productivity and opportunity losses.

"The haze has forced schools to close intermittently, disrupting classes and exam schedules..And many outdoor programmes have also had to be curtailed or cancelled altogether and its negative impact on health and well-being certainly is significant," said Rafidah.

She added that another factor currently affecting the Malaysian economy was the current currency situation.

"The currency situation is still a hot topic of conversation in many quarters because of not only the volatility but also the impact of the weakening of the Malaysian Ringgit against other currencies," said Rafidah.

She added that while some sectors will benefit from a weaker Ringgit, other sectors that require imports from other countries such as hardware and the health sector will be affected.

"Perhaps the Ministries and the central agencies can undertake in-house studies to ascertain the costs to the nation, as a result of the Haze, the currency volatility and other issues impacting business confidence and investment into the Malaysian economy," said Rafidah.

Rafidah added that feedback from the private sector as to the impact of the haze and currency volatility can help to formulate measures to help them ride out the current economic situation.

"Private sector driven economic growth can move the nation forward as planned," she said.

She also pointed out that the annual budget will be tabled before Parliament soon.

"It is hoped that there will be focus on issues that impact upon the nation's productivity, on operating and development expenditure in an unpredictable economic environment," said Rafidah.

Haze situation worsens slightly in Malaysia
THE STAR/ANN AsiaOne 12 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR - The haze situation in 52 areas nationwide has worsened slightly.

The number of areas with good air quality went down from 14 as at 5pm on Saturday to 12 at 5pm yesterday while the areas recording moderate air quality increased from 38 to 40.

Meanwhile, former Cabinet mi­­nister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said there was a need to count the losses Malaysia suffered due to the haze as it would come in handy if the autho­rities decided to go after the culprits.

She said ministries and federal authorities should work out a detailed bill on the damage in terms of productivity losses and opportunity costs due to the choking smoke from Indonesian fires.

"Certainly, the haze will be an annual nuisance, but the economic and social costs must be calculated and those who are responsible for the environmental hazard should be made accountable," she stated on her Facebook page yesterday.

Rafidah said it would be good for authorities to also determine how the ringgit depreciation and other related issues had impacted the Malaysian economy.

She said while some sectors were benefiting from a weaker ringgit, import dependent sectors were getting hit.

Haze to ease in the next few days
New Straits Times 11 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: Continuous rain forecasted in the late afternoon and evenings in coming days should further ease the haze situation in most of the country, according to an update from the Meteorological Department released today.

Light winds in several directions have already brought damp weather conditions to many parts of the country.

In general, good weather is forecasted for mornings.

The Meteorological Department forecasts rain and thunderstorms in the evenings covering most states in the West Coast of the Peninsula, the West of Sarawak and West of Sabah, while other parts of the country may also experience similar conditions.

"The hazy conditions experienced currently is expected to improve gradually if it rains, especially in the evenings and at dusk," the statement read.

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Malaysia: Najib says Jokowi regrets haze

RAHIMY RAHIM The Star 12 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo has expressed regret over the haze which hit Malaysia.

The Indonesian leader, who is popularly known as Jokowi, gave his views during a meeting with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the Bogor Presidential Palace here yesterday.

“Indirectly, he apologised and understands, and even felt pressured and embarrassed.

“This is because it is a complica­ted situation, but it was never his intention to allow it to happen,” the Prime Minister told Malaysian journalists after the meeting.

Najib is on a two-day working visit to Indonesia to boost bilateral cooperation in the palm oil industry and to iron out environmental issues.

A Malaysian Bombardier 415MP plane has been deployed in a multi-national team of seven helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft for water bombing operations in south Sumatera which began yesterday morning.

Najib said Malaysia was willing to extend more help in terms of manpower and equipment.

He said the ongoing haze pro­blem was caused by certain quarters who used the “slash and burn” technique to clear land for cultivation.

“If they do not use the ‘slash-and-burn’ technique, the cost will be 40 times higher to clear the land,” he said.

Asked if Malaysia will take legal action against firms responsible for the burning, Najib said it would be up to Indonesia to enforce its laws.

“We were informed that plantation companies were only responsible for 3% of the fires,” he said.

Najib proposed that Indonesia fit tube wells into peat soil to prevent fire and haze as successfully done in Malaysia.

“Indonesia initially wanted to build a network of canals, but we believe this will take too long.

“I informed President Jokowi that the haze affected Malaysia, especially in health, transport, school schedule and also our socio-economy as a whole,” Najib said, adding that Jokowi was receptive to Malaysia’s idea.

Malaysia and Indonesia also announced the setting up of the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries aimed at boosting co­ope­ration between the two biggest palm oil producers.

“The cooperation will bring many benefits to smallholders and the industry as a whole.

“The council is set to create a global standard for a sustainable palm oil industry, cooperate on the volume of the stockpile and create a formal structure,” said Najib.

Malaysia PM says ready to increase help to Indonesia in tackling fires
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak also says that Malaysia will invite Indonesia to share his country's experience in tackling the haze.
Channel NewsAsia 11 Oct 15;

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is ready to increase its help to Indonesia in efforts to put out the forest fires in the country, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in a press conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the Bogor presidential palace on Sunday (Oct 11).

The regional environmental crisis has caused flights and major events to be cancelled and forced tens of thousands of people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to seek treatment for respiratory problems.

"We consider the haze a serious issue as it's a burden to Malaysians and Indonesians," Mr Najib told reporters after the meeting. "Malaysia is prepared to increase our assistance in dousing the fires. The areas affected are widespread so certainly the challenges are very big," he said.

Mr Najib added that Malaysia will invite Indonesia to share his country's experience in tackling the haze.

The blazes flare annually during the dry season as fires are illegally set to clear land for cultivation on Indonesia's island of Sumatra and in the Indonesian portion of Borneo island.

National disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said a Malaysian CL415 Bombardier capable of scooping up to six tonnes of water from the sea, and a Singaporean Chinook helicopter which can pour water from a huge hanging bucket, were among the 10 aircraft used for water-bombing in South Sumatra province.

A Lockheed L100 Hercules Air Tanker with a 15-tonne capacity is expected to arrive in the coming days, he added.

Jakarta has deployed about 25,000 personnel and aircraft but the firefighters have been overwhelmed by the extent of the blazes.

The Indonesian government for weeks insisted it did not need international help before finally agreeing to accept the offers from several countries.

Mr Najib’s comments came after he arrived in Indonesia on Sunday for a two-day working visit.

The aim of the visit is to hold a bilateral consultation with Mr Widodo to "further strengthen bilateral cooperation in the palm oil industry", said Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting is also a follow-up to the previous two Ministerial meetings between Malaysia and Indonesia held on Aug 27 in Kuala Lumpur and Oct 3 in Jakarta, it added.

The visit will provide an opportunity for both countries to "explore and further enhance the cooperation toward sustainable palm oil industry", said the ministry. Both leaders will also discuss issues on environment cooperation.

Mr Najib is accompanied by his wife, Ms Rosmah Mansor, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Douglas Uggah Embas, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister’s Department Razali Ibrahim and Government officials.

Channel NewsAsia understands that the visit is unscheduled.

- CNA/AFP/av/ec

Jakarta, KL to set 'green' standards for palm oil
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, The Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Oct 15;

Indonesia and Malaysia on Sunday (Oct 11) agreed to have a new set of standards to produce environmentally sustainable palm oil, while the latter pledged to increase co-operation to help prevent land and forest fires in Indonesia.

These commitments were disclosed following a meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at Bogor presidential palace, just outside Jakarta.

The meeting took place as a joint water-bombing operation by Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia kicked off on Sunday in South Sumatra, which is among the worst- hit provinces. It was the largest water-bombing mission ever carried out in an Indonesian province, with seven helicopters and three fixed- wing aircraft tackling the fires raging in two regencies - Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin.

During their meeting, Mr Joko and Datuk Seri Najib agreed to have a palm oil green economic zone to ensure a boost in the output of the edible oil that can be used for biofuel, while at the same time preventing illegal fires to clear land.

Officials said a joint task force will be established to accelerate the implementation of the points the two leaders agreed on, but no timeframe was given.

"We know that 85 per cent of global palm oil output comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. We will create a new global standard to produce sustainable palm oil," Mr Joko told reporters at a joint news conference after the meeting.

Mr Najib brought a team of experts with him to evaluate a canal- blocking system that is used in Indonesia to prevent fires on peatland.

"Malaysia is prepared to increase our assistance in dousing the fires. The areas affected are widespread, so certainly the challenges are very big," the Malaysian leader said.

Land and forest fires in Indonesia intensified in recent weeks, spawning thick haze that travelled to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Jambi, located to the north of South Sumatra, is the second worst-hit province on the island. On Saturday night, Mr Joko had to cancel a trip to Jambi as the visibility level there dropped to 600m, below a required minimum of 1,000m for any plane to land.

On Friday, he said the authorities will aim to put out forest fires within weeks with the help of other countries. "The target is to put out the fires in about two weeks. The bigger scale of water-bombing operations means an accelerated process," Mr Joko said.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Panjaitan will summon by tomorrow the directors and owners of plantation companies that had fires on their concessions, to discuss plans to get them more involved in helping to tackle the annual problem.

During his visit to Ogan Komering Ilir on Friday, accompanied by The Straits Times and representatives from three local media outlets, Mr Luhut went deep into the forest to one of the hot spots. He stepped on peatland in an area that firefighters had just worked on and found smoke coming out from beneath.

"This is a big challenge... The fire is gone on the surface, but look at this. There is a lot of smoke because the fire is still burning inside. It takes an abundant amount of water to get rid of it completely," he said.

Indonesia, Malaysia agree to intensify economic cooperation
Antara 12 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to intensify economic cooperation, particularly in a bid to achieve the increased target of bilateral trade set at US$30 billion for 2015.

"Malaysia is the closest neighboring country of Indonesia. We have several similarities in our culture and history as well as interests and future," Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi noted in a press release received here on Monday.

Retno met her Malaysian counterpart Datuk Anifah Aman during a meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) on last Saturday in Kuala Lumpur that was held to discuss bilateral cooperation.

The meeting is also aimed to make preparations for a consultation meeting between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in 2016.

Both foreign ministers agreed to intensify cooperation in the palm oil industry, including efforts to dismiss the negative campaign about Indonesian palm oil in the markets in Europe and the United States.

"Malaysia has positively welcomed the Indonesian proposal to establish a Council of Palm Oil Producer Countries (CPOPCs) to improve cooperation between palm oil producing countries, including on production and promotion efforts," Retno affirmed.

Retno and Anifah also discussed about Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia. They agreed to prioritize the safety, welfare, and basic rights of migrant workers employed in Malaysia.

Both countries also shared a similar viewpoint that migrant workers should understand the regulation and mechanism being implemented in Malaysia, including the voluntary deportation issue.

During the meeting, Minister Retno also discussed the importance of education rights for the children of migrant workers in Malaysia.

She hoped the agreement signed between President Widodo and the Malaysian prime minister in February 2015 on providing education to the children of migrant workers would be followed up. The minister was also optimistic that Malaysia would grant an establishment permit for setting up a Community Learning Center (CLC) for Indonesian children.

"We will also accomplish several issues at the technical level for the development of a CLC and teaching permits for Indonesian teachers at the center," Retno revealed.

Both ministers also discussed several matters relating to the political and regional security sectors, such as border issues, legal and consular cooperation, and education, as well as in the fields of meteorology and agriculture.

Additionally, the next JCBC meeting will be held in Indonesia in the second semester of 2017.(*)

PM Najib offers RI haze know-how
Haeril Halim and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 12 Oct 15;

As the government struggles to contain relentless fires, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Sunday after meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in Bogor, West Java, that he would invite Indonesian representatives to visit the haze-choked neighboring country to exchange ideas on fire containment.

Malaysia was also ready to share its success in reducing haze problems, the prime minister said.

Najib made the remarks following the dispatch on Sunday of a Bombardier CL-415 to join Indonesian and other international haze crisis forces to water bomb badly affected South Sumatra, where the majority of hot spots have been detected.

“Yesterday the government of Malaysia sent a plane to Indonesia to help with the haze crisis handling,” Najib said after his meeting with Jokowi, as quoted by Antara news agency.

In addition, Najib vowed to give more aid in the near future to help the haze team contain land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan — which have also affected Malaysia, with the country blanketed with haze over recent months — in a number of sectors including health, the economy and transportation.

Najib said that Malaysia would cooperate with the Indonesian government to send an Indonesian team to the neighboring country to observe how Malaysia had built a canal system to prevent land and forest fires in the country.

The two leaders also agreed to establish a Council of Palm-Oil Producing Countries (CPOP). Indonesia, which has 4 million oil-palm farmers, and Malaysia, with 500,000 oil-palm farmers, together produce 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.

Sunday’s meeting also marked the leaders’ agreement to form a New Global Standard for Sustainable Palm-Oil Production and Green Economic Zone.

Meanwhile, Indonesian and Malaysian citizens have exchanged a satirical war of words over the haze on Twitter, with the latter blaming the inability of the Indonesian government to tackle the haze problem on its own land, despite the fact that a number of Malaysian pulp companies operating in Indonesia have been suspected of being among the land burners in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli, who accompanied Jokowi during the meeting, said the President had expressed his appreciation over the Malaysian government’s offer of its technology and expertise on haze solutions.

“If the system is good and cheap, then it can be combined with the canal system that has earlier been suggested by the Indonesian government,” Rizal said at Bogor Palace after the meeting.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that seven helicopters — six owned by the BNPB and one from Singapore — and four planes water bombed the areas of Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin in South Sumatra on Sunday.

Sutopo said that Malaysia would decide whether to extend the operation of its helicopter until Oct. 16, while Singaporean Chinook helicopters, which can carry 5 tons of water at a time, will help the Indonesian team on the field until Oct. 23.

“The Australian team [arrived] in Palembang on Sunday and it is predicted that a Thor type of Hercules L-100 plane, which has a capacity of 15 tons of water, will arrive in the area on Tuesday or Wednesday.

“The plane will operate for a total of five days,” Sutopo said, adding that more aircraft from other countries would follow suit.

Meanwhile, data from the BNPB revealed on Sunday that as many as 322,676 people in the country suffered from acute respiratory tract infections because of the smoke from the unremitting fires, comprising 52,582 Riau residents, 69,734 people in Jambi, 83,484 in South Sumatra, 43,477 in West Kalimantan, 44,024 in Central Kalimantan and 29,105 in South Kalimantan.

Read more!

Indonesia: $47b? Indonesia counts costs of haze

Francis ChanTHE STRAITS TIMES AsiaOne 12 Oct 15;

Early estimates by the Joko Widodo administration indicate that the haze crisis could set Indonesia back by up to 475 trillion rupiah (S$47 billion) - no chump change to a government already grappling with a sliding rupiah and sluggish growth.

However, observers warned that economic pains aside, the country's global standing will also take a hit if it does not resolve the decades-old issue, caused by illegal forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

The blanketing haze from the fires, often burning over dry peatland, has affected millions across Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, as well as parts of the Philippines and Thailand more recently.

It has forced schools to close, flights to be delayed and major sporting events in both Singapore and Malaysia to be cancelled.

For Indonesia, more than 136,000 of its people have suffered from respiratory infections. There were also unverified reports of a few haze-related deaths, including that of a 15-year-old schoolgirl.

Researchers Tiola Javadi and David Han from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) said in a report last week that the crisis, if prolonged, could strain relations, particularly between Indonesia and its closest ASEAN neighbours, Singapore and Malaysia.

Professor Euston Quah, who has spent years researching the economic impact of the transboundary haze, agrees.

"It is too early to tell what the economic costs of this year's haze episode will be because it will probably go on until early November due to El Nino," said Prof Quah, who heads the economics division at Nanyang Technological University.

"But the cost of this crisis, whether for Indonesia, Singapore or Malaysia, will likely be the same... the only difference is that Indonesia will probably lose much of the goodwill it has with its neighbours. That has not been estimated and will emerge as a massive intangible cost to the Indonesians," he added.

The "confusing verbal exchanges between Indonesia and Singapore on the haze issue" do not help Indonesia's cause, said Mr Javadi and Mr Han.

They were referring to Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, who rapped his country's neighbours for grumbling about the haze but never thanking Indonesia for the clean air they enjoy for the rest of the year.

Another episode that had threatened to sour ties was Indonesia's repeated rejections of Singapore's offer of assistance. But the matter appears to have been put to bed after Jakarta last week formally accepted offers of help from several countries, including Singapore.

The transboundary haze, which first grabbed headlines in a big way in 1997, cost the region an estimated US$9 billion then.

This year's haze, which has already affected more than 28 million people living in Indonesia, is likely be worse than that in 1997.

While the economic impact of the haze in 2013 - when air pollution hit record levels in Singapore - and this year has yet to be quantified, it is likely to be more significant, said Associate Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony, who heads the RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, and Associate Research Fellow Goh Tian, also from RSIS.

Prof Quah, who is also president of the Economic Society of Singapore, noted while the current haze period is "quite similar to 1997", the economic costs then were compounded by the Asian financial crisis, which inflated the costs.

"This year, we don't have a financial crisis but El Nino is the strongest in 50 years... so this year when they tabulate the final (costs of the fires and

haze), I am sure the costs will be higher than in 1997," he said.

Based on its own calculations, the Indonesian government reckoned that the cost of mitigating the crisis this year would range from 300 trillion to 475 trillion rupiah.

It is not clear how the figure was derived, but the country's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) had already said last month it may have to use up all 385 billion rupiah in government funding earmarked for tackling the fires and also turn to a 2.5 trillion rupiah "on-call fund" set aside for other types of disasters.

The Joko government has also allocated US$1 million (S$1.4 million) to provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan that are bearing the brunt of the fires.

To date, tens of thousands of soldiers, policemen, BNPB personnel and Environment and Forestry Ministry officials have been deployed to tackle the fires and build canals to make it easier to "re-wet" peatland, which burns easily during the dry season. The construction of the canals over sprawling plantation land will be funded by Jakarta, Mr Joko had said previously.

His government has also taken the unprecedented step of openly going after those who use the outlawed slash-and-burn method of clearing land to cultivate crops like oil palm. The authorities have since arrested hundreds of suspects and begun investigations into several plantation firms suspected of starting illegal forest fires.

Last Friday, Mr Joko said his government intends to procure at least three aircraft large enough to deal with forest fires.

It is not known if the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has already included these new purchases in its calculations, but observers believe that the costs will inevitably mount for Jakarta as the current crisis continues.

- See more at:

So Far, Haze has Killed 9 People: BNPB
Tempo 11 Oct 15;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) reported that the haze crisis in Sumatra and Kalimantan had left at least 9 people died, either directly or indirectly because of the haze, and affected 40 million people.

BNPB also reported that South Sumatra had the most hot spots in Indonesia amounting to 7,982 hot spots, followed by Central Kalimantan (5,844 hot spots) and Jambi (1,169 hot spots).

In the meantime, BNPB Chief Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that the agency had spent Rp 385 billion until September 2015.

He also said that the BNPB had requested for an additional Rp700 billion from the Finance Ministry to contain the fires.


Netizens Raise Rp100 Million for Haze Victims
Tempo 11 Oct 15;

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Netizens show their support for haze victims in Sumatra and Kalimantan by raising money through crowd sourcing at Fuadiyah Kamil, the PR & Communication Officer of says the website had raised Rp101,823,987.- million in total from 15 fund-raising events.

“The concern over the harmful effects of the smog is what drives netizens to help out,” said Diyah in its press release on Friday, October 2015.

The money, said Diyah, is used to buy N95 masks and oxygen tubes. Some of the netizens contributed by giving out medicines or Sanseviera plant that is known for its capability of absorbing pollutant. An effort to build a Smog Free Tower is also being sought.

Diyah believes that the haze disaster in Sumatra and Kalimantan should not be taken lightly since it has taken death tolls. She also believes that government’s support has been insufficient.

“When the haze disaster gets worse, what can we do? Public can surely help. For example by donating through,” Diyah said.


Read more!

Indonesia: Water bombing operations to put out forest fires start in south Sumatra

A total of seven helicopters and four fixed-wing aircraft are involved in the mission to put out forest fires in the Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin areas, says Indonesia's BNPB.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 11 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: The combined team from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia has begun water bombing operations to put out the forest fires in south Sumatra.

In a statement issued by Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) on Sunday (Oct 11), a total of seven helicopters and four fixed-wing aircraft are involved in the mission.

The operation will be concentrated in the Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin areas.

Singapore has sent a Republic of Singapore Air Force Chinook helicopter and 34 SAF personnel to help fight the ongoing forest fires, together with a six-man Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, and a 5,000-litre heli-bucket. Two RSAF C-130 aircraft were also deployed to transport SAF and SCDF personnel, as well as their equipment, said Singapore's Ministry of Defence.

Meanwhile, Malaysia 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.


BNPB added that a team from Australia is expected to arrive in Palembang on Sunday, while Canberra is also expected to send its Thor type Hercules L 100 aircraft with the capacity to carry 15 tons of water early next week.

The Australian aircraft will only be used for five days as it is still needed to put out the forest fires in New South Wales, Australia, said BNPB.

Indonesia is still waiting on confirmation of help from other countries.

- CNA/av

Singapore starts water bombing in Sumatra
MY PAPER AsiaOne 12 Oct 15;

JAKARTA - A CHINOOK helicopter from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has arrived in South Sumatra province to help Indonesia douse forest and peatland fires that have been sending choking haze across the region, according to Indonesia's top agency battling the disaster.

The Chinook, which is equipped with a 5,000-litre heli-bucket, would operate with six helicopters and two aircraft from Indonesia as well as a Bombardier aircraft from Malaysia, said the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) in a statement.

They would concentrate on water bombing fires in the regencies of Ogan Ogan Ilir and Banyuasin, said the statement, while a local Casa aircraft would focus on rain making.

The pilots and crew were briefed on where and how they would be deployed as well as the safety measures, it added. Singapore's Chinook would be engaged in the operation until Oct 23.

In a Facebook post last night, Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said water-bombing operations involving the country began in Palembang yesterday. He added that conditions were difficult "because of the thick smoke that affects visibility".

The Straits Times reported yesterday that the SAF sent a Chinook, two C-130 transport planes and a 34-strong team to Indonesia on Saturday. Together with the group is a six-man Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart) from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, said the Ministry of Defence.

The Dart officers would execute the dropping of water from the heli-bucket to extinguish the fires.

There were 726 hot spots in Sumatra and 182 in Kalimantan yesterday, according to a Twitter post by Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for BNPB.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week requested help from its neighbours, including Australia, as well as China, Japan and Russia, to help put out the fires, which have driven air quality in Singapore and Malaysia to hazardous levels at some point.

Indonesia plans to extinguish all the hot spots across the country within two weeks, reported Bloomberg.

Singapore joins multinational effort to douse Sumatra fires
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Straits Times AsiaOne 12 Oct 15;

A multinational effort to fight forest fires in Indonesia began on Sunday (Oct 11) as Singapore joined forces with other countries to help douse fires in South Sumatra.

A Chinook helicopter from Singapore was sent to Indonesia at the weekend to help in firefighting operations there, one of Indonesia's worst-hit areas.

The Chinook, which had a 5,000-litre water bucket, worked with a Bombardier water bomber from Malaysia, which can scoop 6,000 litres of seawater.

They joined two air-tractor water bombers from Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry and six choppers from its Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).

Indonesia accepted Singapore's help last week after turning down its earlier offers.

In a statement to the media on Sunday, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Australia's L-100 Hercules aircraft will arrive by Wednesday. "This aircraft will operate for five days in South Sumatra as it will be needed to fight fires in New South Wales," he said.

Indonesia is waiting for more aircraft from other countries to help douse the fires, Dr Sutopo said.

Russia is expected to send a Beriev Be-200 aircraft, which can scoop 12,000 litres of water from a lake or the sea; China is also expected to send a few aircraft.

On Facebook on Sunday, Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said conditions for the water-bombing operations in Palembang, South Sumatra, were difficult as thick smoke affected visibility.

Meanwhile, visibility across Singapore was generally good yesterday, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in the range of 84 to 93 at 10pm. At 10pm, the three-hour PSI was 111.

In its advisory on Sunday, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the 24-hour PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the moderate range, and may enter the low end of the unhealthy range if denser haze is blown in from the surrounding region.

The NEA said 129 hot spots were detected in Sumatra on Sunday. Prevailing winds are forecast to be weak on Monday, and occasional slight haze can be expected, with visibility likely to be in the normal range.

Malaysia begins firefighting operation in South Sumatera
FAIRUZ MOHD SHAHAR New Straits Times 11 Oct 15;

PUTRAJAYA: The Bombardier CL 415 MP aircraft owned by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) had started its firefighting operation in the South Sumatera region, today.

MMEA Deputy Director-General (Operations) Maritime First Admiral Datuk Che Hassan Jusoh said the aircraft had carried out water scooping and water bombing, each 10 times, within four hours.

"The scooping of water was carried out in Sungai Lumpur located in the southeast region, 70 miles from Palembang.

"The water scooping session to put out the fire took about seven minutes," he said in a statement, today.

A pilot, a co-pilot and a cabin crew were involved in the operation.

The operation will resume tomorrow and is expected to take five days.

Besides Bombardier, MMEA also sent an AS 365 N3 Dauphin helicopter to Sumatra on Friday to assist the Indonesian government in putting out the fires that have caused the haze around the region.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force has also deployed a Hercules C130 to assist in logistics.

Read more!

Malaysia: Special unit to protect tracts along Lower Kinabatangan area

RUBEN SARIO The Star 12 Oct 15;

KOTA KINABALU: A special patrol unit will be protecting tracts of riverbank forests along the wildlife-rich Lower Kinabatangan region which are in danger.

The Kinabatangan Corridor of the Life Riparian Patrol Unit will focus on ensuring the strips of forests along the river remain intact so wildlife such as elephants and orang utan are able to move about.

The patrol unit, to be launched today, is a collaboration between the Sabah Forestry Department and the Kinabatangan-Corridor of Life Tourism Association (KiTA).

Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the unit was necessary to ensure that plantations did not encroach into the strips of riverine forests.

“We don’t want a repeat of encroachments into these riparian reserves that are crucial for the survival of wildlife,” said Mannan, who is scheduled to launch the patrol unit.

He said the unit would start with two personnel and a boat provided by the department, adding that operational costs would be shared with KiTA.

For a start, Mannan said the patrol would focus on the forested riverbanks between Kampung Batu Putih and Kampung Abai.

Should the patrol spot any encroachment, he said, they would then alert the Kinabatangan District Forest Office that would in turn contact other relevant authorities, which include the Land and Survey, Wildlife, Environment Protection, Drainage and Irrigation and the federal Environment departments.

The 560km-long Kinabatangan River is home to endangered species such as the Borneo pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, orang utan, hornbills, clouded leopards, sun bears and Sumatran rhinoceros.

The 26,103ha Lower Kinabatan­gan Wildlife Sanctuary in the east is said to be home to an estimated 13,000 orang utan and 1,100 Borneo pygmy elephants.

In July, authorities were alerted to an encroachment at the protected riverine forests in Kinabatangan covering an area of some 3.24ha.

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Early sign of algae bloom detected in Florida Bay

In late September, state biologists navigated through mats of dead seagrass in Florida Bay. About 13 square miles of seagrass meadows died over the summer with early signs of an algae bloom now appearing near Rankin Lake and Garfield Bight.
BY JENNY STALETOVICH Miami Herald 11 Oct 15;

* Severe drought kills miles of seagrass meadows
* The die-off coincided with a massive yellow fog of toxic sulfide
* Scientists meet to look for ways to stop the spread

A slimy toxic algae bloom in Florida Bay that researchers thought was years in the future might be just around the corner.

South Florida Water Management District scientist Fred Sklar told district board members last week that levels of chlorophyll are starting to rise in shallow water where miles of seagrass meadows died over the summer. The last time so much grass died in 1987, it took five years for algae blooms to erupt that would devastate the bay for two decades.

If this bloom worsens, it will have taken just months to appear.

“We’re not sure there is a cure,” Sklar told the board. “Once something like this starts, we don’t know what makes it stop.”

The crisis in Florida Bay also has escalated a prolonged fight over water in South Miami-Dade. Farmers have long complained that groundwater is being kept too high, drowning crops. Scientists and environmentalists argue that the bay, which desperately needs more water to flow in from the Everglades, is being sacrificed to save farms.

“You just can’t let … Florida Bay die,” said Jerry Lorenz, Audubon Florida's state director of research. “It’s far more important to get water into Florida Bay and try to mitigate to farms than the other way around.”

At nearly 1,000 square miles, Florida Bay is one of the planet’s most complicated ecosystems with a patchwork of about 24 different basins separated by mud banks. It is also a vital part of the region’s economy and a $723 million a year fishing industry.

The 1990s algae bloom started with the death of more than 15.5 square miles of seagrass after a prolonged drought. So far, scientists have recorded about 13 square miles of dead seagrass around Johnson Key and in Rankin Lake, a shallow bight tucked into a horseshoe-shaped mud bank now beginning to show signs of an algae bloom.

The die-off also coincided with a cloud of yellow sulfide — something Sklar said scientists have never before documented in the bay — that spread across 25 square miles.

“We’re talking between 50 and 75 square miles of seagrass beds that could potentially die,” he said.

A team of researchers who have been monitoring the bay and are now trying to find a solution say that the brewing crisis is no surprise. Years of flood control have robbed the bay of historic sheet flow that fanned across rocky glades from two sloughs in Everglades National Park. What little trickled out of five creeks into the bay in August dropped to the lowest level recorded since gauges were installed in 1996. Worse, a second year of dry weather spiraled into a severe drought. Salinity in some areas reached more than double the concentration of sea water.

The district tried to manage the situation by moving more water south “making it less likely to go into a cascade,” Sklar said. And recent rain — more than 10 inches fell in September — helped flush salt. But it was too late.

“Once the train leaves the station, we don’t know when it stops,” he said.

Another complication: Pollution from vast sugar fields south of Lake Okeechobee must be cleaned. Billions of dollars in efforts have made the water cleaner — but not enough for the sensitive Everglades. Farmers and state officials increasingly hostile to environmentalists have for years blamed the mandate, part of a federal court ruling, for holding up restoration. District board member Jim Moran called it “the gorilla in the room,” that should be relaxed.

“Too much deference is being given to park staff and the NGOs,” Mike Collins, a fishing guide and former board member, complained during the meeting. “If you don’t have science and you don’t have engineering, go sit in the corner and shut up. We don’t have the ability to allow political science to drive this issue any more.”

Environmentalists shot back that Everglades restoration was largely due to their efforts.

“I didn’t realize we built the Tamiami Trial,” which blocked water, said Drew Martin, a conservation chair for the Sierra Club. “We didn’t blow up the Miami falls. We didn’t drain the [Everglades Agriculture Area]. All these things were changes done not by the NGOs but by the development of Florida.”

Read more!

Low-carbon future is within reach

JEFFREY SACHS Today Online 12 Oct 15;

In May 1961, President John F Kennedy stirred America and the world with these words: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Just eight years later, NASA did just that — with astounding benefits for science, technology and the world economy. Now, a group of leading scientists, innovators and economists has identified our era’s moonshot: To replace fossil fuels with clean-energy technologies within this generation.

Since a group of policy leaders from the United Kingdom initiated the Global Apollo Programme to Combat Climate Change earlier this year, I and many others have enthusiastically signed on. The programme, named after the NASA moon mission, is built on the idea of “directed technological change”. In other words, through a conscious effort, backed by public funds, we can steer the development of the advanced technologies needed to ensure humanity’s safety and wellbeing. At the top of the list is clean energy, which will enable us to head off the global warming caused by the combustion of massive amounts of coal, oil, and gas worldwide.

The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) has demonstrated that a low-carbon future is within reach, with huge benefits at a very modest cost. (DDPP is an initiative by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations to understand and show how individual countries can transition to a low-carbon economy)

In the United States, for example, cutting emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 is not only feasible; it would require added outlays of only around 1 per cent of GDP per year. And the benefits — including a safer climate, smarter infrastructure, better vehicles and cleaner air — would be massive.

Pathways to a low-carbon future focus on three main actions: Improving energy efficiency, producing electricity from low-carbon energy sources (such as solar and wind energy), and switching from petroleum to low-carbon energy for powering vehicles (such as electric or fuel-cell vehicles) and heating buildings. These are clear and achievable goals, and the public sector should play a major role in advancing them.

Politicians need to end subsidies for coal, oil and gas, and start taxing emissions from their use. Moreover, they must meet the need for new power lines to carry low-carbon solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric power from remote areas (and offshore platforms) to population centres.

But, meeting these requirements presupposes advances in technologies that will enable low-carbon energy systems to compete with the alternatives. That is where the Apollo Programme comes in, with its bold goal of reducing the cost of renewable energy to below that of coal, oil and gas.

Of course, renewable energy is sometimes already cheaper than fossil fuels — when the sun is shining bright or the wind is blowing strong and consistently. The main challenge with renewables is energy storage, in two senses. First, we need to store renewable energy for use in vehicles in a low-cost and efficient way. While we already have high-quality electric vehicles, they require improvements in range and cost to be able to outcompete conventional vehicles.

The highest technological priority is to develop batteries for transport that are cheaper, longer-lasting, faster-charging and lighter.

Second, we need to store intermittent energy for times when the wind is not blowing, the sun is not shining and rivers are not flowing strongly enough to turn hydroelectric turbines.

Many energy-storage technologies are already in use or in development. One example is pumped hydropower, in which excess wind and solar energy is used to pump water uphill into reservoirs that can later produce hydroelectric power. Another is the conversion of renewable energy into hydrogen (by splitting water molecules) or a synthetic liquid fuel made with carbon dioxide from the air. Others include compressed air and large-scale battery storage.

Low-carbon technologies can be improved markedly in many other areas, too. Power grids running on renewables need more sophisticated systems for balancing energy supply and demand. Improvements in carbon capture and storage technologies would enable some fossil fuels to be used safely. And nuclear power plant designs can be made safer with passive (automatic) safety systems and fuel cycles that leave behind less radioactive waste and fissile material that could be turned into weapons.

Given the trillions of dollars of potential losses from human-induced climate change, and the trillions of dollars invested annually in global energy systems, the world’s governments would be wise to invest tens of billions of dollars each year in the research and development needed to achieve a low-carbon energy future.

With this in mind, more than one politician should have already followed in JFK’s footsteps, stepping forward to announce this generation’s critical moonshot, and to offer the public finances needed to make it happen.

So far, none has. In the US, for example, the government allocates around US$31 billion (S$43 billion) per year to biomedical research (with great returns to health), and roughly US$65 billion per year for military R&D, but only about US$7 billion per year for non-defence energy, and, of that, less than US$2 billion per year for renewable-energy R&D. This is a shocking lapse on two counts: First, the US and the world are losing time on decarbonisation; second, the US is squandering the chance to develop its own future high-tech industries.

Engaging world governments

Together, the Apollo Programme and the DDPP point the world’s governments towards the agreement they should reach at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December.

First, governments should pledge to decarbonise their economies in order to keep global warming below the extreme danger zone of 2°C. Second, they should promise to unveil, in the next couple of years, national “pathways” to deep decarbonisation by 2050. And third, they should join together to fund the new global moonshot for clean energy. The pooled financing should start with a minimum of US$15 billion per year, and rise sharply thereafter, as key, high-return technology breakthroughs come into view.

As JFK showed, great progress begins with a great goal, one that is bold yet feasible. The goal today, backed by the Apollo Programme, is deep decarbonisation. It is time for world leaders to commit to the planet-saving clean-energy moonshot. PROJECT SYNDICATE


Jeffrey Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is also Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals.

Read more!

Paris climate summit: UN negotiations 'need redesign'

Rebecca Morelle BBC News 12 Oct 15;

Scientists say the climate summit in Paris is too focussed on self interest

The UN climate negotiations are heading for failure and need a major redesign if they are to succeed, scientists say.

The pledges that individual countries are offering ahead of the Paris climate summit in December are too entrenched in self interest instead of being focussed on a common goal.

The researchers say the science of cooperation is being ignored.

Instead, they say the negotiations should focus on a common commitment on the global price of carbon.

This means countries would agree on a uniform charge for carbon pollution, a scheme that would encourage polluters to reduce their emissions.

The comments from researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, University of Maryland, US, and University of Cologne, in Germany, are published in the journal Nature.
'I will, if you will'

Ahead of December's United Nations climate meeting, individual countries have submitted their plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. These are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions - or INDCs.

However, the researchers say that this approach will not work.

Prof David MacKay, from the University of Cambridge, who was former chief scientific advisor to Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said: "The science of cooperation predicts that if all you are doing is naming individual contributions - offers that aren't coupled to each other - then you'll end up with a relatively poor outcome.

"We have the history of the Kyoto agreement as an example of this. Initially, the approach was to find a common commitment, but eventually it descended into a patchwork of individual commitments... and that led to very weak commitments and several countries leaving the process."

The Paris negotiations, he warned, were heading in the same direction.

Instead, the researchers say, a reciprocal approach could transform the meeting.

"If you make a treaty that is based on reciprocity, so 'I will, if you will' and 'I won't, if you won't', then you can end up in a very different position," explained Prof MacKay.

"If people make a common commitment that they will match what others do, then it becomes in your self interest to advocate a high level of action because it will apply not only to you but also to others."

The scientists believe that setting a common price for carbon, which could be implemented through carbon tax or emissions trading schemes, could work.

Prof MacKay said: "This is a price that could be negotiated and agreed, and would apply to all countries."

The researchers admit that with the Paris climate conference just weeks away and the fact that global carbon pricing is not already on the table, their idea is unlikely to have much influence.

However, they say the science of cooperation should be taken into account for future negotiations.

Commenting on the paper, Bob Ward from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said: "This is a thoughtful contribution but rather too pessimistic about the United Nations climate change negotiations.

"The authors are right that a global price on carbon is necessary, although it would be, on its own, insufficient to generate the pace and scale of action required."

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