Best of our wild blogs: 19 Oct 15

21 Nov (Sat) morning: Free guided walk at Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Adventures with the Naked Hermit Crabs

pekan quarry otters @ ubin -17Oct2015

Many-lined Sun Skink (Eutropis multifasciata) being scavenged by Weaver Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Monday Morgue

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Malaysia: Haze forces schools to close

The Star 19 Oct 15;

PETALING JAYA: Primary and se­­condary schools in several states are closed today because of the worsening haze.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid announced that the schools involved were those in Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur as well as Tawau in Sabah, and Kuching and Samarahan in Sarawak.

The air pollutant index of these areas showed readings of more than 120 at 7pm yesterday.

He also said the Malaysian Reli­gious Higher Certificate examinations would continue.

Asthma patients suffer under haze

PETALING JAYA: The haze has worsened in the west coast of the peninsula, Sarawak and Sabah, forcing asthma patients and those with respiratory ailments to pay more visits to the doctor for treatment.

After several days of clear weather, the air quality in the Klang Valley, Malacca, Negri Sembilan as well as parts of Sarawak and Sabah fell to unhealthy levels yesterday due to shifting winds, which brought more smoke from land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kali­mantan, Indonesia.

An asthma patient, who only wished to be known as Noor Azah, 52, said she had to go to the hospital to get a nebuliser treatment when the haze worsened yesterday.

“I have been wearing a face mask every day for more than month as a safety precaution. But, every time the haze gets bad, I become very worried,” she said when met at a private hospital here.

A doctor, who runs a private clinic in Batu Caves, said she has seen more patients coming in complaining of coughs and other respiratory problems since the haze emerged. Most of them were young officeworkers.

“The haze is partly a factor causing their health problems,” said the doctor who declined to be named.

As of 5pm yesterday, 15 areas recorded unhealthy air quality, with the highest Air Pollutant Index reading recorded in Tawau at 130.

A reading of 100 to 200 indicates unhealthy air quality, 201 to 300 is very unhealthy, and above 300 is hazardous.

Other areas with unhealthy readings at 5pm were Banting (122), Ma­­­­lacca City (121), Batu Muda in Kuala Lumpur (118), Seremban (118), Nilai (117), Bukit Rambai (114), Putrajaya (112), Petaling Jaya (109), Port Dickson (109), Port Klang (115), Samarahan (110), Shah Alam (110), Cheras (103), and Kuching (100).

The haze has cut visibility at Sa­­bah’s Tawau airport, causing flight cancellations which left several hundred passengers stranded.

An airport spokesman said two flights – Malaysia Airlines Flight MH2121 from Kota Kinabalu, and the return flight MH2122 – were cancelled yesterday morning.

An AirAsia AK5748 flight from Kuala Lum­­­pur to Tawau that was supposed to land at 3.15pm, was diverted to Kota Kinabalu.

Hundreds of passengers stranded after flights cancelled in Sabah
STEPHANIE LEE The Star 18 Oct 15;

KOTA KINABALU: Several inbound and outbound flights involving the Tawau-Kota Kinabalu route have been cancelled due to the worsening haze, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded in airports.

On Sunday morning, two flights were cancelled - Tawau bound MH2121 and Kota Kinabalu bound MH2122.

Another flight from Kuala Lumpur bound for Tawau - AK5748 - that was supposed to land at 3.15pm was delayed and subsequently diverted here.

“The passengers are restless and angry but we have no choice because we can’t fly in this hazy condition,” said a spokesman of Tawau airport who did not want to be identified.

She said the safety of passengers was of utmost importance and the flights would commence as soon as visibility improves.

It is also understood that the MASwings flight MH2121 from here to Tawau had to be diverted to Brunei due to the haze.

More areas with unhealthy air at 2pm
The Star 18 Oct 15;

PETALING JAYA: More areas recorded unhealthy Air Pollutant Index (API) reading at 2pm Sunday compared to earlier in the day.

Petaling Jaya (101), Shah Alam (104), Putrajaya (103), Batu Muda (103), Seremban (102), Port Dickson (103) and Nilai (104) in Negri Sembilan have all registered unhealthy air at 2pm.

Malacca City (114), Bukit Rambai (106), Port Klang (110) and Banting (109) continue to stay in the unhealthy range like in the morning.

In Sarawak, the air quality in Samarahan registered an API of 109 and Kuching 102.

An API of between 0 to 50 is considered good, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy), 301 and above (hazardous).

Haze: Schools in several states ordered to close tomorrow
New Straits Times 18 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: All schools in Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Putrajaya, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Tawau, Kuching and Samarahan have been ordered to close tomorrow (Monday) following the worsening haze situation.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid in his latest Facebook posting today said the ministry took the decision following the Air Pollutants Index (API) readings in the areas mentioned continuing to be on the uptrend.

He, however, said the the Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) and Kolej Vokasional examinations would continue as normal under ‘Ops Topeng’.

As of 6 pm today, two more areas, Tanjung Malim and Cheras recorded unhealthy quality, bringing to 16 the number of areas with air quality at this level.

According to the Department of Environment, the API reading for Tanjung Malim, Perak was 102 while for Cheras, Kuala Lumpur it was 105.

At 2pm, 14 areas recorded unhealthy APIs, namely Bandaraya Melaka (122) and Bukit Rambai (116), Melaka; Nilai (120), Port Dickson (111) and Seremban (121), Negeri Sembilan; Tawau (135), Sabah; Kuching (101) and Samarahan (110), Sarawak; Banting (124), Port Klang (116), Petaling Jaya (110) and Shah Alam (111), Selangor; Batu Muda (121), Kuala Lumpur; and Putrajaya (116).

An API of between 0 to 50 is good, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy) and 301 and above (dangerous). The public can refer to the portal for the latest API readings. -- Bernama

Haze: Tawau remains the worst-hit area
ALIZA SHAH New Straits Times 18 Oct 15;

KUALA LUMPUR: The air quality in the country continues to deteriorate with Tawau, Sabah remained as the worst-hit area as of 5pm today.
New Straits Times check on the Department of Environment’s portal showed that 14 areas recorded unhealthy readings where most of the Air Pollutant Index (API) showed an increasing pattern.

Tawau recorded an API of 130 compared to 101 this morning. Banting was the second highest with 122 compared to 104 earlier, followed by Malacca city centre with 121 compared to 109.

Others areas that recorded unhealthy readings were Bukit Rambai (114), Nilai (117), Port Dickson (109), Seremban (118), Samarahan (110), Port Klang (115) Petaling Jaya (109), Shah Alam (110), Batu Muda Kuala Lumpur (118), Cheras (103) and Putrajaya (112).

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said the bad air quality was due to the dust particles that was blown from the southwest direction in Sumatera and Kalimantan, Indonesia across the borders.

“The strong wind was due to the present of two tropical storms namely Koppu and Champi that are still active in the Pacific Ocean.

“Both tropical storms will influence the wind pattern in the country, until this Wednesday (Oct 21),” the ministry said in a statement.

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Indonesia: Haze spreads to Sulawesi as fires rage in Kalimantan

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Oct 15'

Forest and land fires in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province have intensified in recent days with strong winds carrying the haze for the first time this year across to Sulawesi island to its east.

Central Kalimantan is one of the two worst-hit provinces during this year's haze season in Indonesia, the other being South Sumatra. Most Indonesian farmers and plantation firms opt to clear land by burning it to make way for planting, ahead of the rainy season that should have started in October but was delayed due to the El Nino phenomenon.

The spreading fires in Kalimantan come as massive firefighting efforts for the past week, with international help, have been focused on South Sumatra province.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in Palangkaraya, capital of Central Kalimantan, reached a peak of 1,889 last Friday at 9am before going down to 1,063 at 10pm the same day. Any measure above 350 is considered hazardous. PSI readings for yesterday were not available.

In Palembang, capital of South Sumatra, the PSI went up as high as 475 on Friday at 9am and improved slightly to 379 at night.

Haze from fires in Sumatra has regularly blown across the borders to Singapore and Malaysia, due to geographical proximity.

The focus of the water-bombing operations in Central Kalimantan has been Pulang Pisau, Kapuas and Seruyan regencies, where most of the hot spots are, said Ms Rani Anggraini of the Central Kalimantan governor's office. Another regency, Katingan, is easily reachable by ground firefighters.

Two water-bombing aircraft stationed in Palangkaraya were recently moved to Pangkalan Bun, about 260km to the south-west, as thick haze in Palangkaraya had prevented take-offs, said Mr Tri Budiarto, a deputy chairman in charge of emergency response at the national disaster management agency (BNPB).

Another aircraft from Palangkaraya was moved to Banjarbaru, some 150km to the south-east, according to Mr Tri, who was in Palangkaraya yesterday, where he spoke to The Sunday Times by phone.

"We have seen a concentration of haze building up in the past three days over Kalimantan. Fires were emerging on the left and right of the Trans- Kalimantan road as we drove through Pulang Pisau on Friday," he said.

He said the prevailing winds were blowing the haze from the surrounding burning land to Palangkaraya, which had very thick haze yesterday. The winds, blowing from west to east, had also caused the haze over Kalimantan to travel to Sulawesi last Friday and yesterday.

On the situation yesterday, Ms Rani said: "Fires had been put out but re-emerged and the winds were very strong on Friday, allowing the fires to spread faster."

"We are asking Jakarta to send in two more water-bombing choppers. Early last week, two water-bombing aircraft arrived here to add to the existing ones."

Haze crisis spreads with hot spots found in Papua
Apriadi Gunawan and Nethy Darma Somba, The Jakarta Post 18 Oct 15;

The intensity of smoke produced by peatland and forest fires has remained at alarming levels in many parts of the country, reaching as far as Papua, which usually does not suffer from forest fires.

In Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra, the operator of Kualanamu International Airport reported that thick haze in several regions in Sumatra had affected at least eight flights scheduled to depart on Saturday from the province’s biggest airport.

“Four flights have been canceled and four others have been delayed due to thick haze that has been blanketing the destination cities,” Kualanamu duty manager Jasirin said on Saturday.

Visibility at the airport, meanwhile, was recorded at 1,000 meters on Saturday, 500 meters below the normal level.

The four canceled flights, according to Jasirin, were operated by Garuda Indonesia, Citilink, Lion Air and Wings Air. The Garuda flight was initially scheduled to leave Kualanamu for Lhokseumawe, Aceh, while the one operated by Wings was supposed to fly to Sibolga, North Sumatra. The two flights operated by Citilink and Lion Air were scheduled to fly to Batam, Riau Islands.

Due to the disruptions, Kualanamu’s departure hall was packed with stranded airline passengers by Saturday afternoon.

Many regions in Indonesia, including Riau, Jambi, North Sumatra, South Sumatra and Central Kalimantan, have been struggling for the past several months to anticipate the impacts of smoke produced by both man-made and natural land and forest fires.

On Friday, the Health Ministry reported that the haze crisis had caused more than 425,000 people in the worst-affected provinces to suffer from acute respiratory infections. The disaster, meanwhile, has also been exacerbated by this year’s long dry season triggered by the El NiƱo weather phenomenon, and has recently spread eastward.

In Papua, local authorities have since Thursday closed Mozes Kilangin International Airport in Timika, Mimika regency, due to thick haze that has severely reduced visibility in the area.

“The visibility has dropped from 500 meters on Friday to only 400 meters today [Saturday],” Mimika Transportation, Communications and Information Agency head John Rettob said, adding that he suspected the haze came from land and forest fires in the southern part of Papua.

Earlier on Friday, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Region V Jayapura office reported that it had detected 104 hot spots in southern areas, with 92 spotted in Merauke regency and the remaining 12 in Mappi regency.

Local residents have also expressed disappointment on the worsening air pollution.

“Timika has become dark due to the haze, even though we have been switching on lights in the afternoon,” said Saldi, a local resident.

In South Sulawesi, the Maros Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) on Saturday reported that it had deployed personnel to extinguish fires that had been spotted in some parts of Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park in Cenrana district.

Maros BPBD head Sayuti said the fires had initially come from a neighboring educational forest, which belongs to Hasanuddin University (Unhas) and has been recently burned by fires.

“Although we managed to put out fires in the Unhas forest, they spread to some parts of the nearby conservation forest since yesterday [Friday],” Sayuti said.

A recent study, meanwhile, has revealed the catastrophic impact of forest fires in Indonesia, catapulting the country’s CO2 emissions over Germany’s total annual emissions.

The study, done by VU University Amsterdam, showed that land and forest fires in Indonesia this year had released an estimated one billion metric tons, or a gigaton, of carbon dioxide as of Wednesday.

“Fire emissions are already higher than Germany’s total CO2 emissions, and the fire season is not over yet,” said Guido van der Werf, a researcher at the university who keeps a database that tracks global emissions from wildfires.

Furthermore, since September, daily emissions from Indonesia’s fires exceeded daily emissions from the entire US economy, which is 20 times larger than Indonesia’s, on 26 days, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

— Hans Nicholas Jong in Jakarta and Andi Hajramurni in Makassar contributed
to this article.

- See more at:

Smoke paralyzes air travel in Papua
Nethy Dharma Somba, 18 Oct 15;

Authorities at Rendani Airport in Manokwari, West Papua imposed airspace restrictions on Sunday as thick smoke from land and forest fires reduced visibility to below 2,000 meters.

“A Garuda flight scheduled to fly into Manokwari today has been canceled. Hopefully conditions improve and planes will be able to land tomorrow,” General manager of the Jayapura branch of Garuda Indonesia, Wahyu, told on Sunday. The company informed passengers of the cancellation via text message.

Wahyu explained that smoke began covering the area on Saturday; however, pilots were able to land at the airport during the day. “Today, our flight will not transit in Manokwari. It will fly directly to Sorong and then to Makassar,” he said.

Meanwhile, an airport official requesting anonymity said thick smoke had shrouded Manokwari since Sunday morning, forcing several airlines to cancel flights. Only an Express flight from Sorong managed to land in Rendani.

The head of the Meteorology, Climatology, Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Jayapura, Sem Padamma, said thick smoke covering Manokwari came from several hot spots in areas around Ransiki.

Padamma further said that BMKGJayapura had detected five hot spots across Manokwari on Sunday, namely in South Manokwari and Pegunungan Arfak, which recorded two hot spots each, and one hot spot in Manokwari city.

Padamma said that apart from Manokwari, three other areas in West Papua, namely Bintuni, South Sorong, and the Gulf of Berauw, were blanketed with smoke.

Head of BMKG Jayapura said smoke covering Mosez Kilangin Airport in Timika had begun to recede. “The sky is getting clearer. Hopefully, flights can land at the airport on Monday,” he said. (ebf)

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Indonesia: Extent of fires' impact still unclear

Carolyn Khew, Straits Times AsiaOne 18 Oct 15;

The fires behind the smouldering thick haze that has covered many parts of South-east Asia in recent weeks have ravaged through 1.7 million hectares of land in Indonesia, according to estimates by the Joko Widodo administration.

That is the equivalent of burning the entire island of Singapore 24 times over in a space of just weeks.

Yet, experts say it is still too early to tell how the mass burning, mainly in forests and plantation land across the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, will impact the pace of global deforestation in the long term.

One of the key reasons is that, despite the ongoing multilateral firefighting effort led by Indonesia, with support from Singapore and Malaysia as well as other countries, the fires and haze have yet to show any signs of abating.

In fact, the dry spell caused by an extended El Nino season this year has not only made it harder to put out the fires - half of which are burning over dry peatland - but it is also expected to prolong the crisis. There are also other factors, such as whether fires were started in virgin forests or land that had been previously cleared for cultivation.

That is why experts like Dr Nirarta Samadhi from Washington-based think-tank World Resources Institute (WRI) say that, although closely linked, the correlation between Indonesia's fires and deforestation remains quite complex.

For instance, much of deforestation is carried out without fire, and not all fires lead to deforestation, he explained. "Our satellite analysis finds that many fires are lit on land that has already been cleared, usually to prepare land for agriculture."

The institute's Global Forest Watch (GFW) initiative provides detailed mappings and analyses of forest fires around the world. Some of its findings show that the fires in Indonesia could have also occurred within palm oil, timber and wood fibre tree plantations, where fires could have started outside before spreading into these areas.

While efforts have been made to reduce deforestation through initiatives like the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme by the United Nations, Indonesia was said to have the second greatest annual forest area reduction, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation last month.

The country accounted for a forest loss of 684,000ha per annum from 2010, just behind Brazil which saw a loss of 984,000ha per annum.

The UN, however, noted that the rate of deforestation globally has slowed by half, partly due to improving forest management. But estimates by the Centre for Global Development still show that 289 million ha of forests would be felled by 2050 and, if current trends persist, 169 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide will be added into the atmosphere by then.

There is a consensus that this year's haze and forest fires are on track to becoming the worst in history, with severe consequences on wildlife and carbon emissions levels being released into the air.

Experts like Professor Euston Quah, who heads Nanyang Technological University's department of economics, are of the view that global deforestation projections could be underestimated.

"For exceptionally intense dry weather together with the complication of peat soil, the likelihood of a strong and prolonged forest fire episode is very high," he said, pointing out that the El Nino phenomenon this year has been predicted to be the strongest in the last five decades.

There are other factors to consider, and one of them is that the number of plantations should have also increased since a similar crisis in 1997 - considered to be one of the region's worst bouts of the haze. With the increase in plantations due to economic progress, the extent of burning and the number of hot spots caused by man may, therefore, be higher, added Prof Quah.

Assistant Professor David Bickford, from the National University of Singapore's department of biological sciences, said Indonesia's estimate of how much land has been burnt could be on the low end of the spectrum, but it is difficult to accurately measure the extent of fires.

He also said that while the 1.7 million ha of land in Indonesia is indeed an enormous area to be on fire, it still falls short of the land burned between 1997 and 1998 during the EL Nino Southern Oscillation (Enso). Severe effects of an Enso event ranges from abnormally heavy rain to drought and forest fires.

According to the Centre for International Forestry Research's website, the carbon storing potential of tropical peatland forests is up to five times more than tropical forests.

GFW data shows that this year has been one of the worst years for fires, with thousands of high-confidence fire alerts over the past two months - likely to be associated with forest land. Numbers peaked at 1,189 on Sept 8, exceeding the highest peaks of the last two years.

Over the past 25 years, the growth of oil palm plantations, now covering 11 million ha in Indonesia, has been a leading cause of deforestation. The clearing of land for oil palm is considered to be one of the most destructive for wildlife and biodiversity, says Research Assistant Professor Luke Gibson from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong."Most forms of agriculture require some amount of deforestation - oil palm is at the worst extreme," said Prof Gibson.

Wildlife like those in Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan - home to one of the world's largest populations of orang utans - are also feeling the heat.

Said Prof Bickford: "If the fires burn primary forests and peat swamp forests in protected areas, the impacts for biodiversity will be tremendous and tragic and mostly irreversible."

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One dead, 23,000 flee as Typhoon Koppu pummels Philippines

The government said more than 23,000 people have already been evacuated from the path of Koppu, and more people are expected to flee as the storm makes its way to Luzon.
Channel NewsAsia 18 Oct 15;

MANILA: A teenager was crushed to death as powerful Typhoon Koppu tore down trees and houses and unleashed landslides and floods across a wide area of the Philippines on Sunday (Oct 18), forcing thousands to flee.

At least eight other people have been reported missing and military and volunteer rescue teams were dispatched to the rice-farming province of Nueva Ecija where rivers burst their banks and flooded several villages, authorities said.

"People are asking for help because the floodwaters are rising. The rescuers cannot penetrate the area as of now," Nigel Lontoc, the assistant civil defence chief for the region, told AFP.

Television footage showed raging brown rivers swallowing up homes and carrying off large debris including tree trunks. ABS-CBN network showed a photograph of blue-clad police holding onto a rope and wading in chest-deep floodwaters to rescue trapped residents.

The government said more than 23,000 people had already been evacuated from the path of Koppu, which also disrupted ferry services and aviation. Koppu made landfall before dawn on the remote fishing town of Casiguran, whipping the coast with gusts of up to 210 kilometres (130 miles) an hour for nearly seven hours before moving inland.

"Koppu tore off roofs of homes made of light materials. Rivers overflowed, and the roads to the area are blocked by downed power pylons and trees," Lontoc said.

It later crossed over the Pantabangan Dam in the southern foothills of the Cordillera, the country's largest mountain range, with gusts of 185 kilometres an hour. A big tree toppled and crushed a house in Manila, killing a 14-year-old boy and injuring four other people, Alexander Pama, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Council, told reporters in Manila.

Officials said more people are expected to flee as the now weakened storm makes its way to the northern tip of Luzon, the Asian country's largest island and home to about half its national population of 100 million people.

Aurelio Umali, governor of Nueva Ecija province that includes Pantabangan told ABS-CBN said rescuers saw two human bodies floating in one of the flooded villages. However Lontoc said the two bodies have not been recovered.

Lontoc said three people in the coastal resort town of Baler, near Casiguran, are missing after a large wave struck their house, and three fishermen are also missing on Manila Bay.


The authorities warned heavy rains could still trigger flash floods and landslides in the Cordillera, known for its spectacular rice terraces carved on the slopes of towering mountains.

"I must emphasise that this is just the start. People must remain alert while we try to pick up the pieces in areas already hit," Pama said, as he urged local officials to evacuate Cordillera villages deemed most at risk.

Lontoc said the rain-soaked mountains also posed a threat to the heavily populated central Luzon region just north of Manila in the coming days. With dams filling up and forced to let off water, he said huge volumes of runoff are streaming into the Pampanga river, which spills onto the region.

The weather service said Koppu would weaken further into a tropical storm by Tuesday, but continue to dump rain before heading for Taiwan on Wednesday. It caused widespread power and communications disruptions across Luzon, with many roads and bridges also blocked by landslides, floods or fallen trees and power pylons.

Thousands were stranded as ferry services were suspended amid rough seas while 44 commercial flights were cancelled, including four international flights, Pama said. The Philippines suffers an average of 20 storms each year.

Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest and deadliest on record, destroyed entire towns in the central islands in November 2013, leaving more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

- AFP/yt

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Couple pen book to teach children about haze

Samantha Boh, The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Oct 15;

All parents are likely to remember their children's inquisitive years.

"Why is it raining? Why can't I go out to play?" are questions that they might have asked.

And with the haze on our doorstep, some might ask: "Why can't I see the sky?"

To answer this and other related questions, retirees Angeline Khoo and Khoo How San have written a children's book titled Matthew And The Horrid Haze.

They were inspired by their 18-month-old grandson Matthew, and have named the book's protagonist after him.

Dr Angeline Khoo, 62, said she got the idea for the book when she caught Matthew staring out of a window into the hazy sky.

"I told him 'haze' and he pointed up to the sky looking very sad," said the former academic.

The couple hope that, apart from teaching young readers about the haze, the book will instil the value of being responsible.

The book tells the story of a boy named Matthew, who is forced to stay indoors because of the haze. This prompts him to find out what is causing it.

In the story, the wind blames the burning trees in the forests, which in turn, blame the peat soil.

The peat soil, in turn, points the finger at a man who says he needs fertile soil to grow his crops.

Finally, Matthew asks, "How can we get back clearer days?"

His grandfather answers: "Man must not destroy the land. Man must learn and understand that the forests are home to all, for plants and animals, both big and small."

Real-life grandfather, Dr Khoo How San, 65, a former journalist, said: "We thought, through a simple story idea, we can impart morals... It teaches the children that people can blame each other but, in the end, they will have to take action and save the earth."

The book's illustrations were done by Dr Angeline Khoo, who said stories serve as a good way to impart values. "You can never tell them what to do; you cannot be so prescriptive. They are best conveyed through stories and getting children to think for themselves."

The book is the third that the two have written together, the previous being Matthew's Stacking Cups and Matthew And The Thirsty Sun, about teamwork and empathy respectively. Paperback versions of both books are available on Amazon for $28.70. E-book versions are also available at online bookstore Kob.

Matthew And The Horrid Haze has yet to be published.

The couple want their books to promote discussion - each has a list of suggested questions that parents and teachers can ask the children after they finish reading.

More than anything, they hope that the series of Matthew books will be a legacy for their grandson.

"We see him growing up so fast...We want to leave him something," said Dr Khoo How San.

Read more!

Using sports to champion green causes

Carolyn Khew, The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Oct 15;

Sports and the environment may not seem to have much in common but a new non-profit group hopes to build a link between the two.

Set up by three 20-year-olds who are all sports and nature lovers, Greensport Singapore hopes to raise funds for green causes through sports activities.

"It is a start-up that my friends and I hold very dear to our hearts, as it is an amalgamation of our passions," said group co-founder Alfred Li, a full-time national serviceman.

The two other co-founders, Mr Jaryl Ngan and Mr Douglas Yuen, are also serving national service.

The trio, all former students of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), wanted to promote environmental awareness and get people to do their part and hit on the idea of starting the group about a year ago.

Last month, the group organised a frisbee competition for 140 participants, raising $1,400 for the Nature Society Singapore, a non- governmental group.

"The three of us agreed that sporting events were the only way that we can get a lot of people to come together," said Mr Li. "Initially, we looked at organising eco-exhibitions and talks but we felt that it was difficult to get people to be interested and attend an event on a subject that a lot of people, unfortunately, felt was dry," he said.

Only biodegradable materials, such as paper cups, plates and trash bags, were used at the frisbee event. Participants were also encouraged to recycle.

The three NSFs may have to give up their weekends but do not mind as they are passionate about environmental issues.

Mr Li, for instance, loves botany and once wrote a school paper on how water hyacinths can be used in water bodies like reservoirs to filter out impurities.

Mr Ngan is passionate about deforestation, while Mr Yuen is very concerned about animal welfare.

Said Mr Ngan, an avid hiker: "Being able to enjoy nature and seeing wildlife just gives me a good vibe.

"Heavy deforestation not only causes global warming but also prevents nature enthusiasts from enjoying the fullness of what a hike can offer," he added.

Greensport Singapore joins other groups in coming up with innovative ways to encourage others to go green. Social enterprise Sustainable Living Lab, for instance, tries to discourage a buy-and-throw-away culture by having a monthly "repair kopitiam". It started its first public workshop in February where people can take along items such as electrical appliances and furniture.

Greensport Singapore hopes to organise a marathon next year to raise awareness on climate change issues.

Stepping up for the environment requires everyone to chip in and put in some effort, no matter how small it may be, said Mr Ngan.

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'Green consciousness' is important for Singapore: K Shanmugam

Singapore is dependent on carbon for energy, and the country has to make sure it is used efficiently, says Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.
Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 18 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Protecting the environment and being "green conscious" is important for a small place like Singapore, especially in the face of high costs of alternative forms of energy, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

"In economic terms, we are very challenged when it comes to alternative forms of energy - hydro-electric - it's not really feasible for us," Mr Shanmugam said, speaking at a Nee Soon GRC grassroots event on Sunday (Oct 18).

"So we are really dependent on carbon. But we have to make sure we use it efficiently, and we have to try and make sure we have a green consciousness. If we tried alternate methods, today that would have a deep economic impact, given the cost of the alternate resources."

More than 600 Nee Soon residents on Sunday planted about 200 trees at the new Khatib Bongsu Park Connector by Yishun Ave 11. The event is the GRC's first mass tree planting, and comes as part of “Clean & Green Singapore”, a national campaign to encourage Singaporeans to adopt greener lifestyles. The trees planted at the event are native to Singapore, with some growing in the Nee Soon Swamp Forest.

Mr Shanmugam, who planted a Malabera Bukit tree alongside the residents and other Nee Soon MPs and grassroots leaders, also told Channel NewsAsia that there are plans to increase the green coverage in Singapore.

While protecting the environment and climate change are arguably the hot topics today, Mr Shanmugam added that these have been significant issues to Singapore for decades.

"Thankfully in Singapore it's something we started much earlier," Mr Shanmugam said. "If you notice, in the 70s, 80s, you went around Asia, many places, you really saw urban jungles. Singapore is the exception, because Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted to make sure that we paid a lot of attention to the environment, trees, tree planting."

"He treated it as such an important issue, that the parks department came directly under his office," Mr Shanmugam added. "And if he drove anywhere and he saw some plants wilting, or trees not having been maintained, he will call up straight away."

More than 5,000 trees will be planted across Singapore from Aug 1 till the end of the year, as part of the national clean and green campaign, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

The Khatib Bongsu Park Connector was opened to the public in September, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Park Connector Network.


Separately, Mr Shanmugam said lawyers have come forward to offer help to the family whose four-year-old son fell to his death from their ninth floor Yishun flat.

Speaking at the mass tree-planting event, Mr Shanmugam said regardless of responsibility, the contractor has kept quiet since.

"We have helped them, grilles have been installed," he said. "I don’t want to get into who is responsible, but I did come away feeling upset. I mean regardless of responsibility, you have agreed to put up the grilles, and you haven’t, and you know this tragedy has occurred, after that to keep completely quiet and not even contact the family, that upset me, particularly when the family tried to contact you.

"So I have said, ‘Look, we’ll help you find lawyers’ and some lawyers have come forward, and I have given the names to the family.”

- CNA/xq/ek

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Hot weather is a reminder to care for environment: Grace Fu

The MP for Yuhua urged her residents to be mindful of how they were contributing to climate change, while leading them on a tree-planting and mass cleaning exercise.
Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 18 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu said the hot weather, which is contributing to the haze, is a reminder that everyone has to care for the environment.

The MP for Yuhua urged her residents to be mindful of how they're contributing to climate change as they celebrated the nation's annual Clean and Green Week.

"The haze, in Malaysia or in Indonesia, is not just because of burning. It is also because of climate change,” she said. “In a time where we are expecting rain, we are not getting rain. The weather is dryer than before.

“Start with taking care of our place, start from not littering, start from recycling, start from reducing what you consume, reuse what you have. These are all acts that each of us individually can do to protect this place and keep it better for future generations, for SG100."

On Sunday morning (Oct 18), Ms Fu led her residents on a tree-planting and mass cleaning exercise. She said the exercise allowed residents to see the extent of the littering problem in the neighbourhood. She added that this is something residents are unaware of, as the town council and cleaners work very hard to pick up after them.

A 'No Cleaners Day' was declared the day before, on Saturday.

- CNA/ek

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Primary schools in central Singapore to learn how to make country greener

Topics that students will learn include resource conservation, dengue prevention and climate change.
Abhishek Ravikrishnan Channel NewsAsia 18 Oct 15;

SINGAPORE: Students from 47 primary schools in the Republic can now learn more about how they can make the country cleaner and greener.

This is part of the "I'M AN ECO-KNIGHT!" programme, which encourages students to care about the environment. The programme was introduced to preschools last year.

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim launched the programme on Sunday (Oct 18) at Bugis+ shopping mall, along with Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua and National Environmental Agency CEO Ronnie Tay.

Topics that students will learn include resource conservation, dengue prevention and climate change.

"I think only when habits are cultivated when they are young that they can stick,” said Ms Phua. “This is really important for the population, especially the younger ones, to take ownership, to make sure that our clean, green and sustainable Singapore is a vision that can be realised.

“And very importantly, the adults around them - the siblings, the parents, the caregivers - it's very important for them also to strongly support our youngsters so they really can apply this not just in school, but beyond the school walls, in the families, in the communities as well.”

The programme was launched as part of the Central Clean and Green SG 50 carnival. More than 30 interactive workshops were held, touching on topics ranging from dengue prevention to using technology to address climate change.

Clean and Green Singapore awards were also handed out to grassroots organisations and cleaners from the central district for their efforts in the areas of public cleanliness, energy efficiency and resource conservation.

- CNA/ek

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Rats living the 'high life' in Choa Chu Kang

Judith Tan, Melanie Heng, The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Oct 15;

Restaurant manager Chris Ng did not think he would have problems with rats in his flat.

After all, his home is on the top storey of a 12-storey HDB block at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 2.

But Mr Ng, 40, was horrified when he discovered three rats - two in his kitchen and one in his living room last Tuesday night.

Mr Ng said the rats had eaten through a loaf of bread left on his kitchen table.

"And they weren't small. They were at least about 6 inches (15cm) in length," he said.

Mr Ng said he called the Town Council the next day to report the issue.

"I have two young sons and I didn't want them to get bitten while they sleep at night," he explained.

He said the town council sent a pest controller to his home a week later. They set glue traps but did not catch all the rats.

Meanwhile, some wiring in his home was chewed through, affecting his washing machine, claimed Mr Ng.

After he found rat droppings on his neighbour's balcony, Mr Ng realised that the rats could have originated from the space between the roof of the building and the top floor.

But he was told by a town council officer over the phone that this was not the case as there was a wire netting to prevent the rats from entering the space.

Mr Ng persisted and the officer eventually opened the access door to the building's roof to check.

They found huge holes in the wire netting and rat dropping filled the space.

"They even found a rat carcass there," he said.

But a spokesman from Chua Chu Kang Town Council (CCKTC) said that there was only one reported case of rat sighting from within an apartment unit in the past six months.


Before Mr Ng's feedback, CCKTC uncovered two rat burrows in the area during regular maintenance works. Both burrows are being treated.

CCKTC said that it would work closely with an appointed pest control team to "investigate and treat" Mr Ng's rat concerns.

They will also issue notices to residents, "advising them on the dos and don'ts to minimise rodent population".

Mrs Deanne Ong, 41, director of Origin Exterminators, said that rats are not only common on the ground, but can go onto roofs as well.

She said: "These rats can be brought in through building defects, pipes and other structural gaps.

"Typically, infestation from the ground levels can be easily transported throughout a building this way.

"They use overhanging branches from overgrown trees as runways into higher floors within a building.

"Once they establish themselves, they can build their nests and survive within the building."

Previous rat cases

MARCH 2015

Where: Blocks 165, 166 and 167 of Bukit Batok Avenue 8
What happened: Rodents invaded HDB flats and shops, with some even breaching defences, such as fences and traps, put up by residents and shopkeepers.
Action: Jurong Town Council sent its officers to investigate and advised residents to maintain proper housekeeping and not leave food sources exposed.


Where: Clementi Block 448 Market and Food Centre
What happened: A rat's nest made from scraps of paper and shredded plastic bags was found on top of an exhaust pipe located above a stall in the food centre, with as many as 10 baby rats inside.

Rat burrows were also seen in the grassy field just behind the food centre.

Action: West Coast Town Council deployed a pest control contractor to carry out rodent control treatment at the food centre and advised stallholders on proper housekeeping and waste disposal management.

MAY 2009

Where: Condominium in Hume Avenue estate
What happened: Four residents set their own rat traps and spent about $5,000 to hire three pest control companies because of a rat infestation in their condominium.

The rats - some as long as 16cm - defecated and urinated at almost every corner of the estate, even at the residents' doorsteps.

Action: The condominium's management said it would get a pest control company to get rid of the rats.

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Malaysia: Snakes in the city

ILI LIYANA MOKHTAR New Straits Times 18 Oct 15;

RECENT cases of pythons making appearances in populated areas have been linked to the loss of their natural habitat, coupled with the wet season, which allows them to move easily.

Consultant on Avian and Exotic Wildlife and former zoo vetenarian Dr S. Vellayan said when development took place in the snakes’ natural habitat, the reptiles would slither to new areas to find food.

“This phenomenon happens with other wildlife animals as well. In theory, animals do not leave their natural habitats unless they are forced to, out of survival,” he said.

“The movement of pythons to populated areas could also be attributed to the rainy season as well, as pythons are excellent swimmers.”

Dr Vellayan said there were two common species of pythons in Malaysia — the blood python and the reticulated python.

Blood pythons are native to eastern Sumatra, western Malaysia, southwestern Thailand and other islands in Southeast Asia. The name is derived from the colour of their red scales, and they can be found in highland areas.

Reticulated pythons, the world’s longest snake species, populate the lowlands and are non-venomous constrictors.

Being excellent swimmers, they have been reported to be seen far out at sea and are known to have colonised many small islands.

The species, also associated with rivers and can be found in areas with nearby streams and lakes, are usually found in rainforests, woodlands and nearby grasslands.

“Their diet usually consists of ground mammals, mousedeers, wild boars, birds and monkeys. They also feed on rats and other small animals, such as chicken and ducks.

“Some experts believe that they thrive in drains and eat anything that they catch,” Dr Vellayan said.

The reticulated python has a striking pattern, with zig-zagged black lines interspersed with yellow-brown, dark brown or medium grey patches.

A dark line runs through the middle of its elongated head, while vertical pupils sit in orange yellowish eyes.

Dr Vellayan said that although most people were terrified of pythons, the reptiles were not considered dangerous to humans.

“They are shy and usually avoid human contact. However, they can turn aggressive if they feel threatened — as with other wild animals.

Dr Vellayan said large reticulated pythons were powerful enough to kill an adult human.

“However, the number of such attacks is small,” he added.

A reticulated python can grow up to 10m (about the length of two regular-sized cars) and can weigh up to 113kg.

He said that if near human habitation, they had been known to snatch chickens, cats and even dogs. They would also find comfort in cool and damp places, such as the bathrooms, kitchens, shoe cabinets and store rooms.

“They don’t usually stay long in one place. Once they have fed, they will usually move.

“They are also slow movers, since they don’t really chase their food.”

Dr Vellayan said when the snakes are sighted in their natural surroundings, such as nature reserves, forests or canals, it would be best to leave them alone.

“In movies, they are often portrayed as vicious animals that attack upon sight. This is not true, as they usually move away or hide when they come into contact with humans,” he said.

Dr Vellayan said when a python is sighted in populated areas, it would be best to call the authorities, who are trained in dealing with such cases, such as the Fire and Rescue Department or the Civil Defence Department (JPAM).

“Do not, in any way, disturb a python, try to catch it or kill it on your own. Although it is not venomous, the snake can still inflict serious injury because its teeth are long and sharp,” he said.

Bentong Civil Defence Department officer Zulkhairi Adek Awang said every officer involved with snake-catching operations had to go through specific training courses conducted by the National Civil Defence Training Centre.

“Public safety is our main concern when conducting such operations. Some people think that it is an easy job, but we can’t deny the risks involved,” he said.

Zulkhairi said officers who go on such operations were required to wear thick protective gloves.

They carry tools resembling large pinchers to pick up the snakes and a gunny sack or a small cage to hold the snakes before they are released back to their original habitat.

He said some of the species that his officers had caught included pythons, the Malayan cobra and vipers.

“There is no specific time or season for the snakes to come out. Sometimes, they stray from their natural habitat and make their way too close to populated areas.

“When it is too hot, they move to find cooler and shady places. This is why people usually find them in bathrooms or drains.”

Zulkhairi said the department usually received distress calls by villagers whose livestock, such as chickens, have been killed by snakes.

“When a snake strays into a house, it can usually be found in wardrobes, storerooms, bathrooms and sometimes, even in car engines.”

He advised the public not to panic if they encounter a snake and to immediately call the Fire and Rescue Department or JPAM.

“Do not attempt to disturb the snake. Once it starts moving, it can be a potentially difficult and dangerous operation,” he said.

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