Best of our wild blogs: 13 Oct 15

Coney Island Punggol
Sengkang Babies

Global mass coral bleaching to hit Singapore soon?
wild shores of singapore

Crested Goshawk’s other diet
Bird Ecology Study Group

King of the Forest
Saving MacRitchie

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Malaysia: Nationwide rainfall to bring respite from haze

The Star 13 Oct 15;

PETALING JAYA: Heavy rainfall expected across the country will bring Malaysians a few days of respite from the haze.

The Natural Resources and En­vi­ronment Ministry estimated that rain would persist in the peninsula as well as Sabah and Sarawak until Oct 16.

Of all 52 areas monitored, only the air in Banting, Selangor, recorded “unhealthy” levels, reaching an API (air pollutant index) peak of 106 at 2pm yesterday.

Some 13 areas recorded “good” levels during certain parts of the day, while the rest remained “moderate”.

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 300 and above hazardous.

The National Oceanic and Atmos­pheric Administration also found 78 hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia, on Oct 11.

No hotspots were found in Malaysia.

The Regional Haze Map also showed that Kalimantan and Sumatra were both covered in moderate and thick haze, which was found to be heading towards the south of peninsular Malaysia.

Natural Resources and Envi­ronment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said that apart from mobilising Bombardier CL415 planes to help put out forest fires, Malaysia will lend its expertise to Indonesia in building tube wells.

“They (the tube wells) serve to control the irrigation of Indonesia’s peat lands, making sure they do not dry up during the drought season,” he said in a statement.

Two days ago, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak went to Indonesia on a bilateral visit and met with President Joko Widodo.

“Both countries agreed to strengthen co-operation in dealing with the haze problem,” said Dr Wan Junaidi.

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Haze Choking Asia May Get Worse as El Nino Delays Seasonal Rain

Jason Gale and Anuradha Raghu Bloomberg News 13 Oct 15;

The choking haze that has blown across Southeast Asia from burning rainforests in Indonesia may get worse and last several more weeks as an unusually strong El Nino keeps away seasonal rain that would quench the fires.

An intensifying El Nino will probably push back the start of the eastern monsoon until late October or early November, said Robert Field, an associate research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies at New York’s Columbia University. Heavy rain will be the biggest help in clearing the atmosphere and extinguishing illegally-lit fires on the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and New Guinea.

“Barring a major turnaround in fire-fighting and prevention, burning will continue until the start of the wet season in southern Sumatra and southern Kalimantan” on Borneo, Field said in an e-mail.

Indonesia has enlisted help from its neighbors to fight the fires, with Malaysia and Singapore sending aircraft to carry out water bombing in Sumatra, the country’s disaster agency said on Oct. 10.

The last big El Nino was in 1997, when at least 40,000 fires in Indonesia destroyed an area the size of Costa Rica and released an estimated 1 gigaton of carbon into the atmosphere -- the equivalent of more than 10 percent of the world’s annual fossil fuel emissions at the time.

1997 Crisis

As the El Nino brewed, and the region descended into a financial crisis, the lung-clogging smoke remained over Indonesia and neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia for three months, hurting the health, property and livelihoods of 75 million people, and causing more than 16,400 infant and fetal deaths.

This year, about 125,000 people have suffered haze-linked ailments, Indonesia’s disaster relief agency said this month. A pollution index reached 1,990 in Palangkaraya in central Kalimantan at the end of September, more than five times the level considered hazardous, according to the country’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.

“The main challenge, El Nino, is quite severe, exceeding 1997-1998,” said Luhut Panjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for law and security. “The dry season is worse and that makes it difficult to extinguish the fires.”

While the smoke largely dispersed over Singapore and parts of Malaysia last week, the respite may be brief. Malaysia’s Department of Environment counted 10 districts out of 52 on Monday afternoon where air quality was “good,” down from 12 on Friday afternoon. Singapore’s 24-hour air quality index rose into the “unhealthy” range yesterday for the first time in five days.

Burning Peat

“If the burning continues through October and November, emissions from biomass burning -- mostly drained peatlands -- could rank among the highest on record for Indonesia,” said Allan Spessa, a research fellow in the department of environment, earth and ecosystems at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England.

The fires in Indonesia, which are mostly lit to clear land, are extremely difficult to extinguish because of peat below the soil surface, which burns like coal and can smolder for months. Borneo’s peat reserves store the equivalent of about nine years’ worth of global fossil fuel emissions.

Twelve companies and 209 individuals are suspected of causing the blazes, with a Singaporean company also under investigation, Badrodin Haiti, Indonesia’s chief of police, told reporters in Jakarta on Monday. Haiti didn’t name the companies.

Out-emitting Germany

Fires on Sumatra blackened 1,400 square kilometers in a single week in June, an area the size of Long Island in New York. Across the archipelago, they have released more greenhouse gases than the amount of carbon dioxide Germany emits in a year, according to Guido van der Werf, a scientist tracking forest fires and carbon emissions at VU University in Amsterdam.

“And we are only halfway through the fire season,” he said in a report last month.

Scientists predict this El Nino, a global weather phenomenon characterized by a warming of the ocean surface in the equatorial Pacific, will rank among the most severe since at least the mid-20th century, and set a record in 2015 for the hottest global temperature.

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NEA sends notice to 6th Indonesian firm over haze

Pursuant to Section 9 of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, NEA has sent a notice to Indonesian firm PT Bumi Andalas Permai, which suspected of starting fires in South Sumatra.
Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) has issued its sixth Preventive Measures Notice to a company in Indonesia.

In a media release on Monday (Oct 12), the agency said it has requested PT Bumi Andalas Permai to extinguish or prevent the spread of any fire on land owned or occupied by them. It also requested the Indonesian firm to discontinue or refrain from commencing any burning activities on these lands.

Under the notice, PT Bumi Andalas Permai has to submit its plan of action, if any, to extinguish the fire or to prevent recurrence.

To date, NEA has sent Preventive Measures Notices to a total of six companies, of which the fifth was sent on Sep 30. It said that it has also received a response from PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa, one of the companies that NEA had earlier sent a Preventive Measures Notice to.

NEA said it is “currently reviewing the information provided” and reminders have been sent to the other companies to respond to the earlier notices.

The agency has also received information from Asia Pulp & Paper Company Ltd (APP) in Singapore, following its earlier request for information pursuant to Section 10 of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act. A review of the information provided by APP is currently being made, it said.


Meanwhile, the air quality in Singapore took a turn for the worse on Monday due to haze from the surrounding region. It also caused a slight reduction in visibility in some parts of the island, said NEA.

As of 7pm, the 3-hour PSI stood at 111, while the 24-hour PSI was in the Moderate to Unhealthy range at 98 to 116.

According to NEA’s weather forecast for Tuesday, occasional slight haze can still be expected and visibility could be reduced, particularly in the early morning.

The 24-hr PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to be between the high end of the Moderate range and the low end of the Unhealthy range, it said.

Only 1 Indonesian firm has responded to NEA's haze notices
AsiaOne 12 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) said today (Oct 12) that it has sent a Preventive Measures Notice to another Indonesian company suspected of links to the fires causing the haze.

In its notice to PT Bumi Andalas Permai, NEA requested the company to deploy fire-fighting personnel to extinguish or prevent the spread of fires on land owned or occupied by the company, to stop all burning activities, and to "submit to NEA any plan of action to extinguish any fire on such land or to prevent its recurrence".

This is the sixth Indonesian company to be served the notice.

NEA said on Sept 25 that it had written to four companies in Indonesia under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA), and said on Sept 30 that it had written to a fifth company.

However, only one company has responded to NEA's notice.

In its update today, NEA said that it has received a response from PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa, which is among the first four companies to receive notices, and are reviewing the information provided.

It also said that it has sent reminders to the other companies to respond to its notices.

NEA also revealed that it has received information from Asia Pulp & Paper Company (APP) in Singapore after previously requesting for information, and has "sought further information from APP".


NEA said that air quality deteriorated today and the haze also caused "a slight reduction in visibility in some parts of the island".

The winds are forecast to remain weak and blow from the east or southeast tomorrow. NEA said that "occasional slight haze can still be expected, and visibility could be reduced, particularly in the early morning".

the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) is expected to be between the high-end of the 'moderate' range (51-100) and the low end of the 'unhealthy' range (101-200) for the next 24 hours.

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More than 3,000 companies asked to sign 'haze-free' declaration

So far, only 38 firms have joined the signing campaign declaring they do not procure wood, paper or pulp materials from the six companies accused of causing the forest fires in Indonesia.

By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) and Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) have said that they are keeping up the pressure on firms to go green: They have asked more than 3,000 companies to declare that they procure wood, paper and pulp material only from sustainable sources.

In a joint statement on Monday (Oct 12), the two bodies said that printing companies, as well as manufacturers and distributors of recycled material have also been asked to make a similar declaration.

However, only 38 companies have joined the signing campaign so far. Out of these, 10 -including Canon Singapore and Fuji Xerox Singapore - have already signed the declaration the week before. The list will be updated on both the SEC-SGLS’s ( and CASE’s ( websites.

As the haze pollution persists in the region, Singapore's advocacy groups are urging consumers to review the list and not support the six Indonesian companies named by the National Environment Agency to have behaved irresponsibly and contributed to the haze problem.

Several retailers have removed products related to Asia Pulp and Paper Group, after its Singapore Green label was temporarily restricted. APP is one of the companies being investigated by the Singapore government.

- CNA/hs

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Hazed in: Pollution hits Singapore fitness industry

Leslie Shaffer CNBC 12 Oct 15;

Pollution from the burning of Indonesia's rain forests appears to be claiming another casualty: physical fitness in Singapore.

Poor air quality is keeping people indoors, denting demand for outdoor exercise in the usually balmy city-state.

"We're an outdoor fitness company, with up to eight sessions a day outside," Lisa Clayton, a director of OzFit/UFit Bootcamps, said Wednesday. "We have had to cancel pretty much most of them over the last two weeks."

She said her company usually catered to as many as 100 people a day training outside, but has instead hosted bootcamps at indoor locations, such as condominium function rooms, for about 60 people a day.

What's colloquially called the haze, but is actually air pollution, is an annual event in Singapore as Indonesians deliberately set forest fires to clear land, but this year, it's lasted longer than usual because El Nino weather conditions mean there's less rain.

The Pollutant Standards Index, a global gauge of air quality, ranged between 97 and 111 in Singapore early on Monday, after several days of less-gritty levels under 100, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA).

A level between 100 and 200 indicates unhealthy air quality, while levels above 300 are considered hazardous. The gauge climbed over 300 in late September but hasn't yet topped the 400-plus mark hit in 2013.

Indonesia finally accepted Singapore's offer of personnel and equipment to help fight the forest fires on Wednesday after weeks of waffling over the decision.

Homebound residents aren't just bad for Singapore's fitness companies. The local economy is already hurting, with some analysts believing it slipped into a recession in the third quarter, and the haze is likely to take a further bite out of consumption.

"The protracted period of hazy conditions will certainly weigh on the retail industry, who will likely see their slim margins (on already high operating costs) being eroded further with households opting to stay home and tourists deferring their plans to visit the region," Weiwen Ng, an economist at ANZ, said in an email last week.

He noted that previous years' hazy seasons had resulted in sharp drops in retail sales, even though the city-state's malls tend to be packed on days when the air quality worsens. Many Singaporeans don't have air-conditioners in their homes.

"While they might seek safety in the air-conditioned malls, I doubt they will spend," Ng said.

Consumers certainly aren't spending at outdoor-focused businesses.

"I have lost 90 percent of my business," said Isabella Malique, the owner of the SUP School, which rents standup paddleboards at the beach on Sentosa island, a resort just off the coast of Singapore.

"I don't even have enquiries," she said, adding that she was concerned it would take a long time to regain lost interest once the haze finally clears.

She has another worry: the end of the haze is likely to be followed closely by the start of Singapore's rainy season, which may leave her business with little income for nearly six months.

Those customers aren't necessarily searching out gyms to keep up their fitness level.

Pure Group, which operates both gyms and yoga studios, said that member check-ins hadn't changed much over the past month or so.

"As much as we would like to think that many members are avoiding the outdoors and increasing their visits to the gym, this is not entirely the case," Hannah Yang, the marketing manager at Pure, said via email last week. "Many have taken ill due to the haze and have been putting yoga and gym aside for the time being."

Effects of the haze can range from respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and asthma attacks, to fatigue and headaches.

Sports teams are also struggling to practice.

"We've not been able to fully relocate training indoors," Thomas Gascou, the captain of the German Dragons, a dragon boat team, said Thursday. Dragon boating is an Asian paddling sport, with teams of 10 or 20 paddlers competing in long boats.

The haze has forced the German Dragons to cancel most of its water-training sessions over the past few weeks, Gascou said, noting that one session held when the air quality was "borderline" resulted in several people feeling light-headed and sick.

He moved some of the general fitness training to one of the government's community gyms but noted that while outdoor "land" sessions generally see as many as 60 people, that dropped to around 20 indoors.

All the effort to continue training may be for naught: There's a strong chance that the haze will force the next race, the Singapore River Regatta, scheduled for October 31, to be canceled or postponed.

It wouldn't be the first competition to get the axe; the first day of the international FINA Swimming World Cup on October 3 and the Race Against Cancer, a 15km and 10km running race set for last month, were both cancelled.

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Malaysia: Cloud seeding operations in Johor

ZAZALI MUSA The Star 12 Oct 15;

JOHOR BARU: Cloud seeding operations have started in Johor as the state desperately needs heavy rain to help fill up water capacity at all dams statewide.

Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) director Mohd Riduan Mohd Ali said the operations, which started on Oct 12, would be carried out until end of the month.

"We will make about 20 flights and each operation will take between two and three hours,'' he said in a press statement on Monday.

Mohd Riduan said the operations would focus on areas near the Sungai Layang dam in Masai, Pasir Gudang and the Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi.

Others dams include the Machap dam, Chongok dam, Juaseh dam and Sembrong dam.

He said the cloud seeding activities was handled by the National Security Council, Department of Civil Aviation, the Meteorological Department and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

According to SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd (SAJ) corporate communications head Jamaluddin Jamil said the water levels at both Sungai Layang and Sungai Lebam dams had dropped drastically.

He said the water level at the Sungai Layang dam had dropped to 19.71m (critical level) from 23.50m while the Sungai Lebam dam dropped to 8.8m from 12.27m.

The Sungai Layang dam supplies water to 580,000 consumers in Pasir Gudang and Masai, mostly industrial users and several parts of Johor Baru.

The Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi, channels water to about 66,495 users in Mukim Tanjung Surat, Mukim Pantai Timur, Mukim Pengerang and parts of Kota Tinggi.

Jamaluddin said the water level at the two dams was still at the critical stage although heavy rains were recorded in several parts of southern Johor in the last few days.

He said SAJ had to extend the scheduled water rationing (SWR) at several parts of the Johor Baru, Masai, Pasir Gudang and Pengerang in Kota Tinggi from Oct 16 to Nov 15.

Cloud seeding to aid Sungai Layang and Sungai Lebam dams commences
HALIM SAID New Straits Times 12 Oct 15;

JOHOR BARU: The long-awaited cloud seeding operation to restore water levels at the Sungai Layang and Sungai Lebam dams in Johor began today.

Tubes of ioidise salt, a compound used in the rain-making process were flown on a Cessna 340 aircraft from the Senai International airport at around 1pm.

Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) said the cloud seeding operation will involve a total of 20 scheduled flights in the next 20 days.

Newly-appointed Bakaj director Mohd Riduan Md Ali said in a statement that the cloud-seeding process will take almost three hours during each flight.

"We are confident we can carry out the 20 cloud seeding flights until the end of the month. The focus is to produce rain over dams with critically low water levels, such as Sungai Layang and Sungai Lebam dams. The operation also involves other dams in Machap, Chongok, Juaseh and Sembrong," he said.

Mohd Riduan said the entire cloud seeding operation, which was initiated by the state government had obtained co-operation from the Department of Civil Aviation, Malaysian Meteorological Department and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

Since earlier this month, efforts have been in place to restore the low levels at the affected dams to complement the cloud seeding operation.

A 500m long pipe stretching from Sungai Tiram to Sungai Johor has been built to transfer about 35 million litres of water from Sungai Tiram to Sungai Johor in effort to maintain the Sungai Johor water level.

The state government has also extended the water rationing exercise affecting three districts to Nov 15. The rationing was to optimise water reserves in the Sungai Layang and Sungai Lebam dams.

This is the third time that the water rationing exercise was extended.

It has affected consumers in Pasir Gudang, Masai and parts of Johor Baru as well as the Tanjung Surat, Pantai Timur and Pengerang subdistricts in Kota Tinggi.

It was previously reported that the Sungai Layang dam, which channels raw water into the Sultan Iskandar Water Treatment Plant (WTP), supplies water to almost 600,000 consumers in Pasir Gudang, Masai and parts of Johor Baru.

The Sungai Lebam dam in Kota Tinggi, which supplies raw water to the Sungai Lebam WTP provides water supply to about 65,000 users in Pengerang, Bandar Penawar and Felda Air Tawar in Kota Tinggi.

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Indonesia: Two foreign companies named suspects in forest fires: Police chief

Antara 12 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesias National Police (Polri) Chief, General Badrodin Haiti, has said the police have named two foreign companies as suspects in forest and land fires.

"One of the two foreign companies comes from Malaysia, the other one being from China," Haiti told a press conference here on Monday.

He said his office would conduct intensive investigation into the activities of the two foreign companies.

The Polri chief said the police were also investigating possible involvement of a Singaporean firm in forest and land fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"We are still examining the involvement of the Singaporean company. I could not yet ascertain its involvement," the Police chief said.

Haiti said his side had not yet coordinated with the authorities of the countries of origin of the two companies named as suspects.

"We have not involved foreign police in this case because it took place in Indonesia," Haiti said.

He also revealed that a total of 12 companies have been named as suspects in forest and land fire cases in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Borneo) region.

"Until today, October 12, 2015, 12 corporates have been identified as suspects," he stated.

Of the total cases involving these suspected companies, four had reached phase one, pending research by the public prosecutor.

According to Haiti, Polri had received 244 reports of crimes related to burning of forest and land areas.

He noted that all the reports were received from the provincial police (Polda) of six regions of South Sumatra, Jambi, and Riau as well as Central, West, and South Kalimantan, all places affected by forest and land fires.

Speaking with regards to the 244 reports, he explained that 26 of them were being investigated, while 218 of them have entered the investigation phase.

He further explained that of the total 218 investigations, 113 were related to individuals and 48 involved companies.

"Moreover, 57 corporations are already in the P21 (completed case files) stage, being looked after the prosecutor," he added.

Badrodin pointed out that all the suspects had violated Article 108, Number 32 of the 2009 Act, in which anyone found guilty faces 3-10 years of imprisonment and a fine of at least Rp3 billion and a maximum of Rp10 billion.(*)

Companies named suspects in forest fire cases: Indonesia Police Chief
Antara 12 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A total of 12 companies have been named suspects in forest and land fire cases in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Borneo) region, stated Chief of the Indonesian National Police (Polri) Badrodin Haiti.

"Until today, October 12, 2015, 12 corporates have been identified as suspects," he stated at a press conference here, Monday.

Of the total cases involving these suspected companies, four cases had reached phase one, pending research from the public prosecutor.

According to Haiti, Polri had received 244 reports of crimes related to burning of forest and land areas.

He noted that all the reports were received from the provincial police (Polda) of six regions of South Sumatra, Jambi, and Riau as well as Central, West, and South Kalimantan that were affected by forest and land fires.

Speaking in connection with the 244 reports, he explained that 26 of them were being investigated, while 218 of them were entering the investigation phase.

He further explained that of the total 218 investigations, 113 were related to individuals and 48 involved companies.

"Moreover, 57 corporations are already in the P21 (completed case files) stage by the prosecutor," he added.

Badrodin pointed out that all the suspects has violated Article 108, Number 32 of the 2009 Act, where the guilty will face 3-10 years imprisonment and a fine of at least Rp3 billion and a maximum of Rp10 billion.

Moreover, teams from a foreign country had begun operations to extinguish the fires in South Sumatra.

"Today, teams from Singapore and Malaysia along with South Sumatras Forest and Land Fires Prevention Task Force have commenced aerial and land operations to extinguish fires in Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin District," South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin stated here, Monday.

To overcome the smog disaster, the local government has since September 2015 deployed 4,997 personnel from the Provincial Agency for Disaster Management (BPBD), Manggala Agni, and the Indonesian Armed/Police Forces, among others.

(Reported by Agita Tarigan/Translated by Roy Rosa B./INE/KR-BSR/A014)

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Indonesia says facing major challenges in putting out fires

As Indonesia races to douse the fires, factors such as poor visibility and dry weather is not making their job any easier.

By Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 12 Oct 15;

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan says multinational efforts to put out the fires in South Sumatra are progressing well.

However he predicts that the combined team will face major challenges as they race to douse the fires. Mr Luhut says the haze may not go away for the next 10 days at least.

In a news conference on Monday (Oct 12), he explained that waterbombing missions that began on Sunday have not had their maximum effect due to the poor visibility that is restricting the aircraft.

In addition, cloud seeding cannot be done because there are no clouds. Mr Luhut said fire fighting in the next few days will still be focused on South Sumatra specifically in the Ogan Komering Ilir area, which is where a lot of the haze is coming from.

He added that drones are being used to guide the firefighting efforts. The firefighting team is also using chemicals to mix with the water used in waterbombing operations. These fire retardant chemicals can help reduce the temperature on the ground, making it difficult for the peatland to ignite again.

Mr Luhut says the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) has used about US$29 million to tackle the crisis, and will set aside another US$52 million for further efforts.

The minister added that fighting the fires this year is a challenge because the current El Nino phenomenon that is causing the dry weather is worse than it was in 1997-1998. He also stressed that all the ministries are coordinating well in their effort to tackle the forest fires.

Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said that Japan is expected to help in this aspect.

The Japanese are offering their own chemical substances and are also planning to send a team of experts to oversee the use of these substances. Russia is also in final preparations to send two BE-200 amphibious aircraft, each with the capacity to carry 12,000 litres of water.

Indonesia is also in discussions with Thailand and China to see what kind of help they can offer.

- CNA/yt

S. Sumatra to maximize efforts to extinguish land fires
Antara 12 Oct 15

Palembang (ANTARA News) - South Sumatra will maximize its efforts to put out forest and land fires by using the assistance of foreign aircraft, South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin stated.

The governor noted here on Monday that the efforts to extinguish the land fires using aircraft from neighboring countries would be focused on the districts of Musi Banyuasin and Ogan Koering Ilir.

He said his side will use foreign assistance in the form of aircraft to put out the fires in Musi Banyuasin and Ogan Komering Ilir as most of the hotspots in South Sumatra were found in the two districts.

Noerdin remarked that as part of the operations, the team will deploy a helicopter from Singapore and an amphibious Bombardier CL415MMP aircraft from Malaysia.

The governor expressed optimism that the operations would be effective and successful in ending the forest fires, which had been spreading as a result of the drought in South Sumatra.

Noerdin revealed that the operations will continue to be carried out until the land fires in South Kalimantan were extinguished. He added that the South Sumatra government was thankful for the foreign assistance and expressed hope that the hotspots and haze would soon disappear.

The governor stated that the protracted fires in South Sumatra, regardless of continued attempts to extinguish them, had garnered the empathy of neighboring countries to provide aircraft assistance.

The efforts undertaken so far have failed to end the fires as they had burnt the peatland areas and had occurred in far off locations.

Noerdin expressed hope that the problem of hotspots and haze would be solved by utilizing the aircraft assistance.

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo stated on Thursday, last week, that the government of Indonesia would welcome foreign offers to help battle forest fires in the country that have caused major inconvenience by leading to haze or thick smoke that has even reached neighboring countries.

"The government would welcome any offer from neighboring countries that are keen to help," the minister affirmed here on last Thursday.

He expressed disappointment over the criticism being voiced by neighboring countries who are blaming Indonesia for the smoke being blown by strong winds from forest fires in Sumatra or Kalimantan.

"Please do not entirely place the blame on this sovereign country. If they honestly want to help, please do," he emphasized.

Kumolo remarked that the government had done its best and had taken firm measures against suspects responsible for the fire tragedy.

He noted that several palm oil plantation companies had been charged with causing the fires, and some of them were owned by investors from neighboring countries.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) is currently visiting Jambi to inspect the progress made in the attempt to put out the fires.

Meanwhile, Malaysia is reportedly planning to send a Bombardier CL415MP aircraft to Indonesia to assist in putting out the fires that have spewed thick smoke blown by the winds to that neighboring country, including Singapore.

Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein stated that the aircraft would be sent in response to the request for help put forth by President Jokowi to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

"The president of Indonesia has sought assistance from the prime minister to put out forest fires in South Sumatra," Hishammuddin was quoted as saying.

"I have spoken to my Indonesian counterpart Ryamizard Ryacudu," he said, adding that the aircraft could put out fires in wide areas.

Foreign teams commence operations to extinguish fires
Antara 12 Oct 15;

Palembang, South Sumatra (ANTARA News) - Teams from foreign countries began operations to extinguish the fires in South Sumatra.

"Today, teams from Singapore and Malaysia along with South Sumatras Forest and Land Fires Prevention Task Force have begun aerial and land operations to extinguish the fires in Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin District," South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin stated here, Monday.

According to Noerdin, his team will take maximum efforts to get rid of the smog, which since the end of August 2015 until now, continues to hinder public activities and affect the health of residents.

With human resources and equipment along with assistance from other countries, he is optimistic that the land fires can be ably overcome. The smog will also disappear as soon as possible, he added.

To overcome the smog disaster, the local government has since September 2015 deployed 4,997 personnel from the Provincial Agency for Disaster Management (BPBD), Manggala Agni, and Indonesian Armed/Police Forces, among others.

They were part of a task force who were assigned the role of reducing land and forest fires in South Sumatra.

"In the last two months, the task force had extinguished 1,259 hotspots and conducted 6,826 water bombing operations," he stated.

In addition, his officials will deploy additional equipment to put out land and forest fires.

This is part of the anticipatory measures undertaken to face the next dry season, so that smog problems can be minimized, or even overcome.

"The next steps will include adding more than 40 water pumps and normalizing the flow of water in peatlands or areas prone to land and forest fires," the governor explained.(*)

Indonesia lauds Malaysia for assistance in handling forest fires
Antara 12 Oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government through its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno LP Marsudi, has praised Malaysia for its assistance in handling forest and land fires in several regions across Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"The Foreign Minister has appreciated the efforts made by the Malaysian government to tackle forest and land fires in Indonesia. The Malaysian government sent the Bombardier CL 415 MP aircraft to help put out the fires," according to a press release received here on Monday.

Indonesias Foreign Minister conveyed her countrys appreciation during her meeting with Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman at the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (October 10).

The meeting was intended to boost bilateral cooperation in various fields and to prepare for the annual consultation meeting between the Indonesian President and the Prime Minister of Malaysia, scheduled for early 2016.

At the meeting, the Indonesian Foreign Minister stressed the seriousness with which Indonesia has been taking steps to extinguish land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Indonesia has optimized the use of national assets to address land and forest fires in the two regions.

According to the minister, firm legal action will be taken against parties found responsible for these fires.

Earlier, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo had said the government of Indonesia would welcome any foreign offer to help in battling the forest fires in the country which have caused great inconvenience in the form of thick clouds of haze, including in the neighboring countries.

"The government would welcome any offer from neighboring countries wanting to help," the minister said here on Thursday.

He expressed disappointment over criticism from some neighboring countries which blamed Indonesia for the smoke from forest fires in Sumatra or Kalimantan, blown by strong winds.

"Please do not put the blame entirely on our sovereign country. If they honestly want to help, let them please do so," he said.

Tjahjo Kumolo said the government has done whatever it could do and has taken firm measures against suspects responsible for the fire tragedy.

He said a number of oil palm plantation companies have been charged with causing these fires and some of them are owned by investors from the neighboring countries.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) is currently visiting Jambi to inspect the progress made in firefighting efforts.

OKI gets priority in combating forest fires: Senior minister
Antara 12 oct 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) district in South Sumatra Province has been accorded priority in efforts to put out land and forest fires as it had become the biggest source of haze, compared to other districts in Indonesia.

"Visibility in OKI is only about 100 meters. It still remains the worst hit by haze, based on data we have received," Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan told the press here on Monday.

Luhut said after observing the burnt areas in OKI, he found that the district was the worst region to have been hit by forest and land fires.

"After these were extinguished, the fires came back due to the winds blowing since the land there is covered by peat, which is very inflammable," the Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister said.

He said efforts to put out the fires through water bombing were also postponed due to low visibility of only 100 meters.

"It was also very difficult to induce artificial rain there because the air was foggy and the clouds were still inadequate. We are still waiting for the arrival of a Hercules aircraft which would help support the efforts to produce man-made rain," he said.

The chief security minister also underscored that all related parties have been coordinating well.

Among those who attended the press conference were Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Health Minister Nila Moeloek and Deputy Chairman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Tri Budiarto.(*)

Indonesia's costly haze problem
Karishma Vaswani BBC News 12 Oct 15;

Flights cancelled, agricultural land destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people around the region suffering from respiratory illnesses.
This is something that has happened pretty much every year - for the last 18 years.

Indonesia's forest fires and the resulting haze have caused havoc and headlines across Asia, which has put the government there under pressure to put the fires out.

That might explain why Indonesian police are on a roll. On Monday they've named another 12 companies as suspects in starting the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

But while Indonesia's police chief Badrodin Haiti was unwilling to tell the BBC who the companies are, he was happy to stress that two of them are from Malaysia and China and that another one under investigation is from Singapore.

Pointing the finger outside of Indonesia can be useful especially at a time when the government there is under pressure to show that's it's serious about stopping the haze.

In an exclusive interview with me last month, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that the haze was a problem that would take a long time to solve.

He said that it might take as long as three years before it was completely under control.

Since then he's changed his tune and has accepted regional assistance after weeks of refusing the offers from his counterparts in Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.

The police's announcements that they're clamping down on companies responsible will also no doubt be seen as a sign that Indonesia is trying to be a responsible neighbour.

But environmental activists say that although these companies have been charged with breaking several laws - including Indonesia's environmental law, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of $8m - none of that makes a difference unless authorities actually start enforcing the law.

Yuyun Indradi, a political forest campaigner with Greenpeace based in Jakarta told me that out of the 40 or so companies that have been named as suspects for starting the fires so far only one case has ever been brought to court.

He added that if Indonesia really wants to stop the forest fires, it must revoke the permits of companies found guilty.

This is a problem that affects Indonesia every year. But scientists say this year is shaping up to be the worst on record since 1997.

The last time this part of Asia was hit by a major haze crisis it cost the region an estimated $9bn due to losses from cancelled flights, agricultural damage, tourism and healthcare costs.

This time, some economists estimate it could cost the region more than twice that.

Task force needs about 10 days to douse Sumatra fire: Minister
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja AsiaOne 13 Oct 15;

Singapore military and civil defence personnel walking towards a Republic of Singapore Air Force Chinook helicopter at a haze-shrouded airbase in Palembang on Sumatra island yesterday.

Photo: AFP

The multinational task force helping Indonesia to put out fires in South Sumatra has met with some success, but it will take about 10 days before the flames can be largely extinguished, said a minister.

"We will not be able to completely contain the fires unless we have three to four days of heavy rain," said Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan at a briefing on the haze crisis yesterday.

He was alluding to the extended dry weather, exacerbated by a longer El Nino season this year, which has made it harder to completely douse the fires on peatlands starved of rain.

Besides the dry season, the smoke from forest fires has reduced visibility in the skies, limiting the number of sorties for water-bombing or cloud-seeding operations.

Indonesia this week opened up its skies to groups from Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, China and Australia for multilateral firefighting operations focused on South Sumatra's Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin regencies. These are among the worst hit by the fires this year.

The Indonesian authorities have also ramped up enforcement efforts - against not just individuals, but also corporate bigwigs linked to illegal forest fires causing the haze.

National police chief Badrodin Haiti said that of the 48 plantation companies being investigated for illegal forest fires, 12 have been declared suspects.

These firms, run by Indonesians or owned by investors from Malaysia and China, are in addition to as many as 209 individual suspects not officially linked to any firms.

The 12 companies face fines of between 3 billion rupiah (S$300,000) and 10 billion rupiah, and their boards of directors may be jailed for up to 10 years if found guilty, said General Badrodin yesterday at the same briefing in Jakarta.

This move comes after Indonesian President Joko Widodo gave the police the unprecedented order of tracking down owners of firms suspected of being involved in starting the fires.

Meanwhile, the majority of the multilateral firefighting resources have been deployed in South Sumatra, where conditions had worsened in recent weeks, said Indonesia's disaster management agency, BNPB.

"This morning, the conditions were still very bad in Ogan Komering Ilir, the main operations zone," said Mr Luhut, who has of late taken the lead in resolving this latest haze crisis. "The severity of the burning was very high."

The number of hot spots as of yesterday morning fell only slightly compared with the day before, he said. This has reduced visibility in Ogan Komering Ilir to about 100m.

Operations by the multinational groups deployed to fight fires in South Sumatra began on Sunday.

A Republic of Singapore Air Force CH-47D Chinook helicopter hauling a 5,000-litre heli-bucket arrived in Palembang at the weekend and operated alongside a Bombardier CL415 water bomber from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. These aircraft joined two water bombers from Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry and six choppers from the BNPB.

More reinforcements are expected to arrive, said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. They include an L-100 Hercules water bomber from Australia, which will arrive today, and two Beriev Be-200 water bombers from Russia, said Ms Retno.

She added that Japan will soon send chemistry experts who are expected to help Indonesia enhance additives to boost the water-bombing operations.

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Mangrove ‘the plant that offsets most carbon in the Arabian Peninsula’

Naser Al Wasmi The National 12 Oct 15;

ABU DHABI // The mangrove has been identified as the plant that offsets most carbon in the Arabian Peninsula.

A report from the National Blue Carbon Project published on Monday represents the findings of a 18 month-long project to investigate the capacity for mangroves to store carbon and offset car emissions.

“What makes the mangroves so special is their ability to stock carbon,” said Ahmed Al Hashmi, director of biodiversity at the Ministry of Environment and Water.

“If we understand the effects on climate change in the UAE we might dedicate more efforts to finding out how much the mangroves can actually offset.”

The concept of carbon stocks, although relatively new, has gained ground in international conservation efforts as a way of encouraging policymakers to declare legislation to preserve natural habitats.

Conservationists and researchers use carbon stocks to discourage the destruction of these habitats, as their eradication would release carbon gases into the atmosphere.

“When you’re cutting down mangrove trees, not only are you destroying environments and natural habitats, but you’re destroying carbon sinks that can mitigate the carbon dioxide that you’re emitting,” said Mariam Harib, an assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Environment and Water.

The mangrove swamps in the UAE are estimated to offset about 600,000 kilograms of carbon per hectare.

The average vehicle emits about 5,000 kilograms of carbon a year, the US Environmental Protection Agency says.

So for each hectare of mangroves preserved, 120 cars driven for an entire year are offset.

There are about 3,000 hectares of mangrove swamp in the UAE, which amounts to offsetting the carbon from hundreds of thousands of cars driven a year.

“The environment doesn’t work on its own, just as an ecosystem, so whenever we do a project or conserve our environment it has an effect on climate change,” said Ms Harib.

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and the Ministry of Environment and Water are both looking to increase the amount of mangroves.

“We must look at the environment from different perspectives, but projects like this make researchers and scientists from climate change backgrounds and conservationists and biodiversity experts to sit down and draw a linkage,” said Mr Al Hashmi.

The report found that the mangroves in the northern emirates were much larger than the mangroves in other areas.

It also noted that although the mangroves in the UAE are all of one species, the variation in carbon stocks varied widely according to areas.

Dr Stephen Crooks, a lead scientist on the project from the Environmental Scientists Associates, believed the mangrove project had revealed important findings.

“We suggest exploring other opportunities in conservation and restoration of these truly important habitats for storing carbon,” he said.

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World took step towards greener GDP in 2014; more needed: PwC

Alister Doyle PlanetArk 12 Oct 15;

Governments took a step towards greener economic growth in 2014 but will need to do far more to limit rising temperatures to a United Nations goal of two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), a study by accountancy firm PwC said on Monday.

The carbon intensity of the world economy - the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) - fell by 2.7 percent in 2014, the steepest decline since PwC started issuing reports seven years ago, it said.

"The 2014 numbers suggest a turning point" towards making growth less dependent on fossil fuels, said PwC, a network of firms in 157 countries in assurance, advisory and tax services.

World GDP rose by 3.2 percent in 2014, while carbon emissions rose by just 0.5 percent, it said.

Britain was best of the Group of 20 nations with a steep 10.9 percent fall in its carbon intensity last year, a shift PwC linked to strong economic growth, a warmer winter that reduced energy demand and lower use of coal.

France, Italy and Germany also had big falls in carbon intensity last year.

Almost 200 governments will meet in Paris from Nov. 30-Dec. 30 to agree a pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, that are blamed by a U.N. panel for causing downpours, heat waves and rising seas.

PwC said the rate of decarbonization needed to more than double, to 6.3 percent a year, to get on track to limit rising temperatures to a U.N. target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

That would be a wrenching pace of change. Even in Germany in the 1990s, when inefficient Soviet-style factories were shut in the east after reunification, decarbonization rates were only about 3 percent a year, the report said.

"You need revolutions in the energy sector in every country, every decade," Jonathan Grant, PwC sustainability and climate change director, told Reuters.

Since the year 2000, the report said that global carbon intensity had fallen by an average 1.3 percent a year. At that rate, PwC estimated that the amount of carbon that could be emitted before exceeding 2C would run out in 2036.

(Reporting By Alister Doyle, editing by William Hardy)

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World will pass crucial 2C global warming limit, experts warn

Carbon pledges from 147 nations to Paris climate summit ‘are not enough to stop temperature rise’, experts conclude
Robin McKie The Guardian 10 Oct 15;

Pledges by nations to cut carbon emissions will fall far short of those needed to prevent global temperatures rising by more than the crucial 2C by the end of the century. This is the stark conclusion of climate experts who have analysed submissions in the runup to the Paris climate talks later this year.

A rise of 2C is considered the most the Earth could tolerate without risking catastrophic changes to food production, sea levels, fishing, wildlife, deserts and water reserves. Even if rises are pegged at 2C, scientists say this will still destroy most coral reefs and glaciers and melt significant parts of the Greenland ice cap, bringing major rises in sea levels.

“We have had a global temperature rise of almost 1C since the industrial revolution and have already seen widespread impacts that have had real consequences for people,” said climate expert Professor Chris Field of Stanford University. “We should therefore be striving to limit warming to as far below 2C as possible. However, that will require a level of ambition that we have not yet seen.”

In advance of the COP21 United Nations climate talks to be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December, every country was asked to submit proposals on cutting use of fossil fuels in order to reduce their emissions of greenhouses gases and so tackle global warming. The deadline for these pledges was 1 October.

A total of 147 nations made submissions, and scientists have since been totting up how these would affect climate change. They have concluded they still fall well short of the amount needed to prevent a 2C warming by 2100, a fact that will be underlined later this week when the Grantham Research Institute releases its analysis of the COP21 submissions. This will show that the world’s carbon emissions, currently around 50bn tonnes a year, will still rise over the next 15 years, even if all the national pledges made to the UN are implemented. The institute’s figures suggest they will reach 55bn to 60bn by 2030.

To put that figure in context, the world will have to cut emissions to 36bn billion tonnes of carbon to have a 50-50 chance of keeping temperatures below 2C, scientists have calculated. Current pledges will not bring the planet near that reduced output. Developed nations may pledge to make increasing use of renewable energy sources but as more developing nations become industrialised, carbon outputs continue to rise overall. And there is no prospect of nations now changing their carbon pledges before or during the Paris talks.

The world is therefore falling well short of its carbon target – though there are some grounds for relative optimism. A study of COP21 pledges by Climate Action Tracker, (CAT) an independent scientific group of European climate experts, indicates that if all pledges are implemented, then global temperatures will rise by 2.7C. The group revealed that this is a significant improvement on the warming it predicted last year. “Our December update included pledges and informal announcements by China, the US and the EU, and we estimated an average global warming level of 3.1C,” said CAT member Dr Louise Jeffery of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The biggest contributing factors to the change in our temperature estimate have been China and India.”

These nations had been on track to become major carbon emitters but this year issued pledges that have raised hopes they will greatly curtail their outputs, increasing some negotiators’ hopes for Paris.

This point was backed by climate economist Lord Stern: “We can already see that the pledges by national governments will mean emissions after 2020 will fall far short of cuts needed to have a reasonable chance of avoiding global warming of more than 2C. It is essential, therefore, that a legal agreement is agreed at the COP21 talks in order to create a process after Paris through which countries will review their efforts and find ways to ramp up their actions on reducing emissions.”

A major stumbling block facing negotiators at Paris will be finance. Developed nations – who are responsible for most carbon emissions – have to find ways to pay developing nations so that they can adopt renewable energy technologies and find ways to cope with changes in their environments. Given that this will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, there is considerable room for political fallout. Nevertheless, Field remained optimistic: “The climate change problem is one that can be solved. We have the technologies, the resources – we just need to make the commitment.”

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